Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Living in Atlanta

Back in June we packed up all our belongings and headed East to Atlanta.  We've been here about a month and are feeling pretty settled.  We made sure we were here and ready to unpack the first week of July so that we would be really settled before Charles started his new job.  And while it was a lot of work those first couple weeks it is so nice to feel like we are settled in and living in our new home.  Once we finished unpacking we spent a week in Wyoming with the Watson family and the Schmidt family to celebrate Charles' parents birthdays.  It was so much fun - another post on that will be coming shortly.  Charles started work this week and I am in the early stages of the job hunt.  If you have any job leads/ideas/tips for me, please share!

I know many of you have been asking for pictures of our new home - so here they are:

Front of the house

Living room from front door, and Lola

View of living room from dining room

Dining Room


Master Bedroom from doorway

Master bedroom looking out

Hall/Master bath

Guest room (ready for visitors!)

Guest bedroom/office area

Guest bathroom

Backyard deck
Hopefully I will be posting a little more regularly again.  I hope.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

quick update

It's been quite awhile since I've posted.  I know my last post was about posting recipes, but when it actually comes time to get my camera out while cooking it never seems like a good idea.  Usually when I'm making dinner I'm tired after a long day of work and the gym and the last thing I want to do is take the time to take photos after chopping and dicing and boiling and baking.  So, none of those posts have materialized.  I will say though that I have enjoyed being back in the kitchen these last few months, it was definitely something I missed while on our trip.

The main reason I haven't written though is because we have been extremely busy.  I went back to work a few days after that last post and it seems that working full time and keeping up with the blog is not my strong suit.

But, we do have some very exciting things going on....

First, Charles is having an art show on Saturday here in Houston.  It is a collection of paintings done while on our trip and over the past few months in the studio.  I am biased, I know, but they are BEAUTIFUL!  If you are in Houston and don't have anything going on Saturday night I hope you can come to the show!  I am so proud of all his hard work and am amazed by the artistic talent he has poured into these pieces.  I can't wait!  If you need info about the show you can find it on his website, www.charleswatson.com, or if you can't make it to the show check the website on Monday or Tuesday and all of the new work will be posted.

Second, we are moving to Atlanta!  Charles has accepted a teaching position there, so shortly after the show we will be packing up all our stuff (and there is a lot of it I've realized this week) and heading to Atlanta.  I must admit I will be sad to leave Texas, but I'm very happy about this next step in our lives.  We have some great friends in Atlanta already and I look forward to making some new ones as well.

In the meantime we plan to spend a lot of time enjoying time with our friends in Houston, enjoying a few more beautiful sunsets from our balcony, and eating as much Mexican food as possible.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fitness and Food

I guess it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense that I am going to be talking about exercise and eating in one post, but it's where my mind is at the moment, so that's what I'm doing.

I am in need of something to focus on post trip and so I have decided to create two goals for myself. 

The first is to work-out/exercise 4-5 days per week.  This will be easy for now, but I'm sure it will be much harder when I start working again in a few weeks.  I'm going to figure out a schedule in the next couple days and I'm hoping that will help me stick with it.

The second has to do a little with our trip and a little with my love for food and cooking.  On our trip there was a dish in each country that jolted my tastebuds and left me craving more.  Here are a few of my favorite food photos from our trip:
Fish & Chips in New Zealand
Panzerotti at Luini in Milan
Svickova in Prague - delicious!
Ottoman dish with eggplant in Istanbul

Street noodles Bangkok
Khmer Vegetable Amok in Cambodia
Wearing my apron at my cooking class in Hanoi Vietnam

Dumplings ready to be steamed in Seoul South Korea

My plan is to recreate my favorite dish from each country over the next few months.  I have already attempted one dish recreation, but I wasn't entirely satisfied with the result.  I made Svickova while we were in Richmond visiting Paul and Meredith, it tasted great, but the texture wasn't quite right.  So, I am going to set out to try that recipe again along with attempting several others.  I haven't figured out a recipe for each country yet, but for now this is where I'll start:

Italy - Ribollita (a soup made with white beans and veggies and thickened with bread)
Czech Republic - Svickova (marinated beef with a divine tasting sauce and bread dumplings - this is the one I tried a few weeks ago)
Turkey - Not sure yet
Israel - Shakshuka (vegetables in tomato sauce with a poached egg)
Jordan - Not sure yet
India - Chicken Korma (chicken with a ginger cashew sauce)
Maldives - Not sure yet
Sri Lanka - Not sure yet
Bangkok - Basil Noodles (thai noodles stir fried with basil and chili sauce)
Cambodia - Khmer Amok (chicken or fish in a coconut curry sauce)
Vietnam - Vietnamese fried spring rolls and lemongrass chicken
South Korea - dumplings

I plan to blog my cooking experiments and provide recipes, depending on how they turn out.  To all my friends in Houston, hope you are hungry and can come over for dinner and help us eat my experimental world cuisine.

Wish me luck!

Monday, February 11, 2013


A few weeks ago I wrote this: 

The past few days I've been feeling pretty lost, which is kind of funny because we aren't on the road anymore.  Actually, I think it's the sitting still that is leaving me feeling so confused.  We spent every day for the past five months living each day in the present - enjoying the people, culture, art and experiences that surrounded us.  Now, I find myself completely focused on the future - what type of job do I want, where will we end up living, should I go back to a legal job or find something more personally fulfilling?  These thoughts unfortunately have led me to spending the past two days getting caught up on episodes of Grey's Anatomy and delving into the Downton Abbey series.  The fact that I have spent the past two days in front of the television makes me feel even worse, and yet, I'm not sure what to do about it.

I expected acclimating into "normal" life after this trip to be hard, but I don't really think that I expected these to be the feelings I would have...

I never posted it because I felt conflicted about putting this thoughts out there for the world to see.  I decided today that I would post these thoughts as a part of a larger post, one that is a bigger picture post. 

So, here it is, the bigger picture of life since we returned to the U.S. 

We got back on December 22nd and fell immediately into the holiday celebrations with my family in Dallas.  In some ways it felt the same as any other Christmas in Dallas, except Charles was with me (a first) and I was somehow different.  It was a difference I didn't really come around to though for a few more weeks.  Those first few days of being back from our trip were filled with telling stories to family and friends, attending Christmas mass, dinners with family, wrapping presents, and sharing in the overall joy of Christmas.  It was great!  But, I don't really think that it truly hit me that our adventure was ending, we were still on the travel high and it continued as we left Dallas to head to Sarasota, Florida to visit Charles' family. 

After the long drive from Dallas to Sarasota we were happy to relax and enjoy the beautiful beaches, sunny afternoons at St. Armand Circle, and most of all hanging out with Charles' brother Andrew and his family and Charles' parents.  We had a great time celebrating Christmas and exchanging gifts, celebrating Charles' parents wedding anniversary, kayaking and playing on the beach, and overall just being together.  It was a great visit and we shared many photos and stories from our trip, but in a way we were still on our trip.  Here are some photos from our Christmas in Florida:

Lola - so happy to be traveling with us!

Opening presents.  Lola waited patiently to tear up the balled up wrapping paper
Heading to the beach

Beach soccer
Family Portrait
Kayaking and Paddle boarding

Andrew giving the SUP a try

The whole fam out on the water.
Playing skittles on New Years Eve


Saying goodbye to warm Sarasota
After we left Sarasota we headed up to Richmond Virginia to meet the newest member of the Watson family!  Charles' younger brother Paul and his wife had a baby on New Years Eve and we planned to spend our last few weeks of our trip helping them adjust to life with a newborn.  We arrived in Richmond and settled into their basement and helped with all sorts of things around the house - a few basement repairs, cooking, diaper changes, bottle washing, bouncing sweet baby Hayden, and anything else that needed to be done.  We had a great time and really loved getting to see Hayden grow and change over the course of the three weeks we were there.  I enjoyed getting caught up on tv shows I had missed (Grey's Anatomy, Parenthood, and Downton Abbey) and started a knitting project to keep me busy.  We both updated our resumes and applied to a few jobs and spent our free time discussing what comes next.  Although we still don't know the answer to that question I think we are both adjusting to the fact that not knowing is ok.  Here are a few pics from our time in Richmond:

Taking Hayden's photo - One Week Old
Hayden's first trip to Ledbury

Hayden the center of attention at Ledbury

Proud parents celebrating with birth year port

Another birth year port celebration

Sweet baby
 We had one last stop planned on our way from Richmond to Houston - a job fair in Atlanta.  Charles has worked with a company that places teachers at private schools around the country, it's actually how he found his last job in Houston.  So, we thought it would be worth it to stop in Atlanta and get a jump on the job search process.  The added bonus was getting to spend time with our friends the Wildmans!  We spent a week in Atlanta with Andy and Caroline and their three precious kids, it was a blast.  We also got to watch the super bowl with our friends Brooks and Missy.  All in all a very worthwhile week.

As we said goodbye in Atlanta our plan was to make our way back to Houston as quick as possible.  But, we ended up stopping to stay with some friends in New Orleans instead of driving the whole way in one day.  What started as an evening with friends in NOLA turned into staying for Mardi Gras parades the next day.  We figured we were still on our trip and Mardi Gras seemed like the best way to spend our last night before we came back to Houston.  So, we went to the Nyx Parade and the Druids Parade with Claudia and Brad and had a wonderful time!  On our way back to Houston we took the long way (something we always say we want to do, but never seem to have the time) so we could stop at some of the old sugar plantations on the banks of the Mississippi.  It was beautiful!

Mardi Gras in NOLA

New Orleans Plantation - Oak Alley

Oak Alley

Last stop of the trip!

So, we're back and becoming reacquainted with Houston - traffic, our closets, the grocery stores, and having a bed of our very own.  It's strange.  I find myself reminiscent many times a day...thinking about an afternoon in Italy, a sunset in Jerusalem, the honking in India, or the thrill of not knowing what tomorrow holds.  It's funny because I still don't entirely know what our future holds, but it's different, when you're not on the road.

So, there you have it.  I'm still just as lost as I was when I wrote that post above a few weeks ago.  But, I think I'm doing better about focusing on the present day and not worrying about the future.  The posts here on the blog will probably be less exciting than they have been this past year, but I still plan to write, so come back and check in soon to see what we're up to. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Exploring Seoul

This is one of several posts that I wrote over the past few weeks while we were still on the road.  We are in Virginia right now, not in Seoul, but I wanted to share the post as it was originally written (which was back on December 21st) – so here it is.         

We are currently in Seoul, South Korea and it is FREEZING (below freezing to be exact).  The temperature has been hovering around 18 degrees during the day, which has made sightseeing a little difficult and a little unpleasant due to our lack of appropriate clothing.  Luckily this city has a fantastic metro system, which has helped us see the sights while minimizing our time walking around above ground in the elements.  Today it snowed, which actually meant slightly warmer temperatures (around 23 degrees) and pretty white powder covering the trees, sidewalks, and buildings.

Our first day in Seoul we spent the first part of the day recuperating after our four hour flight that left Hanoi at 11:30 p.m. and landed in Seoul at 5:00 a.m.  We didn’t sleep at all, so when we arrived at our hotel at 7:00 a.m. - WE HAD TO SLEEP.  We went exploring in the late afternoon and checked out the Namdaemun Market and Shinsegae Mall, where we had dinner at the food court.  The food courts in Asia are amazing and this one was no exception.  The food is gourmet and everything is prepared fresh as though you had ordered it in a restaurant.  We ate in a similar mall food court in Bangkok, but this one was more upscale and was great for people watching.  

Arrival in Seoul after the red-eye flight

Namdaemun Market - Christmas decorations!

Shinsegae Mall Food Court
Tuesday was our second day in Seoul and we spent the day at the National Museum of Korea, which was an incredible collection of artifacts spanning the history of the Korean Peninsula.  I made the mistake at lunch of not letting the kitchen know that I am allergic to shrimp.  I ordered noodles with black bean sauce and the menu said nothing of seafood, but we discovered when it was brought to our table that it did indeed come with a wide assortment of seafood including shrimp.  Luckily after some pointing and signing and attempting to convey my allergy to the staff we cleared it up and they made me a new dish without shrimp.  Everything in Seoul seems to have seafood in it, including the traditional breakfast which is abalone porridge, which we have yet to try.  After lunch we took the metro over to the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, which holds the cities contemporary art.  We enjoyed the collection and the building that houses it.  We especially loved the mirrored sculptures outside, and despite the freezing temperatures we spent about 10-15 minutes walking around and through the mirrored sculptures.  The Itaewon neighborhood around the museum was really cool, lots of shops and restaurants so we spent the evening walking and shopping.  We had dinner at a Japanese fusion restaurant before taking the subway back to our hotel.  All in all it was a great second day of being tourists in Seoul.

National Museum - Seoul

Cool mirrored installation at the Leeum Samsung in Seoul

Leeum Seoul

Wednesday we wanted to check out the art scene.  I had read on Tripadvisor about the Hongdae neighborhood so we went to check it out.  It was supposed to have lots of cool galleries, shops, and restaurants, but proved to be mainly shops and bars surrounding the art college nearby.  We did enjoy visiting KT&G Sangsang Madang, which is an art complex that has a really cool design store where you can buy items designed by the artists who study there.  They had some really cool stuff and we got some awesome Christmas presents.  On our way back to the subway we walked down this cool alley known for being a place where local artists graffiti and despite the frigid temperatures we enjoyed looking at the different murals.  After so much time outside we were ready for an inside destination so we took the subway to the electronics markets – huge 7 and 8 story buildings filled with any and every electronic good you can think of.  We almost bought a really cool electronic toilet seat, almost….

Sangsang Madang building

Graffiti Alley in Hongdae Neighborhood

E-Mart Seoul

Inside the electronics market

Thursday morning we went to the Seoul Museum of Art to see the visiting Tim Burton exhibit.  It was one of the most interesting exhibits I have been to in a while.  The exhibit featured a collection of his sketches, ideas, poetry, movie models, and many more pieces spanning his career.  I am glad we fit it in, it was well worth the quick visit.  That afternoon we had plans to spend the day with Charles’ friend Woojung, they attended grad school together at SCAD.  She met us at our hotel and we set off in a cab for lunch. We were finding the communication to be somewhat difficult in Seoul and so it was a wonderful bonus to have a Korean speaker with us to order lunch.  Woojung took over the ordering and we ended up with a delicious feast!  After lunch we set out to explore the true artsy neighborhood in Seoul (since Woojung is a local she knew where the worthwhile art galleries were).  We spent the afternoon stopping into galleries, shops, museums, and even visiting the Gyeongbokgung Palace.  We happened to arrive at Gyeongbokgung right as the changing of the guard was taking place, which was awesome and distracted me from the fact that my fingers and toes were completely frozen.  Next on our sight seeing tour was a visit to the Bukchon neighborhood, which is an old traditional Korean village that is in the center of Seoul.  It is full of narrow alley ways and small wooden houses with tile rooves.  I loved it!  Our last stop was the Myeong-dong shopping area where we picked up our last Christmas present and decided that we were sight-see-ed out.  We decided it was time for an evening cocktail with a view.  We went to the Lotte Hotel, which has a bar on the 37th floor and a great view of Seoul.  Woojung said she was really thirsty and ordered a double whiskey and a pint of Guiness, it was then that I realized that she was preparing for a night on the town.  After our drink at the Lotte we went to a Korean BBQ restaurant where again Woojung took care of us and knew exactly what to order.  We parted ways when Woojung headed to meet her friends for karaoke, we were really tempted to go with her, but it was already midnight and we had big plans for Friday.  

Statues outside the Seoul Museum of Art

Entrance to the museum to see the Tim Burton exhibit

Our amazing lunch with Woojung
Gyeongbokgong Palace Changing of the Guard

Gyeongbokgong Palace

Woojung and Charles on our way to the Folklore Museum

Bukchon Neighborood

Woojung - she was really thirsty

Woojung, me, and Charles at the Lotte Hotel Bar

Korean BBQ (the floors were heated - so nice)
This morning we had a big excursion planned - we went to the DMZ.  It was something Charles really wanted to do and I thought would be pretty cool and definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.  We had to get approval from the UN 48 hours before and they made sure we were aware that the tour could be canceled at any point during the trip.  We took a bus from Seoul to the DMZ, which takes about an hour.  Once we arrived we went through several checkpoints before we were given a briefing at the Joint Security Area (JSA) Briefing Room.  Where we were told about the history of the DMZ and were given strict instructions about walking two-by-two in a single file line, wearing badges clearly visible, and not pointing or waving at the North Korean soldiers.  We then took a military bus further into the DMZ to visit the JSA buildings where the meetings between North and South Korea take place.  We were allowed to take a few pictures inside the buildings and then outside on the steps of the South Korean offices looking toward the North Korean buildings.  That is when our little oops-y happened.  I had the camera with the zoom lens and Charles told me to take a picture of the North Korean soldier.  For some reason I didn't see him standing on the steps of the building.  As I was searching for him Charles accidentally raised his hand and pointed.  In all the excitement and nervous energy of being in that spot we briefly forgot about the rules.  The woman leading our tour immediately snapped at him, "no pointing!"  We both immediately stood straight forward with our hands at our sides and nervously apologized for our mistake.  It ended up not being a problem and we were able to get a few pictures.  It was snowing this morning when we arrived at the DMZ and we were very lucky to be able to visit the zone.  We stopped in Imjingak on our way back to Seoul, which is a park set up on the border of the DMZ where people who have family in North Korea can gather to have memorial ceremonies.  While we were in Imjingak we learned that the afternoon group was not able to go to the DMZ and had to turn around without visiting due to the heavy snow fall.  The DMZ visit was well worth the time and money and I would highly recommend it if you visit Seoul.  Here are a few pics:

The boundary line in the DMZ - the North Korean side is covered in snow

Me standing in North Korea with a South Korean guard

Charles at the DMZ with North Korea behind him

North Korean soldier

Bridge of No Return in the DMZ

Imjingak - looking towards North Korea
Tonight we are going to the Gangnam neighborhood to have dinner, we figured we couldn't be in Korea and not visit the neighborhood made famous by the song!  Tomorrow we leave for the U.S. - I can't believe the time has come to go home...