Monday, October 31, 2011

All Hallows Eve

I am pretty excited for the first Halloween in our new home. A slight chill in the air will be perfect for all the little kiddos wandering our street as ghosts and goblins. It seems we got a little too busy to do much decorating this year, but my wonderful wife did procure a splendid pumpkin for our front steps.






Saturday, we attended the annual costume party at the home of some friends in Wimberley, TX. I thought I'd be attending the Texas Longhorns football game, so when my co-worker came up short on tickets, I had to improvise:




I was actually given that bottle of water and $0.12. Much obliged.


Another unexpected turn of events: who knew my wife was such a "Witchy Woman"?




Finally, our friend, Jacob, made a pretty convincing G.I. Joe.




I would have taken more photos, but hobos don't typically have digital cameras or iPhones.

Have a fun and safe Halloween!



-apl

Thursday, October 27, 2011

World Series

I gotta admit: I hopped on the Rangers bandwagon this postseason. I'm not usually the fair weather type, but let's face it, we Astros fans haven't had much to be excited about in a while. More than that, Austin seems to be more of a Rangers market, anyway, and as I can't attend any MLB games out here, I might as well "root, root, root for the home team."

I have always been and will always be an Astros fan, but it's pretty nice having a reason to cheer for one of the teams in the Fall Classic. Thankfully, the fact that the two teams are in separate leagues (for now) allows for very few conflicts of interest. I truly hope that whoever ends up owning the Astros gives us a reason to cheer again. I'll never forget the deafening roars at the NLCS or Craig Biggio's last game or sitting in the Diamond Club with my future wife on what turned out to be a sort of first date. Those were good years at Minute Maid Park. Times have changed, but it's still a great place to watch a ball game.

Dayton McLane, Jr., did some great things with the Houston ball club (for a couple of years), but they pale in comparison to what Nolan Ryan has been able to do in such a short span. It's refreshing to watch such a well-run team play baseball. I only wish I had started watching the Rangers sooner.

All of that to say: this October has been fun. The baseball fan in me has come back to life. Here are a few of my highlights from this year's Series:

1. As much as the guy has ruined the lives of Astros fans over the years, it was fun to watch Pujols own Game 3. Needless to say, it was an epic night in the true sense of the word.

2. Sunday was just as masterful on the defensive side of the ball, with Holland's historic pitching performance. Hope this guy continues to do well.

3. Singers of our National Anthem would do well to emulate Zooey Deschanel's rendition from Game 4. Pure, simple, no-nonsense singing. The way it should be done. Always.

4. Retired Petty Officer Generald Wilson's performance of "God Bless America" during Game 6 was equally impressive. Classy of MLB to select service people and their spouses to sing this song, and props to Generald Wilson for his performance.

5. It's been great to see Lance Berkman do so well this fall. He has worked hard for years and I hated seeing him struggle his last couple of seasons in Houston, mainly because I knew how much he beat himself up for it. Love the Puma.

6. Even Nolan Ryan was biting his nails in Game 6. What a game!!

-apl

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Turkish Coffee

One of the items on my list of 5 Things is coffee. If you know me at all, you know I love coffee. I love just about everything to do with coffee. I love coffee shops and the culture they tend to provide. I love espresso and espresso machines. I enjoy chatting with baristas, learning about their art, and watching as they pull each shot. I could go on and on...and in some future blog entries, I most certainly will. But today, I'd like to talk about one particular kind of coffee: Turkish coffee.

I believe I first experienced Turkish coffee at Phoenicia Deli on Westheimer Rd in west Houston (I would provide the exact address but it is difficult to discern from the multiple Google results). It's a little shawarma place in a strip center wedged next to a Bike Barn. This place made the tastiest shawarma I ever had, and nothing topped it off better than a cup of Turkish coffee. By now, you are surely thinking, "OK, we get it. You like Turkish coffee! But WHAT IS IT?"

I'm glad you asked! 

Turkish coffee, also known as Greek coffee and Arabic coffee (among other names), can be found in the United States at many restaurants serving Middle Eastern food. For more on the history, which I find quite fascinating, see the wiki. The term "Turkish coffee" actually refers to the method of preparation, rather than the type of coffee used. Whatever coffee you use must be ground into the finest possible powder. I recently bought a bag of imported coffee from the owner of a great little Greek restaurant in San Marcos, TX, called EuroCafe. (I can't help but think of Babu Bhatt's "The Dream Café" in Seinfeld, where Babu unsuccessfully tried to sell "international cuisine.") This bag cost me $2 and will last quite a while due to the small amount of grounds used in each serving.



You'll also need a very small metal pot in which to heat the coffee, sweetener, and water. This particular pot will make two servings at a time.



You'll want small serving cups as well, as this coffee is fairly strong and isn't typically served in large portions. I have found espresso cups to be just right for serving Turkish coffee.



The only other things you need, as you can see, are a teaspoon, a stirrer (I use a chopstick 'cause I'm cool like that), and your sweetener of choice. I'd recommend pure cane sugar (since you won't need a lot). Add one teaspoon of coffee and a little less than a teaspoon of sugar to the pot for each espresso-sized cup you'd like to make. You may want to vary these based on your sweetness preference. Fill one espresso cup with cold water and pour it into the pot, repeating this step for each cup you are making. Now just stir the mixture up a bit and put the lid on.



Set the coffee pot on a burner and turn it on low. Give the coffee a stir every minute or so, replacing the lid each time.



Just before your coffee starts to boil, turn off the burner. That's it! Just pour and serve!




Turkish coffee is especially yummy with a chunk of dark chocolate or other dessert. It is also a splendid after-dinner treat on its own!

Oh, and be sure to leave the dregs at the bottom; otherwise you're in for a rather gritty finish!



Enjoy!

-apl

Monday, October 24, 2011

5 Things

Tonight, my wife asked me to list five things I love, off the top of my head, whatever comes first. Can't be people, God, the Bible, etc. Just five things I love -- ready, set, go:

1. Coffee
2. Baseball
3. Road trips
4. Steak
5. New York City

There will most certainly be more on some or all of those in the near future.

What five things do you love?

-apl

Friday, October 21, 2011

Meet Amos



He is my in-laws' eight month-old Great Dane. And guess who is dog-sitting Saturday...


Yep. Yours, truly.


He looks like a beast but he is really just a big teddy bear that loves to play. Pretty much a hyper little puppy in a 100+ lb body. Today, this horse got scared of a puppy waterfall one of our neighbors has in their front yard. See? Just a puppy.


Anyway, I'm going to attempt to take him to the trail or somewhere outdoors tomorrow. Let's hope that I come back in one piece. Taking care of a dog is definitely something I am far from mastering...


-apl

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Entitlement

As humans, we feel so entitled to things. Whether it's my toy truck, my pen, my car, my money, or my time, it's mine and you'd better not take it or encroach upon it. Some of us are more laid back about this than others; I commend those of you who do not possess this sense of entitlement. These thoughts came to mind while reading Paul's first letter to the Corinthians.


"...Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" (1 Corinthians 6:7 ESV)


The context of this verse is centered around brothers taking each other to court, rather than settling these disputes amongst themselves. However, this principle can be applied to the way we consider our possessions, whether they be physical possessions, or intangible ones (e.g. time).


Now, I'm not advocating rolling over every time someone tries to take advantage of you, but it is always prudent to consider our battles before fighting them. In every situation where I feel wronged or encroached upon, I must consider my attitude and reasoning for standing my ground. Just as importantly, I must consider my influence as a Christian. Will my reaction help or hurt the cause of bringing souls to Christ?


And, after all, I am really not entitled to anything:


"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19f ESV)


-apl

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Raccoons

I hate raccoons.

Seriously. I do. There is almost nothing in the world I enjoy less than a raccoon. Awful demons they are. Last night, I dreamed we had a raccoon in our house. I was disgusted and angry. Something had to be done, so I called a pest control company. They sent out one of their fine exterminators, who turned out to be our preacher, George. By the time he had finished with our place, he had captured three raccoons. THREE RACCOONS! IN MY HOME! WHERE MY WIFE SLEEPS!

And if that's not dreadful enough, there's more. After a little deducing, I uncovered the fact that this pest control company had two categories of employees: 1. The exterminator (our crime-fighting, raccoon-nabbing preacher); and 2. The planter. The planter's job, as you may have already realized, was to secretly release live raccoons into the homes of unsuspecting citizens, thereby drumming up more business for the company (unbeknownst to our beloved George, of course).

"What a frightfully gruesome imagination you have," you are thinking. "Why would you even dream something like that?" Well, I'm glad you asked...

Earlier this year, we were renting an upstairs apartment in a yellow 1920's home from a -- shall we say, eccentric? -- German lady in our neighborhood of Hyde Park. The back yard was a garden of herbs, tomatoes, and lemons, among other plants. Tucked away to the side against the fence was a chicken coop with six hens. Now, these hens were just baby chicks when we first leased the place in the summer of 2010. We helped our landlady take care of them and watch them grow into beautiful hens, three yellow and three black. We partook in many a yummy egg thanks to these chickens.

And then, one week, it all came crashing down. Our landlady went out of town and asked us to take care of the chickens, as she frequently did. Not a difficult task: let them out in the mornings, make sure they have enough food, lock them in at night. Everything was going as usual for the first few days until the fateful Saturday night, when I awoke to the violent sounds of clucking and wings flapping outside our bedroom window. I went outside a little before dawn, and to my dismay, the door to the chicken coop was slightly open. All six of them were gone. I turned and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw two hens perched on the gas piping behind the house. I saw another sitting below the detached apartment. A slight relief came over me as I thought that just maybe they were all OK. 

I walked around the narrow side of the house beside the bedrooms and saw the frightful scene: a tornado of feathers and what was left of a hen. I checked the other more hidden areas of the yard and found two more feather explosions. My life was forever changed. I put the remaining three hens inside the coop and came back after the sun had risen to...clean up. (If you ask whether we had fried chicken that night, you are disgusting.)

Unfortunately, a couple of nights later, it happened again. One more went down. The man who did maintenance on the house came by while I was at work the next day to secure the coop door. This seemed to do the trick. No more chickens were harmed until Friday. We got home a little later than usual, right about dusk, and the attacker had already made its move. Only one poor black hen had survived.

I did a little research to find out what would be killing chickens in a residential area, and all the evidence pointed to one thing: raccoons. They will reach their skinny arms and claws through the chicken wire to agitate and strangle the hens. They are even strong and persistent enough to pull at the door until the gap is just wide enough for them to squeeze through to the defenseless dinner. And they are smart enough to try different methods. For instance, once the coop was completely secure, the raccoon showed up earlier, before the chickens were locked in and I was not home to put a bullet in its skull.

Those were dark days at the yellow house. I would be lying if I said I wasn't just a bit traumatized. 

And now you know why I despise raccoons.

-apl