Busy Weekend!

The holiday season is in full swing, mainly noted by all of the money we've been having to spend (Gifts, Food, Travel, etc.) This past weekend has been fun, but I'm not going to be able to write about the second or third parts of our San Francisco trip. Maybe with my time off?

Friday evening, Amanda and Martie (my sister- and mother-in-law) came to eat dinner with us and stay the night. Roy (my father-in-law) joined us for dinner at La Duni at Northpark. We ate inside because of the rainy weather (I love their outdoor seating!).

The next morning was the 2010 Memory Walk, hosted by the Dallas chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. It was held at the Dallas Zoo, and was a pretty good time! The animals were out and about - the giraffes were especially friendly, and I was able to touch two of them a couple of times. It didn't rain, and the weather was clear and cool. Other than it being a little disorganized because of the way the routes were shaped, it was a great event.

Today I've been doing some catch-up on work (not nearly enough), and am about to get ready to head to Sherman. We're picking up some of our holiday decorations, as well as eating dinner with my side of the family for my Uncle's birthday.

What a weekend! We also made stops by Whole Foods, Nordstrom, Neuhaus Cafe and Daria Lane. I'm looking forward to getting through this week at work, and then enjoying Thanksgiving!


Awaiting My Fate

I'm at Boardwalk Volkswagen, waiting on Hetta to get out of the shop. I hope it isn't a million dollars!

The reason I'm here: Michael's car wouldn't start earlier this week, so we took it to a mechanic to get it checked out. Apparently, the battery we had it replaced with in January wasn't a good one. That's what we get when we have it replaced at Walmart while out of town. Boo. Moral of that story - never trust you car to Walmart, even when you're out of town! Find a small mechanic!

I'm thinking all I need is my brake pads to be replaced. Watch me leave here will a list of things replaced and a lighter bank account. Maybe some will be covered under warranty? ;)


San Francisco Trip: Part 1

Since I took all of my photos on my new phone, it's taken me forever to sit down and download them all to my computer. But I finally did it! I won't bore you all with a million photos and descriptions, so I've only chosen a handful. If you want to know EVERYTHING we did, please ask!

We arrived in the Bay Area around noon, and spent the morning with Jamie in her {then} neighborhood, the Haight. We grabbed an amazing sandwich from a small gourmet cheese shop, Say Cheese, in Cole Valley. Then we changed and caught the bus to the Mission. Lovely area, and I like it just as much as the last time I was there! We grabbed a gelato from Bi-Rite and spent the afternoon in Dolores Park before meeting up with her boyfriend for dinner. Let's take a moment for a few photos.

On the way to our dinner spot, we window shopped and then stopped at Heart, a wine bar.

Love the windows. The weather was crisp and lovely as the sun went down.
Michael's dinner choice was Bar Tartine. I didn't take any photos of the food, but I should have! It was excellent. They serve bread from their bakery {which is a whole other story in itself}, which made the meal studded with deliciousness. I also had one of the best chicken liver pate {I can hear some of you groan}. It almost beats the CLP at the Mercury in Dallas. Almost.

Our first stop was the Ferry Building. This is a fantasic place to get a feel for SF area food.  So fresh, and always different.  Outside the building, tons of local farmers and food stands are set up. We had cheese, wine, fruit, jams and barbecue samples, before heading back inside. I snapped a quick photo of the Bay Bridge before looking at the culinary shops inside.

We dragged ourselves from the majesty of the Ferry Building and headed to Chinatown for Husband to take a look at one of the biggest tourist traps of all. No, I'm kidding. {Kinda.} It's a fun place to enjoy your first time in the city. We then headed up the street to North Beach, another one of SF's neighborhoods, to get a little Italian...everything. On our way I snapped this picture of Michael's favorite part of the SF skyline: the TransAmerica Building.

We stopped at a wine bar {to remain nameless} that was blasting the Giant's game far too loudly to hear regular conversation, so we left. Steps before the entrance, we heard and subsequently ducked into a bar that was featuring a jazz band. The band was made up of oldies, but goodies!

After we played a couple games of pool {!}, we went to a bar a few blocks away, the Church Key. It reminded me of a downtown bar in looks, but the Old Monk in Dallas in their fabulous beer choices. Very lovely for all parties involved. I had some beer I couldn't pronounce, and Husband oogled over the variety. Here is one of the 50+ photos from the Church Key:

Later, we had dinner at Cafe Sport. They specialize in fresh, Bay Area seafood within their delicious Italian fare. We had oysters, mussels, calamari, ravioli, tortellini, linguine, and more. We had a FEAST!

Stay tuned for part two!


Check In

Only 25 hours until I'll be in San Francisco!

Bring on the food, sites, nature, and fun!


Baking Day!

I am in a baking mood today, and I just pulled this Cinnamon Banana Bread out of the oven. MMMM!

Now, for a slice!

Happy 10/10/10!

Since I've worked from home for the last 2 days, had a Saturday, and am now on my Sunday, I've had a lot of time to catch up on my HGTV viewing. I've noticed that it's popular (I use that phrase loosely) to display meaningful items around your home. In particular, wine corks.

Michael and I have saved about a handful of corks from nice dinners, eventful nights, etc. We've written the event and date on the cork, but have just thrown them in a drawer. Today, I decided to make a display for them.

Cute, no? :)


Ad Hoc!

I'm dreaming about the night we get to eat at Ad Hoc! It sounds so amazing, and I'm thrilled we got a reservation!

Here's an example of what the menu may reward me with:

Maybe I should go have some lunch? :)



MAC Visit!

I convinced Michelle to join me for a visit to the MAC store at Northpark Mall. I have been a fan of MAC makeup for about 8 years now, and I am a FIRM believer! (http://www.maccosmetics.com/)

I bought a few things, but the showstopper was Michelle and the makeup session she had! They chose colors for her, and it looked amazing! They even used my favorite color, Sumptuous Olive.

It was a great experience, and I'm glad I have another MAC buddy! :)

San Antonio Trip

I'm working from home today and tomorrow, which has afforded me time to make a short update post.

I've made some slight changes to the blog's look, but I'm not quite satisfied with it yet. I'm sure it will change sometime soon again.

I forgot to mention in my last update that Michael took me to San Antonio for our second anniversary. If you have Twitter, you got a minute-by-minute update of our car ride out there - I had no idea where we were going! We started out going north (he stopped by Starbucks), then headed south on 75/45. At separate points in the drive, I thought we were going to Austin, Fredericksburg then San Antonio. It was a surprise! Here are a few photos from the weekend:

It was such a good time, and I enjoyed having a getaway with just Michael. It was relaxing in that we didn't have a schedule, and we made our own plan each day.



Tidbit of the day:

Nigella has a new TV show! I will be DVRing every episode. She's my favorite.



Neglected Blog!

Wow, has it been a while!

I shouldn't be updating the blog because I need to be working on a community description for my grant, but here I am! It's been so long since I updated the blog that I forgot I changed the layout. A month and a week.

Let's see. I've been working at my new job for about 2 and a half months now, and it's going well. I really like my coworkers, and there's a nice sense of fulfillment to go along with it. Michael is still liking his job, so we're good on that front.
I started training for a 5k in November, and it's going okay. It would be going better if I were working harder towards being faster, but I'm just trying to stay around or below 40 minutes total. I've never run a 5k before, or run ever, so this is a big deal. I'm hoping I won't make a fool of myself when it comes time to actually run it.
Michael and I are also going on our trip to San Francisco in less than two weeks. It's his 25th birthday trip, and we're going to see Jamie as well. For those of you that don't remember, she moved back to SF in April. We're planning on visiting many of the neighborhoods, Napa, Sonoma, Yountville, Ad Hoc, Muir Woods, and Mill Valley. It will be a fun-filled vacation!

Other than that, life has been pretty good! I can hear the ducks on the pond outside my window happily quacking, likely due to the crisp weather we've been having. It almost makes me forget the sweltering heat we had this time last month.


End Of July, Beginning of August

So, it's been a while since I last updated with a real post. Well, a week and a half at least. I've got a LOT to update!

As I mentioned in my last post, I bought Giada De Laurentiis' pasta & coffee from Target while it was on sale. I've tried both, and am prepared to give a review. I used the farfalle in my creamy saffron & shrimp recipe, and it turned out very nicely. I had read reviews that her pasta was going to be gummy and not a good toothsome pasta, but I didn't find that at all. It made a lovely addition because the saffron sauce clung to the ridges in the farfalle, something you wouldn't normally get with your generic bow tie pasta.

Also, her coffee isn't bad. We got the Extra Bold coffee, and even though it's already ground (I prefer whole bean coffee), it made a decent cup of joe.

This past weekend I decided I wanted to go camping. It was my first free weekend, and I wanted to use it for a vacation. So, I researched State Parks, and with Michael's suggestion, chose Tyler State Park. I had heard they had a bunch of rain the week before, so I thought it would be so hot there in the Piney Woods region of Texas. I thought wrong. It was still 98 degrees by the time the sun went down and had been down for hours. We got there, and pitched out tent with the remaining daylight.

Michael went into town because I had forgotten to pack the lantern, and we needed light to prepare dinner. While he was gone I got spooked because I was all alone in the dark. I took a field trip to the lighted bathrooms, and when Michael returned we drove back to the campsite. While I was gone, a raccoon broke into the cooler and ate all of our chocolate and started in on the onions and pepper. I think they went back to the chocolate. :) Anyway, I didn't sleep well that night (lay awake in the heat), and woke Michael up at 4am. He was fine with that.

We drove into Tyler, and waited for the Starbucks and donut shops to open. After getting an iced dirty soy chai latte(!), we got a few donuts and started to drive around Tyler, sipping and eating our treats. We watched the sun rise over downtown Tyler, and scouted out some antique/vintage stores to look at later. We drove by the famous Rose Gardens, which were obviously not at their peak. Still pretty, though.

Then we drove to Kilgore and went to the East Texas Oil Museum. (http://www.easttexasoilmuseum.com/)
It was fascinating! Michael, of course, is now in the oil and gas industry, so he hears about this stuff all day long. I, however, am reading books (The Big Rich by Bryan Burroughs - such an interesting read!) and trying to actively learn about Texas involvement in the beginning of the oil and natural gas boom.
I learned a lot and bought a t-shirt. It was a super interesting museum and I would recommend it to anyone traveling or in the area.

We drove back to Tyler and went to the place we had decided on for lunch - Stanley's Famous Pit Bar-B-Q!
Michael had heard nothing but amazing things about this barbecue place. He works with a few people that are from Tyler as well as people who do business in Tyler, and they all said he had to try it. They're only open from 7-10 and 11-2pm, Monday through Saturday. That's it. Or, until they run out of food. In fact, when we got in line, the first thing the pit master said was, "They're in luck. We still have some left." We got there at 11:02am.

As I always do at barbecue places, I ordered ribs. Michael ordered the 4-meat plate with sausage, pulled pork, smoked turkey and brisket. We had every meat represented. I even remembered to take pictures!
It was all very good, but entirely too sweet for me.

They used brown sugar in their rub and sauce. Obviously, Sweet-Tooth-Michael loved it to bits. I like a more smokey, vinegary, peppery sauce. The rub I could care less about, as long as it has some spice and color. I want some singed pieces! Anyway, it was good, but it still doesn't beat a Baker's rib.

Later we shopped around downtown Tyler in their antique & vintage stores. We looked at a lot of interesting stuff, and I only let myself come away with one item: a brass owl.

We drove back to Dallas with smiles on our faces, and we will definitely be giving Tyler State park and the Piney Woods another shot this fall, winter or spring. Gorgeous!

On Monday, I started a new job with the Greater Dallas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse in their Tobacco Prevention unit. I'll be doing public relations, promotions and city council advocacy for the GDCADA anti-tobacco coalition. I've only been there a week, but I've been really enjoying getting to know the awesome people at The Council. I'll write more on this later.

I'm hoping tonight we will get to go see Inception. I've been hearing a ton about it, and I finally have a free evening to go see it.

Tomorrow morning, I want to go to the Four Season's Market in Addison. It's a European-style market, and is outdoors. It opens at 10 tomorrow, but they have it today as well. (http://www.fourseasonsmarkets.com/?sct=events) I've been meaning to check it out, and have known about it for a while. One of my past coworkers works there selling Roundrock Honey (at the Firewheel market), but I haven't had a chance to go to one because of my past work schedule.

Later, I want to go to Sherman and check out the new Dean Gilbert Lake and Park area off of 1417. Maybe I'll pick us some Vitina's sandwiches up to sweeten the experience. :) I hear it's a nice park with a walking trail. We shall see.

For dinner, we'll be stopping by Martie and Roy's for Michael's grandpa's birthday celebration. She's making fish tacos. Yum!

That about sums up my weekend! I am so thankful that I actually have a weekend again!


More Posting!

I have a few loose ends I wanted to tie up:

As you know, I signed up for Twitter. I'm @CristinAshley and I'd love to start following more people I personally know. I have some TV Stars, Chefs, and authors on my list, but I need more real people! :)

Just FYI, there's a sale at Target going on right now for Giada De Laurentiis' pasta and coffee. If you buy three pastas (from $1.99 to $2.99) you get a free bag of coffee.

As of right now I can't vouch for the taste/quality of the pasta or coffee, but I'd say it's worth purchasing to try it! I'll report after our breakfast coffee and pasta dinner on Wednesday or Thursday.

A gift from Michael

He keeps me in check, keeps me motivated and keeps my head above water.


More Cookbookery!

Just bought these beauties!

James Beard's The Fireside Cookbook.

Thomas Keller's Bouchon.

Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave.

I'm hoping to start picking, making and posting about recipes I choose from my new cookbooks. I'm serious this time, y'all.

Hypnotic Donuts

Thanks to a tip from my friend Sarah, I was privy to the weekend menu of Hypnotic Donuts. One look at the menu, and I was sold.

Menu for the weekend of 7-24-10
Chocolate Cake:
A. Andes Mountain- crushed Andes candies and powder sugar snow
B. Turtle- chocolate and caramel frosting with chocolate and caramel drizzle
C. Picky for pecans- covered in crushed pecans and caramel drizzle
D. Strawberry fields- strawberry frosting, milk chocolate chips, fresh strawberries and strawberry drizzle
E. Almond to the world- sliced almonds, coconut, and chocolate chips

F. Hypnotic donut- pretzel, crushed peanut butter captain crunch, peanut butter, chocolate/caramel frosting, chocolate/caramel drizzle
G. Canadian Health Care- Maple Bacon on maple frosting
H. Mexico- fresh jalapenos and a dash of Tabasco
I. Dirty South- Chocolate frosting, crushed oreo, gummy worms
J. Macho Nacho- refried beans, queso, and fresh jalapenos ($3)
K. Crunk- sprinkles of silver and half of a 100 grand mini candy bar in the hole

Plain Cake:
L. Lucy in the Sky with Lemons- lemon frosting, lemon heads, and white chocolate
M. The Hangover- strawberry frosting covered with kiwi-lime flavored electrolyte powder
N. Hyppie- covered in granola
O. TC and MM- half chocolate frosting half white frosting covered in mini M and M’s.
P. Poppin berries- strawberry frosting, strawberry pop tarts and strawberry drizzle

Special (1): (very limited) Lisa’s subterranean hypnotic blues- blueberry cake donut topped with cream cheese icing, blueberry pie filling, crushed graham cracker and whipped cream. ($4)

Special (2): High in the mountains- glazed donut covered with lemon frosting, dipped in white chocolate stored at 40 degrees and served chilled ($3)

When we arrived, we had previously settled on holding back and only ordering one apiece. When we re-looked at the menu, all that changed! They were only $2.50 apiece, for Pete's sake! So, here are photos of the ones we chose:

Crunk: Silver, crunchy sugar bits with a mini 100 Grand candy bar in the middle. Michael's first choice.

Lucy in the Sky with Lemons: a plain donut with lemon icing (spot on flavor!), Lemonheads and white chocolate chips. Excellent with the sweet and sour combinations.

Canadian Health Care: glazed donut with maple bacon and maple syrup icing. My very favorite!

Andes Mountain: chocolate cake donut with vanilla icing, powdered sugar, Andes Candies bits all over and an Andes candy in the middle. Most noticeable feature: the cake donut. It was so fresh and soft. Wonderful.

(All courtesy of Michael's fancy phone camera!)

Details: The whole shooting match is located at 17390 Preston in Suite 263, which is actually a place called The Pizza Guy. Don't be fooled - they're set up inside. It's from 7-10am on most Saturdays and Sundays. You can check out their facebook page to see upcoming menus and dates they're open.

Anyone want to try it out in the next few weeks? I hear they'll be having a Guerrilla Warfare, which will have a combination of banana and peanut butter. HELLO.


Houses, Houses, Houses!

I'm sitting here at home, watching HGTV, contemplating going to work out, and trying to relax before work.

It's so tough to watch all of these shows like House Hunters International, Designed to Sell and Curb Appeal because we don't have a house to improve on! I am filing ideas away for when we get a house or condo.

Now, for a montage of homes I have fallen in love with.

Craftsman Style

Another Craftsman

A beautiful Contemporary

A Cape Cod Style

A Bungalow

A home in Vermont

Another home in Vermont

Kipling's home in New England

Have I caught the real estate bug? I hope not!


Twitter - Part Two

For better or worse, I've signed up for a Twitter account. I've made four tweets so far, and from what I can tell, it may be useless. We will see as time goes by.

Let me know if you know anyone worth following.



Recently, I've been collecting numerous cookbooks. As if I need any more. As of right now, I have more than 35 cookbooks. And I have my eyes set on more.

It was never a goal of mine to collect cookbooks. I am more of the type "if you don't use it, get rid of it!" Thus, everything in my house, and kitchen, has a use. As far as cookbooks go, I make decisions on buying a book because of it's cooking genre, chef/author, style, photos and recipe-worth. What is recipe-worth? It's about the degree of inventiveness; it's about the comfort and usefulness of learning to make an age-old standard dish; it's about the excitement of trying a twist on a favorite.

In the past few weeks, I've bought these beauties:

Dean & Deluca

Pink Adobe

Tasty Taters

Weber Grilling


I've only broken a few in so far. I've learned a ton about charcoal grilling, and have made barbecue hamburgers, hotdogs, onion and garlic dip, pita chips, red onion and nectarines on my kettle grill. I haven't had time to break open the others and find the perfect recipe.

Michael is going on his usual business trip at the end of this week, so I'll have Friday evening to cook for him. Any suggestions? Or should I leave it up to all the new cookbookery?