Goodbye 2009

Tomorrow will be the first year with double-digits at the end! Goodbye to 2009, a year that held a lot of ups and downs for me.

I purchased my first "adult" car. I love my Jetta, and I'm sure at some point I will give it an actual name. Right now it's "Boo." Get it? Because it's blue? Ha.

My grandparents gifted us with several items from their home once they moved into an assisted-living apartment. Two of the best things we received were antique chairs that we reupholstered. They're like new, and we love them!

I left a job I strongly disliked, and thus took a huge pay cut. It was my decision, whether idiotic or not, and I stand beside it. I know things will be better because of it.

I had my first big family dinner at my apartment, that I planned for weeks. It went well, and gave me a sense of accomplishment that I had created good food and elicited fun from my family.

Michael and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary together by going to camp in the Eldorado Lake area of Kansas. What a fabulous weekend - especially with the one I love.

I've made new friends, gone new places and learned new concepts. I am excited to see what 2010 has in store for me, and I have a few resolutions to make. Keep reading!


Flurry of Food

The time has now come: the flurry of cooking and baking will commence. So far, I've made dog and cat biscuits and a caramelized onion loaf.

I'll take photos of my treats later, but I wanted to share my onion loaf pictures. It's so amazing! And it's fairly easy to make.

More to come!


Rosemary Bread!

Rosemary Bread!
As you know, my mother-in-law gave us several sprigs of fresh rosemary a couple times this month. Thanks to Emily, I decided to make rosemary bread. Thank you to everyone else who sent suggestions!

1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

  1. Place yeast, sugar and water in large bowl or food processor and allow mixture to become bubbly.
  2. Mix in 1 T butter, salt, and 2 cups of flour.
  3. Add one tablespoon of the fresh chopped rosemary.
  4. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or in food processor about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
  5. Add more flour if necessary.
  6. Oil a bowl, put dough in it and cover with a towel.
  7. Let dough rise in a warm place for one hour until doubled.
  8. Punch down dough and divide in half.
  9. Let dough rest about 5 minutes.
  10. Spray baking pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  11. Shape the dough into 2 small rounded oval loaves.
  12. Sprinkle remaining 1 Tablespoon of rosemary over the loaves and press lightly into the surface.
  13. Let loaves rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.
  14. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  15. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned.
  16. Carefully remove from oven, brush with remaining butter or olive oil.

I got this recipe from Recipe Zaar, a website I haven't used before. It's modeled after the rosemary bread at Romano's Macaroni Grill, and I'd say it's pretty close. VERY yummy bread. It has a softened crunch to the outside, and it's light and airy inside. Great flavor. Worth the trouble!


Asian Fusion Night

Last night a few friends of mine and I went out to Wawa Asian Fusion, which is near my apartment. I've been there a couple times, and it has always been good. Their rolls are made with the best rice! We discovered their spicy shortrib dish is really good. Then, for dessert we hopped over to Asian Mint. I usually go to Mint for the same things (Pad Thai, noodles, sushi, etc.) as Wawa, but dessert is a must.

Here's a look at our desserts:

My Green Tea Cake, which is their specialty.

John got the Coconut Ice Cream and Green Sticky Rice. The ice cream was excellent!

Sarah got the Coconut Custard with Green Sticky Rice. Very good, too!

I love that Mint uses green on every one of their plates, and it's usually a leaf or two of mint. Gorgeous!


Holiday Gifts

I just finished the small gifts I made for my coworkers, neighbor and close friends. Aren't they cute?!
Then, here's the side view of one of the jars. Can you guess what the recipe is for? :)
Happy Holidays!


Dessert Ideas!

Only 10 more days until the festivities begin!

I've been signed up (or signed myself up) for making several things during the holidays. Yes, I am going to list them again, much like I did for Thanksgiving. I'm slated for: spinach and artichoke dip, sausage balls (times two), caramelized onion loaf (times two), spiced sweet potatoes, and a dessert (not sure yet). I'm undecided on the dessert, and I need ideas. Pumpkin pie, pie of any sort, and cake are all out. Suggest away!


Roasted Eggplant Spread

Before I leave, I wanted to share a recipe. I just made Roasted Eggplant Spread, and it's amazing! Ina did it again!

1 medium eggplant, peeled
2 red bell peppers, seeded
1 red onion, peeled
2 garlic cloves
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste

Preheat to 400 degrees. Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1-inch pieces. Toss them in a large bowl with the garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 35-40 minutes, turning once. Cool slightly. Place vegetables in a food processor and add tomato paste. Pulse 5-8 times. Taste for salt & pepper. Serve with pita chips, or as I did, with toasted Challah.


Party, Drink, Karaoke, AIM

Last night (Yes, a Sunday night) was the HPB company holiday/christmas party at Ozona Bar and Grill on Greenville (http://www.ozonagrill.com/), and it was a blast. There was your selection of free food, drinks and karaoke. I sampled some of Michael's dinner plate, and their grilled steak and chicken kabobs were moist and tasty. The queso was very pepper-intense and flavorful. A great queso in my book!

I must say, I also had a lovely new drink (new to me) of sweet tea vodka (http://www.fireflyvodka.com/) and lemonade. I never thought that combination would be so light and refreshing. (I'm NOT a vodka fan.)

Also, I got to hang out with friends from work without having to talk about work! Yay! We ended the night by performing Journey's Don't Stop Believin' for the crowd. It was awesome!

One last thing - I decided to get AIM again. For those of you that don't know what that is (or are trying to forget), it's the instant messenger created by America Online. One of my friends asked if I would use it to message them instead of texting (Sigh. oh alright...), so I reinstalled it. (Side note: WHO DOESN'T TEXT?!) Long story short, if any of you use AIM, I'd love to add you to my pitiful three-person list. :)


Decided to make Challah

This afternon I decided to make challah, because we ran out of bread. Who needs grocery store bread?!

Fresh Herbs

Does anyone have a good recipe that uses rosemary or sage?

My mother-in-law has a huge amount of the aforementioned herbs growing in her backyard, and cut handfuls for me to take home. Obviously something savory would be best. I'd appreciate the help!

I also got a poinsettia from Martie along with the herbs. I'm pretty sure they're poisonous to cats. Or children. Or both? I'll have to check into this.

On a side note, it's 63 degrees in Boston. It's 38 degrees here. Odd.


Furnace Brook Winery

I've been delinquent in my posting of wonderous Berkshire/Massachusetts Finds lately, and decided it was high-time to feature one of my favorites.

While on our honeymoon, Michael and I stopped by a winery for fun, and it happened to be the Furnace Brook Winery. (http://www.furnacebrookwinery.com/) It featured many award winning wines, and one hard cider that's won a few titles. We tried the Johnny Mash Hard Cider, and I have to say, it's the best cider I've had. Yes, it indeed beats the Woodchuck we have here in Dallas. (By Far!) The winery also has orchards where you can pick to your heart's content and enjoy the fruits of your labor (PUN) outside in the awesome summer/fall weather on shaded picnic tables. It's a great way to spend a picturesque afternoon with a lovie.

Make a visit next time you're in Richmond, Massachusetts!


TDM - Turkey Day Mood

I'm sorry about the super inside-post I wrote the other day. Things have been really weird with the family lately. Hopefully everything will be sorted out soon. I want everyone to be HAPPY!

Thanksgiving is less than a week away! It's exciting! I've been getting in the Turkey Day mood lately, and have made a few dinners because of that. Last night I made an Asian-inspired honey cornish game hen with roasted parsnips. It was a success! If only I had an army of people to roast a turkey for! I'd love to try it, but I think it will be awhile before I do. This year my mom has asked me to make several things on the menu, so I am planning that this week. I am in charge of a vegetable plate (with two dips), three kinds of dinner rolls, and a blueberry cobbler. I'll take pictures of all of it. I hope nothing turns out terrible. Wish me luck!

Look at my creepy cat!


Trying News from Unexpected Land

Sometimes it's more important to accept and show you love someone than to show them you think they're unwise and irresponsible. Choose which is more important.

It's more important to keep someone close than to push them away.

It's best to show someone they matter to you instead of the moral disagreement you have with their lifestyle.

Sometimes it's best to keep your mouth shut and your heart open.

Especially when it's the ones you love the most.

Some say you hurt the people you love the most more often than anyone else in your life. This shouldn't be our nature.

We have to reach beyond our many differences and secure the bonds between us. It's the only way we can keep sane. It's hard to see the similarities when so much has changed over the years. Faded. Some similarities maybe have been eliminated.

We have to find common ground.

Then the complexities of life won't seem so oppressive, and our days will be brighter.



The season has ended what little autumn Texas sees, and brought a tiny bit of winter. I'm not certain if autumn is completely over, but I am sad to see it go if it has.

It's now time to gear up for the busiest time of year. News is always brought to every family gathering I attend, and I'm eager to know what's transpired after the majority of 2009 has passed. I'll be cooking for each event, so I hope to have pictures and recipes to share.

Have a happy, chilly day!


Unhappy with Oprah

I feel strongly about this - don't laugh.

Yes, I'm one of the millions that have read the Twilight series. I admit it. They were a fun read, and I enjoy being in-the-know about this craze and all that goes along with it. However, I am very disappointed in the episode of Oprah today, which featured the author of the Twilight books, Stephenie Meyer. Oprah promised ME (a small exaggeration, but go with it) she would ask Stephenie if there will be a 5th installment of the series...NEVER happened.

I can't tell you how ridiculous it is that Oprah dangled this carrot of a revelation in front of all the fans (TWICE), and then never made mention of it later. Does she think she won't have the 13-year-olds blasting her on their LiveJournals, or the 10th grade English teachers giving her an earful on the Oprah Web site?! (Not to mention the married 20-something that DVR's Oprah regularly...)

I hope that someone will get through to Oprah, and in some Skype session, phone call or whatever - this burning question of Midnight Sun, or what ever name Stephenie Meyer chooses, and if it will ever be completed or restarted.

I hope I haven't scared you all.

Oh, Oprah.


Waiting on Photos

We're back from a fabulous time in Austin! I don't have any photos yet, but I will post them as soon as I do.

I'll try to give a small summary of what we did: look and eat. Done.

Friday we got in to Austin just in time for dinner. Qas made us Pakistani home-cookin, which was amazing. That's even an understatement. It was like no other food I've eaten in restaurants, and so much more flavorful. I'm hoping to get the recipes to try them in my kitchen at home. We spent the rest of the night catching up and talking each other's ears off.

Saturday morning we woke up and went to Mozart's for coffee and a biscotti (http://www.mozartscoffee.com), on Lake Austin. That lake has HUGE fish in it! I wish I would have taken a picture of these fish - and not to mention the size of the turtles! It was like an aquarium! Then we took a car tour, with the windows down, of Westlake Hills. Located off of Red Bud Trail, this is one of the nicest areas in the city. It had some great modern homes, adjacent to older split-levels with tons of charm. We lunched at Blue Dahlia in the up-and-coming part of East Austin. We sat on the back patio, that was shaded by overhead reed mats and palms. GREAT weather. I had the fig, honey and ricotta tartine, and Michael had a chicken salad and dried cranberry tartine. Very nice. Later, we traveled over to Pedernales State Park for some hiking and relaxing beside nature. Dinner was at Ranch 616, where the nightly specials is where it's at! I had the mixed grill special, which involved barbecued quail, venison, sausage, smoked poblano mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables. Michael and Jamie had the same special: filet mignon, pork tenderloin, asparagus, and lobster. Qas had another mixed plate of lobster, crab, duck and amazing sides. It was such a great meal! One of the hosts was a jerk, but every other person on the waitstaff was excellent. Then, in efforts to have a stupidly good time, we went to the bowling alley down the street for a little Buck Sisters versus the Men bowling action. Needless to say, The Buck Sisters were somewhat all bark and no bite, but didn't lose by much. A rematch is in order. Then we got changed and went downtown for some drinks and dancing. Dancing on Qas, Jamie and Michael's parts. I don't dance...well. We ended up seeing a few of my friends from college at the club, and got to have some fun with that.

Sunday we had brunch, home made by Jamie. I contributed a Challah, and she made eggs, sausage, Provencal tomatoes, and chai. Then we made a final tour of The Oasis and Lake Travis. It was misty, but still beautiful. Sometimes I forget those cliffs aren't in the Mediterranean, and are in the middle of Texas. Then we had an early dinner at El Borrego de Oro, and got on the road. We made a quick stop by Amy's Ice Cream (http://www.amysicecreams.com) before heading out of town for good so Michael could savor the flavor of Mexican Vanilla.

It was an excellent and tasty trip!


Weekend in Austin!

Today I am off work, which means my weekend started Wednesday night! I am prepping for this weekend when we go see Jamie and Qas in Austin.
I'm excited to visit Austin and be shown around by two people that actually live there. I've been to Austin before and always did the tour of the Capitol (yawn!) and other usual things. This time I'm going to experience the city with people that know the ins and outs - where the good features are. I'm mostly excited about the weather and the food! I'll post when I return!


Pumpkin House

The Great Pumpkin House at the Dallas Arboretum

...it's more like a hut.


Ginger Pepper Berry

I am being very productive today around the house, but I wanted to stop and blog (for the first time in over two weeks!). A week or so ago, we met up with our (Michael and my) good friends Matt and James at The Ginger Man. I haven't seen either one of the guys in a long time, and it was so much fun to hang out. Matt and his girlfriend live south of Dallas, and James just recently moved to Lubbock to get ANOTHER degree. How I long for the days of spending untold amounts of time hanging out! Anyway, the beer and cider were lovely, and I always enjoy their upstairs balcony. Good times!

Last weekend Michael's mom, Martie, and his sister, Amanda, came down to see us and go to the Dallas Arboretum. If you don't recall (those of you that are Dallas-dwellers), the Arboretum always has the Pumpkin Festival in the fall which features the Pumpkin House. It's awesome. There are pumpkins everywhere, and even a house made completely out of pumpkins. Also, there are a few displays of rare gourds (stop now if this is boring you), which are actually quite interesting. My BB didn't have enough space on it for more pictures, so the Pepper Berry Plant (as I like to call it...mainly because I didn't get the name) will have to do. This is a hedge on the outside of the big grassy areas, but it caught my eye. It's some sort of pepper variety, but it looks like a black bush full of cranberries and blueberries. Gorgeous! Then we headed out for lunch at Cafe Lago, one of my favorite cafes in the city. Good times again!
Now I must get back to the productivity! Happy Halloween!


Crafty Gift

For Michael's birthday, I learned a craft.
Quit laughing.
I learned to crochet, and made him a scarf.

Also, there's a pussy in the basket.

Michael's 24th Birthday

Michael had his 24th birthday this past weekend-slash-Monday, and I'd like to share. I will blog about our Friday evening in a bit. I must get a picture after I procure a model...

Saturday night we went out for drinks with Michelle and Corban at Gingerman. It was really busy, and we decided to move on. After drinks at our apartment, we went over to a mutual friend's housewarming party in Carrollton. It was a good time!

Sunday Michael chose his pre-birthday dinner: roasted potato and leek soup, crusty bread and Sprinkles red velvet cake cupcakes. What a menu! He looked through all of my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks and decided on the soup. (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-potato-leek-soup-recipe/index.html) It had roasted potatoes, roasted leeks, arugula, creme fraiche, white wine and Gruyere. It was so completely subliminal, I thought it must have had several sticks of butter. But no butter went into the recipe! Also, I made the crispy shallots to go on top -- another simple but incredible outcome. Anyway, I made everyone jealous at work with my leftover soup. And did I relish that jealousy? Of course. I will definitely make it again. And again.

Earlier that day, we picked up his birthday present from my family at Williams-Sonoma, which I will write about soon, and while we were there, we grabbed a Sprinkles cupcake mix. Now, I am not one to endorse cake mixes, for obvious reasons. The icing was amazing, but the cake itself wasn't the best. It was really rather dry, and not intensely-flavored as I had originally thought it would be. They looked very cute, though. Also, the package said it made 12 cupcakes (more than enough for two people, for sure), and the batter amount could easily confuse a home baker into thinking it made 24. Usually, with cupcakes you only fill the wrapper 2/3 or even 1/2 full - you don't want spillage on the tin. There was a TON of batter to be used, but I stuffed it into the wrappers in the hopes they would come out decently. Maybe that contributed to the dryness? Either way, I have come to a final conclusion. We'll be sure to buy them from the actual store next time!

Now for the birthday present. THE birthday present. Michael decided we were in horrendous need of a set of "good knives." (Surely an idea placed in his head by the one-and-only Ina Garten.) So, he asked for the Wustof knives from Williams-Sonoma, and now they sit in the kitchen. I feel so chefy! Except for they're his, and I am only privileged with the use one of the knives under supervision. ;) I have a tendency to slice through my fingers with super sharp knives.
Finally, Monday was Michael's actual birthday, which means even more celebrating. I made him a nice medium rare steak, roasted root vegetables, roasted Parmesan and garlic broccoli, and crusty bread. Then, more birthday red velvet cake cupcakes. It was a wonderful birthday weekend according to the old man!



It will be 85 degrees today in Dallas, Texas.
It will be 64 degrees in Boston, Massachusetts.

It's October. Why do I live here?


October is Here!

This weekend has been a good one, and it's not over! We made steak last night, and paired it with a Merlot and heirloom tomatoes. Simple, but filling and exactly what we wanted. Then, today we've made some plans, went grocery shopping, and relaxed at the apartment. Tomorrow my parents are hosting a birthday celebration for Michael at their house in Sherman. My mom is making chicken fried steak, green beans, yeast rolls, and a Bride's cake. I'm bringing smashed garlic-Parmesan potatoes and cards. We haven't been to Sherman for more than a month now, so that will be nice.

I went on an interview for an internship last Friday, and I was hoping to hear from them by the middle of next week. It turns out that they aren't going to make a decision until the end of November! Ugh. I'm a little put-off, but I'll just carry on with other avenues. We'll see what happens around Thanksgiving.

Presently, there is a Brenden Fraser movie marathon on HBO. I never knew he was in so many action movies. Anyway, we caught most of Journey to the Center of the Earth, and it wasn't bad. I never read the book, so I didn't catch most of the references to the text. Did anyone read it? I think I might throw it on my never-ending to-read list. There's no more room on my bookshelves at home!

On another note, I bought my first computer game...ever. Don't laugh. I haven't ever been into the computer or video game thing, so this will be interesting. I think it's a kids game, but it seems like a good time to me:


Busy Bee

I'm stopping for a few minutes (and I said a few) to say that things have been super busy this week, and I haven't had a chance to update ye olde blog. I will have a huge update by the beginning of next week, if all goes well. I don't want to jinx myself, as I seem to have in the past. Keep me in your thoughts, people!


Texas Rangers Game

Last night Michael took me to the Texas Ranger game in Arlington. Of course we took the long way because of the traffic to Six Flags and the new Cowboys Stadium, but we got a close-up of both venues. Six Flags looked smaller than I remember.

Anyway, we arrived at the ballpark, parked and went in. We bought a corn dog, beer, a lemon chill, a taco salad, margaritas and bottled waters (to round everything out). We began watching the game, and I was becoming bored. I commented to Michael that the players needed to big-time spice it up to retain my attention, and then...the fifth inning happened. I witnessed my first grand slam (all bases loaded, and the batter hits a home run), and then an almost-grand slam - all in the same inning! Then we scored several more runs to win over Tampa Bay. It was a good game, and I'm glad I was there to watch the possible record-breaking that ensued. Ironically, that isn't the end of the story. The announcer said there would be fireworks 15 minutes after the game ended, so we decided to sick around. We were both finishing our treats when people started to stand up and begin grabbing in the air. A red flash came towards us, and Michael snatched it out of the air. It was a hat. A sweaty, red hat. We looked around, trying to piece together what had happened, and someone said it was Ian Kinsler's hat. I was shocked. We had the quote "hottest" Ranger's hat, according to two fans who were my age. It has the number 5 written on the inside of the hat's white lining. I looked it up - it's the exact size too. So, of course, I wanted to eBay it, but Michael snatched it out of my hands and said it's going to be an heirloom. Ha. Right, like anyone is going to remember Ian Kinsler 25 years from now. Unless he does something amazing. I whipped the hat into my purse because people were starting to close in on me. Anywho, we now have a Ranger's hat to keep for all eternity.

As I clutched onto my purse with the hat stuffed inside, ignoring verbalized ploys to buy the hat from others, I watched the fireworks. Blast after blast, the show went on for almost half an hour, sparkling and glittering. Maybe it was the greasy food or the funnel of frozen margarita mixed I'd had, but the fireworks were the best I've seen in a long time. It brings back memories of the parade and light show at Disney World (which is sad to me that my young memories automatically turn to Disney), and the gigantic fireworks that occurred after.
Anyway, eating terrible food, catching an actual player's hat and watching fireworks was a fantastic way to create a memory of attending a baseball game. Even if I didn't make it onto the Kiss-Cam.

Picture & Food Find-Caching

A few weekends ago, I mentioned going out with Kelly & Michelle. I wanted to post a photo for everyone - it was such a great night! The photo is from before we went out. (My ugly kitchen is in the background.)

Friday night Michael and I went on one of our Whole Foods Dates. This may seem odd to a few of you, but it's something of which we are able to get great enjoyment. We go with no purchase in mind (a dangerous concept to some), and just walk around looking at the different merchandise. We get something unfamiliar or unique (to us) every time. This time we purchased a Ram's Head Challah, two Rishi tea flavors (White Rose and a Lavender Oolong), and a White Beauty heirloom tomato.
Even though we live in the middle of the highest number of Jewish people in Dallas, we've never tried much of the Kosher food that infiltrates the markets. We picked up the Challah, and I have to say, it's delicious. It's made with a large number of eggs and a good amount of sugar, so it's a sweet and luxurious bread. The teas were VERY rich and a lot more intense than my usual teas, black and Earl Grey (http://www.rishi-tea.com/). Finally, the tomato. My sister brought some heirloom tomatoes for us to eat when she visited us for the Tech/UT game. I had never had an heirloom outside of the restaurant setting, so it was a very nice surprise. After trying the red and green varieties, I decided to try all of the rest: I found an Amish red and a White Beauty. The red was much the same as the other red variety I had tried, but the Beauty was buttery with an almost melty taste when you ate it. I made a lunch of tomatoes and bread. It was glorious.


Fall Foliage

It's beginning to be that time of year - when the weather gets colder, meals get bigger, and the leaves begin to change color. Below is an actual photo of the coastline of a New Hampshire river.
Gorgeous! I can't wait to go back again!
A short post today. I've got tons of things to do around the house, and not enough time to do it in!


Birthday Present

Michael and I purchased two things for the cats' birthday: a can of tuna and a bird feeder. We thought buying them toys would be just like any other holiday, so we went for something fun paired with something more lasting. Michael just hung the bird feeder this morning, and the cats cannot stop staring at it. No birds yet, though.


Game Day!

Tonight my parents and sister are coming to Dallas to watch the Texas Tech Vs. UT game, and we're going to grill out! I am excited! I'm making burgers (of course), avocado salad (more than just avocados, I assure you), fudge-Andes brownies, and fresh lemonade. My mom and dad are bringing all of the burger accoutrement, a key lime pie (!), and, of course booze. My sister is actually going to make it (we were unsure because it's her busy season), and I am excited to see her. And she is bringing more booze. Qas has a SUPER swollen ankle, so he is being a invalid at home. I better get to cooking, because it will be game time here in a few hours! Wreck 'Em Tech!


Rain & Scratches

I have enjoyed the rain from the past couple of days so much! It's been a nice way to usher in autumn. I'm thinking it won't be in the 90-degree range for the rest of the year.

Also, this weekend in the rain, I had a great time with a few of my favorite girls at The Porch and Old Monk. While out, I incurred a few scratches in my paint over one of my wheel wells. (Blame the rain?) I went to Boardwalk (my dealership I bought my car from) to get a quote on repairing the damage in case I was still covered in my warranty somehow, and it was pretty high. Does anyone know a body shop in town (Dallas, Richardson, Addison, Garland) that will do a great job without charging me an arm and a leg? Please comment if you do. I am going this morning to get a quote from a shop near my apartment (as in down the street).

I think I've written enough parenthetical sentences for today. Happy Wednesday!


Kansas - Who Knew?

Finally - a recap! Things have been really crazy around here lately, so I'll begin my recap now!

As you know, we were planning on camping out near Hot Springs, in the Ouachita National Forest. We called in advance (earlier that week) to reserve our campsite. Out of more than 1,000 camping sites, there wasn't ONE available for that weekend. So, we opened up the atlas and began a search. We decided on Eldorado lake in Kansas, just outside of Wichita. Neither one of us had been to Kansas before, except for driving through it to get to Colorado.
We camped out lakeside, made food in my grandparent's cast-iron skillets they gifted me, and hiked all over the place. On one of the trails, we found this tree that had fallen over - they believe in preserving nature by letting it remain the way it would naturally occur. For example, if lightening hits a tree and it falls, it remains where it as fallen. This policy is adopted by many other national parks, one of which is Muir Woods (a surreal place, really). Also, we made smooooores! My boy scout Husband made us a fire, and we cooked all weekend. The food was amazing! Let's take some time to discuss my love of smores. A good blazing fire, roasting, melting, and caramelizing the sugars in the fluffy, white sugary knob - pure harmony within a sandwich of chocolate and graham cracker. One, if not my very, favorite desserts.

Here is a view of the lake:It was great weather the whole weekend because it had rained the few days before we arrived. Mild during the day and chilly at night. Great camping weather for fire-cooked meals and cuddling under the stars!

I would recommend Kansas to all those that think it's just farmland and not much else. We spent some time in Uptown and Downtown Wichita, and it was a good time. We tasted wine on the square, ate beef shawarma in Uptown, and discovered Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers. It's clean, welcoming and homey. That's it's charm.


We're Back!

Unpacking this evening - after a great trip! I'll post about it later this evening or tomorrow!


Before I Go

I just got an email from my sister about the wonderful meal she made last night: boneless quail, wild mushroom risotto, and a Cabernet reduction. Does that not sound amazing? She sent this photo as well: Anniversary Camping will ensue in less than 36 hours! We're leaving bright and early Saturday morning, and won't return until Monday night. How fortunate to have an anniversary that falls around a holiday weekend! (And for it not being a holiday like St. Patrick's Day.) I'll be sure to take pictures, and I blog when we return!


Southern Successes and Books

Tonight, Michael and I made Fried Chicken, BBQ Beans, Cornbread and Lemonade. All from scratch. And I have to say, I think we did pretty well! Michael hasn't been feeling very well since Friday morning (He says the cats are trying to kill them with their fur), and this was really our first activity this weekend. He's been holed-up in the bedroom reading Book 6 and Book 7 of the Harry Potter series (A little late, no?), trying to recuperate.

Michael almost completely handled the fried chicken (a wonder, I know), and did a special breading that I thought was inventive. I worked on the beans, cornbread and lemonade. The cornbread is my Granny/Mom's family recipe, and it was my first time to prepare it by myself. It turned out well. Following a recipe for homemade lemonade, I discovered that it takes a heck of a lot of juice to make a decent pitcher of this stuff! It takes a whopping 1 cup of lemonade for a pitcher-full! Well, my pitcher at least. Anyway, it all turned out well!

The photo is a bit skewed due to the angle I was sitting at - yes, it shows my apparent laziness as well as my eagerness to chow down! This is Michael's plate of course; you can tell by the HEAPING amount of beans. :)

Also, I just finished two books: The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Syrie James), and My Life in France (Julia Child). Let me attack The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte first. I was very skeptical of this book to begin with, due to the "biographical" nature. I knew it was a work of fiction by James, and I didn't know how an author could just flesh out the days of someone's life based upon the well-know facts like publishing dates, marriages, deaths, etc. Was I surprised! With many letters (the kind people never write anymore) and other documentation, James was able to produce a thoughtful, compelling, and sweet telling of Bronte's life. A little of a tear-jerker if you're not used to that time period's usual run-of-events, as it mirrors her life. Great book.

Secondly, My Life in France - this book has somewhat inspired me to learn another language...so I can understand what the dishes Julia cooks are titled! It was a little frustrating when you can't understand what Child is describing (unless it's one of the few points at which she'll translate for the idiot Americans who are reading), but overall it was a truthful and dizzying look into her life. She's an interesting and intellectual character. Towards the end I felt like she was a little unfeeling or in denial towards the outcomes of her co-author (of her first two cookbooks), her family or in-laws, and even her beloved husband. Did anyone else feel this way? Has anyone else read this book? I won't go into any more detail, in case people reading this are planning to pick up the book.

Tomorrow begins another week. Much to look forward for.


WordXWord Festival

In Pittsfield, MA, one of the towns we frequented while in the Berkshires, a WORD festival is held every year - yes, that's what I said, a WORD festival. They feature plays, readings, original work, concerts, etc. Their tag line is "Written. Spoken. Sung." How amazing! And how hardcore - the event lasts for a week! I would love to go sometime. Then, we could stop at one of the 50 brunch cafes on North Street, and then buy books all day. Sound good? http://wordxwordfestival.com/

On another note, I have finished planning our 1 Year Anniversary vacation. (With heavy input from the Husband, of course.) We are going to the Ouachita National Park to camp, grill and hike, and then we are going to Hot Springs, AR for a little R&R! I can't wait! We've both been to the area before, but not since we were little kids. I am really excited, mainly because we both love camping and haven't gotten to go in a while. Also, my grandparents recently (as in last week) gave us a huge box of camping supplies. My dad is letting us borrow his lantern, which is similar to the one pictured above. It's a bit older (I not sure by how many years), but it still works very well. We now are more than ready for a great camp-out.
Any suggestions while we are in that area of AR?


My Blender Isn't Broken!

Last night Michelle and Corban came over for dinner, and I made a fabulous roasted-everything salsa. That's right, roasted tomatoes, serranos, poblanos, and onions, along with all the rest of the usual salsa ingredients. When I went to pour the roasty, spicy goodness into a serving dish, the blender came apart! I thought I broke it because I hit the top of the blender on the bottom of an overhead cabinet. This morning I threw all parts in the dishwasher, in hopes that they would come out clean and unscathed. I was right! I had accidentally unscrewed the bottom plasic piece from the connecting glass. I had no idea you could do that! Anyway, I feel like I have a new blender, and I plan on making a multitude of smoothies and sauces soon.

On a side note, I made Huevos Rancheros and cinnamon-vanilla pancakes for everyone last night. Michelle provided the BEST mimosas and fresh fruit. It was awesome!

On yet another note, my cat is sickly. Giada is yarking every few hours, and I'm thinking she has a virus. Has anyone's cat ever had a virus? It's already been 48 hours, and I was hoping it would be gone by now. I'm contemplating going to the vet, but I'm not sure if it's worth the time/money/further upsetting the cat, etc. Advice?


Family Dinner Recap

I'm finally getting around to it - A recap of the Family Dinner! We had most everyone there, which means 10 people there. I made the same menu I described before, and it turned out very well! Here is the table:
And here is the food, with my mom sitting in the stool at the bar:
We played a mean couple of games of Taboo (remember that one?), and then talked for a while. It was a lot of fun! I think I might do another one later. Great times!