Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Impromptu Trip to South Lake Tahoe!

A few weeks ago Mike and I had a conversation that went something like this:

Mike: So my boss is taking a week off in a couple weeks, so I would be able to take some leave during that time.
Veronica: We should go somewhere. We have those two free Southwest tickets...
Mike: Let's look at where they fly. How about Tahoe?
Veronica: That sounds good! Let's do it!

We then spent the better part of a Sunday morning booking flights and hotels and then Mike spent the following week researching activities and on Tuesday, August 2nd we left for 3 days in Tahoe! 

We spent the first night in Reno since we got in at about 11pm. We stayed at one of the big casinos there and when we booked the hotel we got 2 free breakfast buffets and $10 in slot play! We woke up SUPER early (the buffet didn't open until 7:30 and we were ready to go at 6:30) so we went to play our $10. We finished up $1.46, which isn't bad really. 
(We had to put in $5 to play the $10 which is why the voucher is for $6.46...)

The breakfast buffet included a diverse representation of cuisines to include Mexican and Chinese food. We ate as much as we could and then it was time to head back to the airport to pick up our rental car and head to Lake Tahoe!! The drive up was really beautiful. 
Scenic Route!
On the way we stopped on the northern side of the lake for a couple rounds of mini golf at a quirky course.
Take 1st shot seated?!

Kick the golf ball?!

Mike won a free round, which suckered us into playing a 2nd!
After some lunch, we took the "long way" around the lake to our hotel in South Lake Tahoe. The weather was absolutely beautiful and it was very refreshing to get out of the Texas heat.
That evening we went down to the shore and took some really great pictures of the sunset. One of the benefits of South Lake Tahoe being on the southeastern shore is the beautiful sunsets!
We went to bed early because the next day was going to prove to be very challenging.

Something you don't get a lot of in KS/OK/TX is legitimate mountain biking. You know, on a mountain? Mike did a lot of research and booked us each a bike to take along the Flume Trail. Reviews online said it was a challenging trail, but not death defying. The folks at the bike rental place set us up with our bikes and away we went!

The beginning part of the trail was mostly uphill, very uphill. No big deal. I knew it was only the first 4 miles of a 14 mile ride. There were some points where I had to walk the bike up:
But for the most part we were still smiling:
...and showing off.
We encountered some breathtaking sights:
And we even had to ride our bikes THROUGH the water!
That's me!
And then things started getting hairy. After going through a very technical part of the trail, which I chose to walk through, we were all of a sudden on the SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN. We're talking a path that was maybe 18" wide with a 1500 ft drop to your left. Oh. My. Gosh.
Mike was very patient (for the most part) because there were a lot of points where I was just walking my bike. It was just too scary. When we did take a break, however, the view was awesome!
When we were finished with death-defying part, we got to the downhill. This is the easy part right? This is what I worked so hard for in the beginning! No. No, no, no. It's white knuckle the whole way down. I felt like I would be thrown over the handlebars at any minute. I kept waiting to smell smoke from my brakes burning out as a result of my death grip on them. So scary. Meanwhile, Mike is getting the whole thing on VIDEO. As in, riding with ONE HAND! He is braver than I.

In the end we made it to the bottom in one piece. There was a family of four that came in behind us (we passed them at the beginning). They didn't seem prepared for that "big" of an adventure, either. A shuttle picked us all up and took us back to the beginning.

We made it back to the hotel in time for a Sierra Nevada beer-tasting event:
Afterwards, we had a nice dinner at the steakhouse in Harrah's and then returned to the hotel to make s'mores! It was really fun making s'mores despite the fact that we were the only ones over the age of 8. Of course, we enjoyed the marshmellowy-chocolatey-graham crackery goodness, but the real highlight was watching all the kids melt down. It was 8pm, so getting close to bed time. Most kids got upset when their marshmallow caught fire (they hadn't yet learned the "way of the s'more"), but one kid just stared at his flaming mallow until his mom blew it out - THEN he broke down. We each got 4 crackers, a hershey's bar and 4 marshmallows. That is A LOT. I couldn't eat all mine so I gave my last set of ingredients to a girl who'd lost one of her marshmallows to a fiery fate. Her father and I lamented at how the kids just didn't get it. Later he said he explained it to her and sure enough, she burnt the one I gave her and enjoyed it!

The next day it was time to go home. We had breakfast at a place recommended to us by a friend and then made our way back to Reno. The drive back was much less impressive. Kind of depressing, really
On the way to the lake we saw an In-n-Out Burger. We decided that we should probably stop on the way to the airport, just to say we went...
We had a great time escaping the crazy heat and seeing what Lake Tahoe has to offer. I think I'd enjoy it in the winter time, too, however Mike isn't into skiing, really. Perhaps if he gets deployed in the winter time I can go with some girlfriends!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Roasted Potatoes with Fresh Rosemary and Oregano!

This time it was Sarah's turn to pick the secret ingredient: Fresh Rosemary!

When I saw that, I had to chuckle to myself. Over the past year I've tried so hard to grow fresh rosemary in my garden and I just haven't had any luck. Fortunately, right down the road is Central Market where I can get fresh herbs at a reasonable price. :)
Central Market!
 For this particular challenge, I decided to make roasted new potatoes with rosemary and oregano. This is one of the first things I learned to make after Mike and I got married and moved in together and I finally had a "real" kitchen (read: the stove does not also serve as a work surface!) with "real" kitchen stuff (read: knives that actually cut the first time!). I also had a little herb garden going with basil, oregano and rosemary. As I mentioned, my rosemary bit it, but I was able to use my oregano this time!
Fresh Oregano from my garden!
This dish really isn't anything new and edgy, but there is a bit of a twist to how I bake them. It was actually my husband, Mike's, idea. He's in love with our pizza stone and one time when I was about to throw a batch of potatoes in the oven, Mike said "Put them on the pizza stone!!" I did and they came out great! 

Here's how you make 'em:

~10-15 new (red) potatoes (the little guys)
~1 T of chopped fresh rosemary
~1 T of chopped fresh oregano
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

large bowl
wooden spoon
pizza stone
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees with pizza stone already in the oven so it is hot when potatoes are ready to go in.
  2. Rinse potatoes well and cut each one into 8ths (in half 3 times!)
  3. In a large bowl, mix the potatoes with just enough olive oil to thinly coat each piece
  4. Mix in Rosemary, Oregano, Salt and Pepper

    Tip: It's better to do step 4 when you're ready to put the potatoes in the oven. Letting them sit with salt on them will extract the water and leave them in a puddle of potato juice. Ew.
  5. Place the potatoes on the pizza stone in a single layer, ensuring that they will be heated evenly.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until they reach desired brownness and crispiness. About halfway through, use tongs to "toss" the potatoes so they are cooked on all sides.
 This time I served the potatoes with baked salmon and roasted broccoli! Perfect weeknight dinner because you can prep the potatoes and throw them in the oven and then get everything else together while they're baking! The oven did get a bit crowded there at the end though! :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Meet the Newest Holtzes!

Nope, we're not pregnant and we didn't adopt, but our family has grown! :)

Mike spent a couple weekends turning one of our old kitchen cabinets into this:
The Fowlamo
Yes, that is a chicken coop. Shaped like the Alamo. You might call it the Fowlamo. 

A guy that Mike works with lives on some land and has horses and chickens. He was looking to get rid of 3 of his chickens and we just so happened to be looking for 3 tenants for our chicken coop (3 is the max you can have in the city). Mike's friend brought them over along with a generous amount of hay and chicken feed. 

Here are our lovely ladies:

The red one is named Gumbo, one black on is Ana (after Santa Ana), and the other black on is named Omelet. Here's a close up:
Gumbo and Ana enjoying their enclosed area
We're raising them mainly for eggs and entertainment. So far we've been getting about 2 eggs a day. Here's what they look like:
Gumbo and Ana laid eggs right away after we got them. Omelet took a little longer to feel comfortable producing. Her eggs are speckled (2nd from the back on the right side) and they are my favorite. She is my favorite. The other two kinda push her around and I feel bad for her. 

The cat enjoys watching the chickens through the window. I guess they can see her, too. One time she ran to the window to watch them and it spooked them and they ran away! Most of the time she sits and "chatters" at them like this:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

17 Days Under the Heat Dome

An opportunity came up for me to spend 2.5 weeks in July in Oklahoma teaching some material for a workshop being held at the National Weather Center. Ten Korea Meteorological Agency forecasters were coming to Oklahoma for 2 weeks to learn about precipitation forecasting, nowcasting, and tropical cyclones.

So the day after the 4th of July (sometimes referred to as the 5th of July) I loaded up the Runner and I was northbound 35! I got in about 6pm and checked into my 2-bedroom, student-housing apartment. I picked that location because it had a pool and offered access to the OU pool and OU gym. 

The first weekend I went up to Wichita (I was so close, why not?!) to see family. On the way I saw this:
A dust devil!

While in Wichita I saw my dad (of course) as well as my Uncle Greg, Aunt Margaret, cousins Donovan and Drew, my Grandma Farney, and "Uncle" Terry. I also got to catch up with my friend LeighAnn and her boyfriend, Mike, who's recently back from a 4-month deployment. (She found herself an "Air Force Mike" too!) Wichita was experiencing some record heat so much of my time there was spent indoors.

The workshop went really well. The Koreans asked excellent questions and were able to see how things work in the US National Weather Service. Only a couple of them spoke English well, so all our lectures were translated by two Korean OU Meteorology students. Those girls were GOOD! I was amazed at how hard they worked and what a great job they did!
10 KMA meteorologists (all men), 2 translators (OU shirt, center, and pink shirt, 2nd from the right), Dr. Snow and Andrew (center) and Miss Lee, the HR manager (center).

I never thought that I would be excited to get back to San Antonio to escape the heat, but that's exactly what happened while I was in Oklahoma. I saw temperatures like 106 and 107 daily while I was there. San Antonio was a good 10 degrees cooler. Unbelievable.

When I got home I was very excited to be with Mike again and meet the newest additions to our family..... be continued!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Yellow Curry with Cauliflower and Potatoes

I'm so excited! It's my inaugural Feeding Friendship post! My friends Ellen and Sarah started this blog series together to help us keep in contact more often. If you like to join us, click this button:

I got to choose the first "secret ingredient" since I will be out of town next week and I had already done my grocery shopping for this week when we were choosing it. I selected:

I picked it because I was already planning on making this dish! I loosely followed a recipe I found on The Apartment Kitchen. (Looks like that blog has been shut down with a new concept in the works.) I felt like Super Woman when I made it because I managed to go out and buy a new hair dryer, cook this meal, go to Bodypump class at the gym, and come home and serve it up to the hubs all in one night! It's that fast! Oh, and it makes some leftovers (if there are just two of you).

Here's the ingredients that I used:

1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 onion (red or white) chopped
10 new potatoes, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 Serano pepper (or any chile pepper)
1 T olive oil
1 T canola oil (I use this instead of olive oil due to the higher smoke point of canola oil.)
1/2 c vegetable broth
1/2 c skim milk
1 packet Taste of Thai yellow curry paste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 c Basmati rice

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook rice according to directions. Continue with steps below while rice cooks
  3. Toss cauliflower and potatoes in olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Place cauliflower and potatoes on a baking sheet (I use a pizza stone) and roast for about 15 min.
  5. In a deep pan, saute the onions in the canola oil until tender.
  6. Add garlic and pepper, saute for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Add vegetable broth, milk and curry paste. Stir well to ensure paste dissolves. Simmer until cauliflower and potatoes are ready.
  8. Add cauliflower and potatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  9. Serve curry over rice. (Maybe grab a glass of milk to go with it!)

You may have noticed that the original recipe called for coconut milk. I used it the first time, but that requires buying a special can of coconut milk and then you only use half of it. The 2nd time I made this I tried regular skim milk and I couldn't taste the difference, and you always have milk in the fridge!

Also, you may have noticed I left out the tofu! That was more because I didn't buy tofu at the store. If you choose to include tofu in yours (which I highly recommend), go ahead and cut it into bite sized pieces and saute it in some canola oil before tossing it in with the cauliflower and potatoes. Excellent source of protein and keeps the dish vegetarian.

Potatoes and cauliflower to be roasted
This is the curry paste I used.
Simmering, waiting for roasted veggies.
Packed it away before I hit the gym!
Always awesome to come home to a home-cooked meal!