Friday, September 28, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up (9.28.12)

Fall Rocks
Are you as excited as I am about the return of fall television? There's really only one summer show that interests me (Rizzoli & Isles, which I love), but its final episode aired a month ago and since then I've been stuck watching DVRed reruns of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (which I don't love) with Tom every evening. Well, I take that back...I sit next to Tom and either browse Pinterest or read (I'm midway through the 900-page 11/22/63 by Stephen King) while he watches DVRed reruns of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I have a long history of emotionally attaching to shows that no one else likes and are therefore cancelled after one season. Most recently this has occurred with V, Flash Forward, The Event, and The Firm, and it's frustrating in the same way someone ripping out the last chapter of a book you're reading would be. My plan this year is to talk a lot about the shows I like so that others will watch and the networks won't cancel them. It's possible I may be overestimating the number of people who read this blog.

Here's what I'm already committed to:
- How I Met Your Mother
- Parenthood
- Private Practice
- Law & Order SVU
- Modern Family
- Glee
- Grey's Anatomy
- The Office
- Person of Interest
- Scandal
- Revenge
- The Good Wife

And here's what I'm planning to sample:
- Revolution
- Elementary

And here's what I've already ruled out:
- Partners (after six minutes)
- The Mob Doctor (after one full episode and about 20 minutes of a second episode)

I've also become kind of attached to NY Med, which I watch On Demand, and I'm looking forward to the return of Smash and The River a few months from now.

What are you watching this season? What's missing from my list that I should be tuning in to? And lastly, PLEASE watch Scandal for me - I would be heart-broken if it didn't return next year!

Call It, Maybe
I paid very little attention to the fact that Division 3 Collegiate referees had taken over for the regular NFL referees until they cost my Green Bay Packers the win on Monday Night Football.

To be honest, I feel badly for both the collegiate and the NFL referees. The collegiate referees were thrust into an incredibly stressful and high profile situation for which they weren't adequately trained or prepared, and the NFL referees are basically being dragged through the mud by the NFL suits who won't agree to the referees' relatively small ($3 million is a drop in the bucket when the overall budget is $10 billion) contract requests.

I don't, however, feel badly enough for the referees not to post this "Call It, Maybe" video. (I know I promised I wouldn't post any more Call Me, Maybe parodies, but I just can't help myself.) The singing is awful and the video is actually just still photos in slideshow form, but I laughed out loud more than once.


MomsEveryday: The Firsts Keep Coming...and Coming
In case you missed them the first time around, MomsEveryday posted a combination of "The First Keep Coming" (a sweet post about Will's first day of kindergarten) and "And Coming..." (a not-so-sweet post about Hallie insulting me in public) on their site this week. Enjoy a good laugh at my expense!

Red Cross: Little Experts
How young is too young to teach kids about health, safety, and preparedness? When it comes to answering this kind of question, Will's always been my guinea pig, and along the way he's taught me that a three-year-old can advocate for his own health and safety and a five-year-old can save his own life. I only hope Will never has to put his training into real-life action...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

He Needed Her Help

This 100+ tomato day would have been a lot easier on and more fun for Grandpa Paul if little Hallie had been there to help.

So jealous, by the way.  My summer Kitchen Challenge would have looked a lot different if I were hauling in between 20 and 100 home-grown tomatoes each and every day.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kitchen Challenge: Tomatoes

Back in June - when I assumed our gardening efforts would translate into gardening success - I had every intention of focusing on tomatoes for my summer Kitchen Challenge. I honestly thought we'd be eating tomatoes for dinner every night and that I'd be sneaking tomato puree into muffins and brownies in an attempt to use the tomatoes before they went bad.

If you stop Midwestern Girl here regularly, you know that this year's garden didn't exactly go as planned. Which means my summer Kitchen Challenge didn't go as planned.

Without baskets full of fresh tomatoes crowding my countertops, I wasn't at all inspired to cook with tomatoes. So I dropped my commitment to them all together and decided to simply make/bake one new recipe each week throughout the summer months. I did well in late June, August, and September, but July was a wash because we were in Wisconsin and most of the time my mom cooked for us.

There were a few busts - either because I did something wrong or because the dishes just weren't ones we enjoyed - but there were also a few really great successes that I wanted to share. I hope you enjoy! (I often make adjustments to recipes and I included those adjustments so you have the option of going with the original recipe or trying my adaptations.)

1. Cinnamon French Toast Bake
- Adaptations: I left out the nuts (Will's allergic so we don't feed nuts to either Will or Hallie) and skipped both the powdered sugar and the maple syrup.
- Verdict: Even Hallie took a few bites, which she only does if a dish is amazing.

2. Raspberry Crumb Pie
- Adaptations: I used Kroger-brand, pre-made pie crust instead of making a pie crust from scratch. I can't stand making pie crust.
- Verdict: This pie was unbelievable. I made it on a Friday afternoon and Tom and I ate the entire thing (yes, just the two of us) by Sunday afternoon. And then I did back-to-back classes at the gym on Monday morning to make up for it.

3. Maggiano's Baby Wedge Salad
- Adaptations: None
- Verdict: The blue cheese dressing on the salad was divine, and I'm certain it would have been even better if I'd made it ahead of time, like the recipe calls for. Plan ahead on this one!

4. Crockpot Pot Roast
- Adaptations: I used beef broth instead of water, left out the celery (I strongly dislike celery), and added 1 c. of sliced mushrooms with about an hour left to cook.
- Verdict: The meat and vegetables were tender and the sauce was flavorful, but I'd probably cut this recipe in half for our family of four next time around.

5. Southwestern Chopped Chicken Salad
- Adaptations: For the salad, I added 1 diced red pepper, used romaine lettuce instead of iceberg lettuce, and left out the cilantro (Tom thinks it tastes like soap) and tortilla chips. For the dressing I used 1/3 c. mayo, 1/3 c. nonfat plain yogurt, and 1/3 c. ranch dressing.
- Verdict: LOVE. And if you dress the salad lightly, it's pretty darn good for you.

6. Abuelo's Papas Con Chile
- Adaptations: I went a little lighter than the recipe calls for when it came to the cream cheese, heavy cream, and Velveeta and I left out the jalapeƱos all together. (Don't tell Tom that this recipe was supposed to have jalapeƱos in it.)
- Verdict: We were well aware of the fact that what we were eating was clogging our arteries, but boy, was it good. We ate (tried to eat) small servings.

7. Spinach Artichoke Dip
- Adaptations: I used 2 T. of butter (each time), frozen spinach, one can of artichokes, skim milk, 4 oz. of cream cheese, 3/4 c. feta cheese, and 3/4 c. parmesan cheese, and I left out the pepper jack cheese and cayenne pepper.
- Verdict: My adaptations, of which there were quite a few, certainly didn't affect the taste of this dip - it was as good a spinach artichoke dip as I've had in any restaurant and I'll definitely make it again (though next time I'll either half the recipe or make it for a group).

8. Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
- Adaptations: My heart was already set on making these cookies when I discovered I was out of white granulated sugar, so I decided to just substitute brown sugar. For the cookies I used 1 and 1/4 c. brown sugar instead of 1 c. granulated sugar and 1/2 c. brown sugar. For the coating I used 1/4 c. brown sugar. Also, instead of rolling the dough balls in the coating mixture and then flattening the balls, I flattened the dough balls and then sprinkled them with the coating mixture.
- Verdict: These cookies were simply scrumptious, and both Tom and I agreed that they were just the right level of sweetness thanks to the brown sugar (and using a little less sugar than the recipe called for).

9. Honey Beer Bread
- Adaptations: I didn't pour any melted butter into the pan and only used 2 T. of melted butter on the top of the loaf. I also used honey (instead of agave nectar) and Shiner beer.
- Verdict: I could have eaten the entire loaf in one sitting. I didn't, but I could have.

So there you have it - the (positive side of the) results of my summer Kitchen Challenge. I have zero ideas for fall, so if something comes to mind, please share!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Let Her Sleep

Let her sleep
For when she wakes
She will move mountains

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Good, the Bad, and the Very, Very Ugly

You might not expect that we'd find all three - the good, the bad, and the ugly - at the County Fair, but that was the case a couple of weekends ago when the four of us visited the first annual Brazos County Fair.

The "good" included a rodeo showcase (we've really come to love rodeos, or as Hallie refers to them, "radios"), a monkey wearing a dress and bloomers, and a petting zoo.
I've yet to figure out how to take rodeo pictures.
In order to see eye-to-eye with this horse
I had to stand on a 4-foot-high cement wall.
My dress-wearing monkey friend stole my
sunglasses and messed up my hair.  A small price to pay
to be able to say that I held a monkey though.
She liked Tom better than she liked me.
Hallie is apparently some kind of goat whisperer.  She wasn't at all
afraid of the animals, even though almost every single one of them
was bigger than she was and they all came at her at once.  
Even when she had no food, the animals licked the
palms of her hands.  (Don't worry - we sanitized her
entire body when we left the petting zoo.)
This miniature donkey was her favorite.  I can't help but notice
how Hallie's friend, who we ran into at the fair,
is holding her hand while she feeds her donkey.  Sweet.
As she fed the animals (or they licked her hands) she
whispered to them things like, "I love you so much,
little donkey. You're such a pretty donkey.
You're such a special donkey."
I think that donkey would have let Hallie ride him if she'd wanted to.
Seriously, they're best friends now.
"Do you know how much I love you?  To the moon and back, little donkey."
This petting zoo also had deer, which was incredible for Tom and me,
as we'd never been so close to so many deer at one time.  They were gorgeous.
The "bad" included the rides, which were dirty and ridiculously expensive for the length of the time they lasted (especially considering we had to pay to get into the fair in the first place), and the pig races.  We were really excited when we heard pigs would be racing at the fair, but the "races" were more like 11 seconds of pig-related chaos.
Buying tickets on his own.
Over so soon?
A quick, $4 train ride.
Getting ready to "race".
The "ugly" was particularly so.  While sitting in the stands at the rodeo, we heard the announcer - who was a bit rougher around the edges (read: cruder) than any rodeo announcer we've been in the presence of thus far - make a mildly derogatory comment.  Both Tom and I took note, but decided to let it go.  A few minutes later the announcer made a comment so offensive that neither Tom nor I could actually believe the words had come out of his mouth.  But they did, in front of hundreds of spectators, and while very few others besides us seemed to take note, Tom and I looked at each other and immediately agreed that it was time for us to leave.

I'm grateful that Will and Hallie weren't paying any attention to that filth-spouting announcer, but when I think about all of the people who were paying attention - children and adults alike - I feel sick to my stomach.  If we choose to visit the second annual Brazos County Fair next September, we'll head straight to the petting zoo and skip the lesson in hatred and intolerance all together.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Weekly Wrap-Up (9.21.12)

"Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls.  They are Work, Family, Health, Friends, and Spirit and you're keeping all of these balls in the air.

You will soon understand that Work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  But the other four balls - Family, Health, Friends, and Spirit - are made of glass.  If you drop one of these balls, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered.  They will never be the same. You must understand that."

~ Bryan Dyson, Former CEO of Coco Cola

Just something to think about this Friday.

Feelin' Hot, Hot, Hot
Last week the Huffington Post compiled a list of the 10 Hottest Places on Earth. I was at first surprised to discover that College Station, Texas was NOT on the list, but then grateful that we don't live in Death Valley, the Lut Desert, or Timbuktu.

Dock Addition
Every summer, my sis-in-laws and I build ourselves a raft (and I use the term "raft" loosely, as we simply tie three inflatable air mattresses to one another with rope), tie our raft to the dock, and allow ourselves to drift out into the lake with our hard ciders, amaretto sours, and gossip magazines. It's heavenly...except for the fish.

 I'm afraid of fish, so I'm constantly fearful that fish will jump out of the water and onto my lap. Yes, I know that a fish jumping out of the lake and onto my lap is about as likely as me being struck by lightening or winning the lottery or being cast in the next Hunger Games movie (a girl can dream, right?), but I can't help worrying about fish attacks while we're on our raft.  This constant worry is why I have to drink hard ciders and amaretto sours.

This clever contraption would solve all my problems though (and would allow Jenna, Chandi, and I to finally toss our cheap air mattress in the trash), so on my to-do list for this coming week is to give my father-in-law a call and convince him we need to build a dock addition at the Lodge.  It looks pretty luxurious, right?  Perhaps fit for a movie star?

MomsEveryday: The Garden Man Can
In case you missed it the first time around, you can catch The Garden Man Can - about how our gardening results paled in comparison to my dad's, and how the kids never let me forget it - on MomsEveryday.  Quite frankly I'm thrilled to be done with spring and summer gardening...I'm ready for FALL!  (The all-caps was directed towards Mother Nature, who's still pounding us with near-90 degree high temperatures.)

Red Cross: Be Red Cross Ready
September is National Preparedness Month, which makes it a great time of year to create or update your emergency preparedness plan and assemble or restock your emergency preparedness kit.  You can learn more - and join Tom, Will, Hallie and me as we attempt to bring our family plan and kit into the 21st century - by clicking here!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

It's Official - She's a Texan

Assuming our first official day as Texans was January 1st, 2011, as of today we have lived in Texas for 631 days.

Our first official day as Texans is kind of up in the air, seeing as in December 2010 we spent a couple of nights in Texas hotels, moved some of our belongings into our rental house, spent a couple of nights in our rental house, drove back to the Midwest for a week and a half, and then rounded out the month by driving back to Texas in time for New Years. Tom started his job at TAMU on January 1st so I've decided to go with that date.

Before we moved to Texas and assuming her last day as a Michigander was December 31st, 2010, Hallie lived in Michigan for 631 days.

So that means that as of tomorrow - September 21st - Hallie will have lived more of her life in Texas (632 days) than in Michigan (631 days). I think that fact makes official her status as a Texan.

And if living more than half her life in Texas didn't do it, the fact that she asks for a jacket when it's 80 degrees outside certainly does.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

First-Rate Fans

I intended to use a picture of a "mean" UW fan
here, but chose to go with this one instead because
when I Googled "mean UW fan", this picture of Will
was the 36th picture that came up.  Hee hee. 
I hate to say it, but University of Wisconsin fans, while enthusiastic 'til the end and incredibly supportive of their team, are awful to visitors.

I know this from experience, because despite the fact that I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin and regularly cheer for the Badgers, I have attended six or seven University of Wisconsin games as a University of Iowa fan.

I've been called a number of awful and insulting names (including quite a few that I'd never repeat or post on my blog) and had cardboard food trays filled with ketchup thrown at me, and Tom has been physically threatened and encouraged to fight on more than one occasion. Attending games as a fan of Wisconsin's opponent can be a little scary at times, especially if you're brave/stupid enough to sit in the student or another Wisconsin-fan-dominated section of the stadium.

University of Iowa fans certainly aren't angels themselves, but they're less organized and brutal in their attacks on opposing fans, unless of course those fans are from Iowa State; then all bets are off.

We wandered through a few TAMU tailgates last fall, but Tom's department's tailgate prior to the Florida game was our first official TAMU tailgate. Between attending the tailgate and hanging out with the College Gameday crew, we were on campus and in close proximity to the stadium for about three hours, which was plenty of time to take in the "feel" of the TAMU football fan base. On more than one occasion I was actually shocked at what I saw and heard because...TAMU fans are NICE. To EVERYONE.

In a crowded bathroom, I overheard/witnessed this conversation:

TAMU woman: (to Florida woman) Welcome to College Station!
Florida woman: Thank you! We're having a fantastic time here. Welcome to the SEC!
TAMU woman: Thank you! We're so excited to be a part of this conference.
Florida woman: We know you'll bring a lot to the SEC - your team and fans are great.

What?! Fans from opposing teams conversing with one another like actual human beings?! This has never happened on the University of Wisconsin campus.

Later, while I was enjoying our tailgate and chatting with a couple of friends (Tom and a co-worker took all of the kids to a nearby bounce house to let them run off a bit of energy), a Florida fan jumped up on one of our chairs and loudly - but politely - asked for our attention. He then proceeded to welcome TAMU to the SEC and thank all of us for our hospitality. Again, what?! Fans from two teams tailgating side-by-side without the police having to be called? (I'm not kidding either - during one University of Iowa tailgate an opposing fan chucked a full beer can at Tom and it hit him in the temple, giving him a mild concussion.)

On Monday morning I read no fewer than four letters - all written by Florida fans who'd been in town for the game and addressed to the higher-ups at TAMU - addressing the unbelievably courteous and welcoming atmosphere on the TAMU campus leading up to, during, and after the game. Here's just one of these letters:

I am the secretary for the Emerald Coast Gator Club representing the Fort Walton Beach/Destin, Florida area and I was fortunate enough to visit College Station for the UF/TAMU game. I thought you might be interested in hearing about my experience in Aggie country.

Over the last 13 years, I have been to every SEC venue (except for Missouri) to watch the Gators play. I want you to know that the Aggies are the classiest set of fans I have ever met. I say this without any hesitation - absolutely the best. I think I heard 'Howdy' about 500 times. It came from small children holding their dads' hands, from a grandmotherly lady in a wheelchair, and everyone in between.

This isn't only my opinion. I was part of a crowd of ten UF fans in College Station and we all came back with the same take. Aggies are hospitable and friendly; they know their football and have great traditions; they are supportive of their team but are courteous to visitors. The band completely blew me away, and the pride I witnessed with your team joining a new conference was amazing.

My group of friends had fun in the bars in Northgate, in hotel lobbies, at the restaurants, in the grocery stores, at the Presidential Library, while tailgating, and in the stands of Kyle Field. You guys know how to have fun and to spread cheer to your opponents also.

I'm glad to have TAMU become a fellow member of the SEC and am thankful that I could attend their first conference game. I hope that when your fans travel to Gainesville that they have a similar experience to what we found in College Station. I'm CC'ing the UF Alumni Association and fellow members of the Emerald Coast Gator Club with the hope that they will also pass the word about the great hospitality we found in College Station.

Whoop! and Go Gators!

Tony Giordano
Secretary, Emerald Coast Gator Club

I am not an Aggie by degree, but man, am I proud to live in Aggie Country today.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

College GameDay

While College GameDay has visited all of my college towns (I maintain allegiances to the Universities of Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nebraska) in the past, Kirk, Chris, Lee, Desmond, and I have never actually been in the same town at the same time.

Until last week, that is, when GameDay arrived in College Station for the TAMU vs. Florida game. Tom and I decided the spectacle was something we wanted to experience for ourselves and also wanted our kids to be able to say they'd seen, so we dressed in our Aggie finest and headed to campus with plans to catch the last 45 minutes of the broadcast. (There was no way we were waking the kids up before dawn to stand for hours in a sweltering field surrounded by mildly inebriated college students covered in body paint.)

The experience was everything we could have hoped for: the crowd was friendly and welcoming, we were able to see all of the GameDay stars (including the Yell Leaders and Reveille, who were much bigger deals to the kids than were those guys behind the desk), it was only semi-unbearably hot standing around in that field, and last but certainly not least, the kids MOSTLY behaved.
The view from afar.
Left to right: Lee, Chris, and Desmond.
It was very bright.  Hallie WOULD NOT put on her sunglasses.
In front of the GameDay bus.  He wondered
aloud if they were playing tic-tac-toe.
Chris and Lee.
The Yell Leaders and two football players (who, while VERY realistic-looking, aren't
actually human beings and are instead some kind of creepy, life-size statues).
Watching it all unfold.
Will's on Tom's shoulders, and if you look closely you can see Lee
on the left-hand side, getting his earpiece fixed.
After the GameDay broadcast wrapped we headed a couple blocks closer to the stadium to Tom's department's tailgate party. The tailgate location (about a block from the stadium) and set-up (a huge tent with cooling fans, comfortable lawn chairs, endless BBQ chicken and brisket, cold beer, and a huge, flat screen television set) were more than we deserved, especially with our kids in tow, and made us feel like we were kind of a big deal.  Which we are not.  Our kids make sure we're well aware of that fact each and every day.

And while the tailgate reminded Tom and me of those we used to drool over (as in, "someday we'll make enough money to host that kind of tailgate") on our way to University of Iowa games so many years ago, it also made us miss our old tailgates, the ones that started at 5am and where we served cheap beer, listened to the radio, and played mustard bowling. We're going to tailgate like that again someday, maybe with Will when he's in college. He'll love that.

About a half hour before kick-off we started walking back to our car. As luck would have it, our paths crossed with the Corps of Cadets Parson's Mounted Cavalry (the only mounted ROTC unit in the country), who had just left the stadium. It was fascinating to see them in a few of their formations, and it was even more incredible that they let the kids come up and feed and pet the horses after they were finished with their work.
Lining up.
Raising their hats on their swords.  Will was beside himself.
That's a cadet's sword.  Will nearly passed out.
SO happy.  (And can you believe how big he's getting?!
He's wearing Tom's hat and it barely looks big on him.)
Walking over to meet the horses.
Feeding grass to the horses.  This cadet was one of the politest young
men Tom had ever talked to, and that's saying a lot, considering the
significantly higher general level of politeness here at TAMU.
I love this picture of Will.  He looks so grown up and like such a little boy, all at the
same time, and I can actually feel his tender heart and gentle spirit leaping off the screen.  
As we were finally walking away from the horses, a man walked past us wearing an Iowa State jersey.
This made absolutely no sense, as Iowa is really far away from Texas, and Iowa State and Texas A&M aren't even in the same conference anymore.  That didn't mean we could ignore this guy, however, so Tom and I quickly told Will to yell "Go Hawks!" at the top of his lungs.  He obliged, though he had no idea why he was yelling (he's a reasonably sharp kid, and was well aware of the fact that he NOT at an Iowa game).  The guy turned around, realized the cheer had come from Will, and laughed; we all all yelled "Go Hawks!" again and headed home.  To watch the Hawks lose to Iowa State.  Karma, I suppose.

At least I got to see Kirk and Lee.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tradition: Aggie Ring

I wore my mom's class ring throughout my first two years of high school, both on my right ring finger and on a chain around my neck, so when my parents bought me my own at the end of my senior year they assumed I'd wear it all the time and for years to come. They were wrong.

I honestly think I wore my high school class ring twice, and a few years ago I traded the ring in to alleviate the cost associated with a few new pieces of jewelry I had made from a ring of my grandmother's.

When the time came to purchase a class ring from the University of Iowa, my parents literally rolled their eyes at me as if to say, "we're no dummies, Erin". I may have made a stink (though I can't actually remember), but they made the right decision; at the time I didn't know a single person who wore, or even bought, a college class ring and I certainly didn't feel like I was missing out by not having one on my finger.

Until we moved to College Station, that is.

I didn't notice the rings at first, primarily because none of TAMU professors and spouses with whom we initially interacted had attended TAMU or were even from Texas, for that matter. It wasn't until the fall of last year, while I was sitting in a training at Will and Hallie's school, that I noticed the exact same ring on the fourth finger of the right hand belonging to at least 3/4 of the women in the room with me.

And so just as I've done each time I've encountered a new TAMU tradition that I wasn't familiar with or didn't fully understand, I started my research.

Apparently the Aggie Ring - available to current TAMU students who have completed 90 hours toward their degree and are in good standing with a GPA of at least 2.0 (the criteria is different for graduate students) - is one of the most symbolic TAMU traditions. The tradition began with the Class of 1889, when E.C. Jonas (class of 1894) designed the first version of the Aggie Ring. There have only been slight changes to the ring over the years (rounding off the originally square corners because the corners kept ripping students' pockets, for example), with the exception of a more significant change in 1964 when the Texas Legislature changed the name of the university from the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas to Texas A&M University.

According to the TAMU Traditions Council website and the Association of Former Students Aggie Network website, the ring's design represents the values - excellence, integrity, leadership, loyalty, respect, and selfless service - every Aggie should hold:
- The large shield on the top symbolizes an Aggie's desire to protect the TAMU reputation.
- The 13 stripes on the shield represent the 13 original states of America.
- The five stars on the shield refer to an Aggie's phases of development: mind/intellect, body, spiritual attainment, emotional poise, and integrity of character.
- The eagle represents agility, power, and the ability to reach great heights.
- The star on one side symbolizes the Seal of Texas and is encircled with a wreath of olive and laurel leaves that symbolize achievement and a desire for peace.
- The oak leaves symbolize the strength to fight for the United States and the State of Texas, and the leaves are joined by an encircling ribbon to show the importance of uniting the country and the state to accomplish one's ambition to serve.
- The ancient cannon, saber, and rifle on the other side symbolize how citizens of Texas fought for their land and are determined to defend it. The saber stands for valor and confidence, while the rifle and the cannon stand for preparedness and defense.
- The crossed flags of the United States and Texas recognize an Aggie's dual allegiance.

According to tradition, current students wear their rings with their class year facing toward them as a way to signify that their time at TAMU is not yet complete. During the Senior Week Ring Dance, students turn their rings around to show that they - now Aggie graduates - are ready to face the world.

I'm told that many students spend the night outside the Association of Former Students building the night before Ring Day because they want to place that ring on their finger as soon as possible. Hallie and I may take a drive through campus the next time Ring Day rolls around so we can see these eager students ourselves.

I've also learned a little about an unsanctioned and unofficial (and apparently discouraged by TAMU and local medical professionals) tradition among TAMU students called "Ring Dunking": a student drops their newly-acquired Aggie Ring into a pitcher of beer, chugs the entire pitcher, and then catches the ring in their teeth. This tradition began in the 1970s when a Corps of Cadets member accidentally dropped his ring in his beer and figured chugging what was left in his glass was the best way to get his ring back. Word spread - though unofficially, as the bar in which the first dunk took place never advertised - and the tradition was born. It's actually a pretty big deal for some people; parties are thrown in honor of and siblings, parents, and extended family members (especially those who are Aggies themselves) come into town to witness ring dunks, and there's even a "How to Dunk Your Aggie Ring" tutorial posted online on eHow.

Here are a few pics of Aggie rings belonging to friends of mine here in College Station, as well as a couple of pics of interesting versions of the Aggie Ring that I found on the internet:
Amy's Aggie Ring
Michelle's Aggie Ring
(You might notice that Michelle's ring is on her left hand - she takes off her
wedding ring and moves her Aggie Ring over while at the gym.)
Will's friend Sophia, as a baby, is clutching her Grandpa's Aggie Ring.
As Sophia's mom Margo so beautifully put it, this picture shows the
transfer of Aggie spirit from one generation to another.
That's an Aggie Ring groom's cake.
This gigantic Aggie Ring is on display on the TAMU campus.
I just love this picture.  
Last Friday was one of the three Ring Days held throughout the school year (Hallie and I missed out), so congratulations are in order for all of the Aggies sporting new jewelry this week!

A special thanks to Amy, Margo (and Sophia and her Grandpa), Michelle, and Jeni for their contributions to this post!