Sunday, January 31, 2010

croissant de chocolat

One of life's greatest pleasures is a hot, flaky, chocolate croissant from Williams-Sonoma -- divinity on a plate.

My love affair with them began several years ago when my sister sent them to me on a weekend when I had out-of-town-guests visiting. They're delivered in dry ice, nice and neat in a sturdy little box. When you're ready to cook them, pull them out of the freezer the night before and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet so they can sit for at least nine hours.

Now the magic takes place.

The next morning they're puffed up like little clouds. So pretty.

Stick them in the oven for about 13 minutes (the directions say 15-20 minutes, but that's always too long), and voila! Fresh, fabulous, flaky bundles of heaven, fresh from the oven.

It doesn't get much better on a cold morning than a cup of hot coffee and a hot chocolate croissant from Williams-Sonoma (...although a greasy tailgate breakfast taco wrapped up in tinfoil on a chilly fall morning, with a spicy Bloody Mary, of course ... is a close second!).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

holden caufield

I've lost count of how many times I've read The Catcher in the Rye over the years. It was my go-to book when I was younger (high school and college), and remains one of the only paperbacks I keep, tattered, on the shelf.

It was effortless for me to lose myself in rebellious Holden's lonely, yet adventurous world. And during those chaotic times of adolescence when I needed most to escape, Catcher provided me that haven. It was my first escape book.

I just read that J.D. Salinger passed away yesterday. After feeling some loss, as well as nostalgia for years gone by, the first thing I wanted to do was to write about my time with my favorite book for many years, and the author who wrote it.

The man was a recluse. The man was brilliant. He was odd. He was one-of-a-kind.

During my junior year in high school, we were able to choose our own author study. I [of course] chose J.D. Salinger. During a time long before, I vividly remember my dad driving me down to an independent bookstore in the Village in Houston just so I could find a copy of Franny and Zooey, Salinger's third book.

What a tremendous American author, and forever, one of my favorites.

What really knocks me out is a book, when you're all done reading it, you
wished the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could
call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. --Holden Caufield, Chapter 3, The Catcher in the Rye

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

happiness is ROY G. BIV

Remember when you were a kid and learned about the color spectrum with the pnemonic, Roy G. Biv? Among all the facts and figures we were forced to soak up, it's funny how the simplest ones seem to stick.

If Roy G. Biv was a real person, I have a feeling he'd be one cool cat -- someone to hang out with and ponder life, while sipping martinis and listening to live jazz or something. Yep. I'm certain he'd be that kind of guy -- smoothe and easy. ;)

I adore color. The brighter, the better, even if there's no rhyme or reason to it (look no further than my crazy tin ornament tree or my fascination with Alamo Fiesta on Main). Rich, gem-tone colors have me breathing deep and smiling on the inside.

Throughout my life, I've taken advantage of various outlets for the creative chunk of my soul that is mostly ignored. My twin sister and I have collaborated together on projects, big and small. Some were fun. Some were good. Some sucked. Not all were technically art, and frequently they involved written language. I've always enjoyed creating something from nothing, and color was consistently an important component of all projects.

Recently, that urge to create has really kicked in again. It's a side of my personality that, I'm ashamed to say, I don't embrace like I should; however, it's ever-present, and it's strong. One of my goals over the next few years is to "get creative" again. No specifics yet, other than it must involve color.

There's a piece of art -- Om Mosaic Window -- I found on Etsy by Mandolin Mosaics that absolutely captivates me. I can only imagine how it must harness and display sunlight -- spectacular, no doubt. Om Mosaic Window epitomizes color -- true, solid, deep, saturated color. Gem tones. Deep reds, blues and oranges. And for some reason, I return to it often and just stare at it. If I had an extra $3,000.00 to plunk down on such things, I'd snatch it up in a heartbeat.

But for now, I'm content to look at Om from afar and to let it inspire me ... to soak it up in all its Roy G. Biv glory and think of all the possibilities ... and of course, all its color.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

costco -- my friend, my love

I joked with Ty before we got our orders that I didn't care where we ended up, as long as there was a Costco within reasonable driving distance. And I wasn't kidding. At all.

So Boston works out swell for me. Yeah the food is supposed to be delish, the weather beautiful, and the potential for adventure, great.

But, truth be told, one of the first things I Googled when we found out we'd be heading to Boston was Costco locations in the area. Thank you, military Gods -- there are indeed Costcos galore in Beantown.

Here's an example of a great Costco item purchased this afternoon -- a trio of finishing salt for only $23. Killer price. My three containers are 8.1 oz, 15 oz, and 11.75 oz. Dean and Deluca sells a 3.5 oz container of Cypress flake salt for $13.50.

Costco is the best. And it'll be nice to have a friendly face waiting for me in New England.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

heaven is a little bit brighter...

... but earth a little more dim this morning.

My sweet cousin and her husband lost their niece during the night after a courageous battle with cancer. Little R fought harder for life in her short time here than some of us do with decades of the same opportunity.

Time is so precious. Every minute, even the painful ones, are worth cherishing. Wishing for more than we are given is such a selfish way to live, and I am guilty of it.
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." -- Revelation 21:4
Life is eternal and love is immortal. God speed, little one. Play without pain, and smile without tears.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

stunning statement


Finally. A ray of light. People are waking up from this nightmare. And wow ... it's the people of BOSTON, of all places!

Republican Scott Brown winning the Boston Senate seat yesterday should send an incredibly LOUD message to this administration. The problem is, they don't seem to be listening.

The largely left-leaning populace of Massachusetts voting in a Republican to fill the Senate seat previously held by a Kennedy would be like the people of Texas deciding to ban BBQ and beer -- it just doesn't happen.
But the independent majority is pissed off, Mr. President. Are you listening yet?! And no, we're not "tea baggers" or ignorant rednecks. We're AMERICANS who are tired and fed-up of the lies and political promises that have turned out to be nothing more than another bag of bullshit slung at us from a bunch of morally void suits and skirts in D.C.

We're tired of working hard, only to be forced to subsidize those who don't. My husband and I work our tails off in order for our children to have a better future. We don't take fancy vacations. We don't drive fancy cars. We generally try to be fiscally responsible, despite the fact that our government does not.

It's amazing to me how Obama, Pelosi, Reid (the kind and gentle racist) and their ilk took a rather significant referendum for change (the '08 election victory) and totally squandered it.

The democrat 8-month supermajority in the Senate is now gone. And what do they have to show for it? A failed stimulus plan. A failed health care plan. A softened stance on terrorism. Bravo, Dems. Well done.

They've crammed they're policies down the collective throats of the American people and have basically said, "To hell with what you think. We're doing it our way."

During Obama's first year, this administration has failed to protect our national interests, but rather implemented more taxes, more spending, more government and less freedom.

Closed meetings? Secret deals? Exemptions? What country do we live in?!

If Obama and his party don't start working FOR the people, he's going to end up in the annals of history right beside Jimmy Carter.

Are you listening, Mr. President? The people have spoken ... AGAIN. What you choose to do with what you've heard (or ignored) is now entirely up to you.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

tableau tuesday

tableau tuesday

My new boots.

Adorable, huh?

I was supposed to be looking for snow boots and such ... but was distracted by these babies.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

olivia's rule of life #47

Walking up things is harder than walking down, but the view is beautiful.

Friday, January 15, 2010

tea party

Sometimes you just need a good cup of hot tea.

The cold, rainy weather continues to creep into our bones down here in the Lone Star State. I don't mind it in the least; in fact, I love it. But cold and damp requires warm doses of goodness as well. I'm also fighting a fierce cold and cough, so my bones needed some soothing.

After work I made a quick pit-stop at H.E.B. for my favorite lavender Epsom salts and a big heaping portion of some roasted tomato soup. Yum. My mom suggested I also grab some good tea (which is exactly what you'd expect a lovely British mum to suggest).

I splurged and picked up some The Republic of Tea Raspberry Quince, and it's divine.
Quince is an ancient apple-like fruit, famous for its flowery perfume and vanilla-pineapple notes. Tart hibiscus and juicy raspberry flavors added to brew a sweet cup.
And for later this evening, I grabbed some "get some zzz's", also made by The Republic of Tea.
Say goodnight to tossing and turning. Brew a pot of our caffeine-free herbal blend and breathe a sigh of sweet relief as the bouquet of organic rooibos, soothing chamomile, passionflower and the mellowing properties of valerian gently lulls you toward blissful effects. Valerian won't interfere with REM sleep, so you won't have to contend with the morning "hangover" that often results from sleep-aids.
I'm looking forward to a long rainy, cold weekend with my tea, the fireplace, and I'm sure some serious Thomas the Train action.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

save the children: haiti

Total devastation ... of the likes we can't even fathom as we sit in our comfy homes, hugging our loved ones and planning our weekends.

Haiti is in dire need of help from the world right now. Canned food drives and blanket collections are important, and of course have their place; however, much more is needed in Haiti at this time.

Save the Children
is an amazing organization that does more good in 2 minutes than some sexier and more popular non-profits do in a lifetime. Right now, babies and children are suffering immensely. Save the Children has stepped up ... again.

WESTPORT, Conn., (Jan.14, 2010) — A Save the Children emergency response team successfully reached Haiti Thursday and worked quickly with staff already on the ground to organize the distribution of tents, medicine, and toiletries to children and families in desperate need.

"Save the Children is extremely concerned about the well-being of children in Haiti at this critical moment and we are doing everything we can to quickly get relief supplies to those who need it most," said Charles MacCormack, President and CEO of Save the Children. "Our staff on the ground is pulling out all the stops to overcome hurdles like blocked roads and unreliable access to the airport."

It's become increasingly difficult to find non-profit groups that don't have some obscure (or overt, i.e. ACORN) political agenda. Save the Children is one of the few organizations that truly follows their mission statement ("to create lasting, positive change in the lives of children in need"). They exist solely to do what they were created to do: save the children.

If you are in any position to do so, please help Save the Children Respond to the Haiti Emergency by Donating Now.

Donate any amount through the link above or or by calling 1-800-728-3843.


DONATE $10 BY TEXTING “SAVE” to 20222.

Monday, January 11, 2010

three of my loves, combined

Those of you who know (and love) me are well aware of the fact that I'm about as proud a Texan as you'll find. Duh.

I'm also a huge fan of cheese (the stinkier, the better ... it's the Welsh girl in me). Double duh.

Finally, whenever possible, I enthusiastically support homemade products and small businesses above all others -- more of my purchases are made from Etsy stores than any other retailer out there. Nothing inspires me more than someone creatively doing what they love and making some cashola out of the deal.


One of my nearest and dearest girlfriends, Laura, suggested that I try some goat cheese from Sealy, Texas. Huh? Sealy? For real? For anyone not familiar with Sealy, it's probably best known for its [mediocre] outlet shopping, its status as a bathroom pitstop about 50 miles west of Houston on I-10, and as the childhood home of legendary football player, Eric Dickerson. But I digress.

It's not a place one would expect to find goat cheese. Much less decent goat cheese. But low and behold, that's exactly what CheesyGirl Cheese Co. provides -- damn good cheese! Based on Laura's suggestion, I grabbed some ("Femme Fatale - luscious and piquant with more than a oui bit of Herbs de Provence") at H.E.B. this afternoon and enjoyed it schmeared on crostini ... with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and a hot bath. Ahhh. Goodness.

A quote on the company's homepage boldly states, "You're going to flat out love it or we'll buy it back. Period," (don't you just love shy Texans?!). I love that. Cheese with attitude.

Oh, and did I mention the other interesting twist? The cheese is vegetarian.

At CheesyGirl we love food. We love animals. We just don't love animals as food. Simple as that. So we make amazing vegetarian cheeses. From goats who spend their day frolicking and nibbling away in acres of lush grass.

As y'all can probably tell from my accent I'm a true blue Texan. Which means I love my truck and I don't like pretense.

Here at CheesyGirl what you'll find is vegetarian cheese that's really good (good for us, the planet, and animals). But the most important thing to you is that it tastes great. I'm talking, ear to ear grin, nod your head and make happy noises, great. Trust me, we're passionate about our cheese and you'll taste the difference.

Rock on, CheesyGirl peeps. You're doing us cheese-loving Texans proud.


One of my students knitted me a cap for Christmas, and I adore it. I told her this morning that its the softest, best thing I've ever worn. Plus, with all the cold weather we're experiencing right now, wearing it is like buttah -- so soothing and warm.

I've also started poking into winter sales in preparation for the next several years in New England. I think the greatest items I've come across are some fabulous scarves and hats on Etsy. I don't know how I'm going to have the restraint to not buy hundreds, but I'll try.

These, in particular, from Cricket's Creations are gorgeous ... the colors are spectacular!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

decisions, decisions

Two major things are going on in my life right now ... so major in fact, that choosing which one was the bigger deal made blogging a challenge.

1. It's cold in Houston. And when I say cold, I mean COLD -- an Arctic front has hit the area, and it appears to be socked in for a while. I just made an early-morning run for our usual Saturday morning breakfast tacos, and the water bottle I keep inside my console in the car was frozen. The digital thermometer on my dashboard read 19° -- even after the sun had already been shining brightly for an hour or two. It's cold.

2. We finally received our new orders, care of Uncle Sam. We're heading up to Boston this summer. Boston? It's cold there, right? And they talk funny.

So in trying to gauge which was more blog-worthy, I critically looked at both -- crazy-cold temps, or moving to Boston? Hmmm ... I'm thinking I can combine the two.

God has a kick-ass sense of humor -- timing is everything. We've been waiting for months for word on our next duty station, and low and behold, we happened to receive the news while Ty was still home on leave, as well as on the afteroon before I took a rare personal day off work.

So we basically got to spend all day together yesterday saying things like, "Are you ok with this?" ... "Where would you like to live?" ... "We need to hit the winter sales right now and stock up on coats and hats." Usually these types of conversations take place for us on the phone, with thousands of miles between us. But again, timing is everything.

And I bet the Big Guy is getting a kick out of watching us freeze our Texas tails off right now, chuckling and enjoying the fact that this type of weather will be the winter (and fall and spring...) norms for us once we're living in New England.

So life goes on. Today we'll get the brakes on my car serviced, take Aidan to a birthday party, meet some friends for a few glasses of wine and good times, and go to sleep appreciating the fact that we have warm blankets, central heating, and each other.

God's sense of humor is grand. So is cold weather, and so are new adventures in New England.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

thank you, captain obvious?

Looks like someone in our current braintrust of an administration (home of Janet "don't worry, be happy" Napolotano) finally woke up and smelled the jihadi coffee ...

"While we remain committed to closing the (Guantanamo) facility, a determination has been made, right now any additional transfers to Yemen is not a good idea," [ya think??!!] said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

The White House decision came after The Times newspaper of London reported that at least a dozen former Guantanamo Bay prisoners had rejoined al Qaeda to fight in Yemen.

But don't fret. I'm sure its only temporary. I mean, we'd hate to offend any honest, hard-working, reformed suicide bombers or anything.

tableau tuesday

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 04, 2010


It's pretty rare when my four-year-old son and I agree on the same form of entertainment. I don't get much of a kick from playing with Thomas and Percy, and I don't think he'd be too thrilled with reading Twilight or New Moon.

Enter Olivia, a TV show (based on the book series by Ian Falconer) on Nick Jr. that we both adore ... made that much more special by the fact that we watch it together and laugh (and laugh, and laugh).

One of the great things about Olivia is that she's a straight-forward kid, in a respectful (and rare) manner. Her imagination takes her to the stars and beyond, but her every-day grit finds her doing things as all-American as running a lemonade stand or camping with her family.

She's girly enough to dream of one day becoming a prima ballerina or figure skater, yet rough and tumble enough to play a mean game of soccer. Speaking of the soccer episode -- one of my favorites! Olivia is irritated that she has to wear the same color jersey as the rest of the team, rather than her trademark usual red attire ... a fashion diva, even on the sports field. :)

The beauty of Olivia -- it holds Aidan's attention because of its adventurous storyline and family-centered values (each episode ends with one of her parents tucking her in, usually after a story, and saying 'goodnight' and 'I love you'). And it holds my attention because the witty banter and one-liners keep me rolling.

One more brilliant touch that makes me love Olivia -- her "Rules of Life" which she slides into her plot narratives on each show, such as ...

"Rule of Life #5: Not everyone can wear red, especially when you're pink."

Preach it, Livvy girl. Preach it.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

its all about perspective

Depending on certain aspects, such as one's age, priorities, and life experiences, the idea of Heaven on a Saturday night might be playing with a new Lego rescue boat (and saving the day for the trains on an even newer train table) ... or a frozen margarita in front of the fireplace in January.

But either one is pretty damn sweet.

Friday, January 01, 2010

southern new year's day cuisine

Here in the South (although many, including yours truly, would argue that Texas technically isn't a part of "the South", but I digress), we've got traditions galore. New Year's Day holds its own unique rituals, including specific types of food.

Tradition goes that one is to celebrate decadently on New Year's Eve, delighting in the likes of caviar and champagne while ringing out the old and toasting in the new with taste and style; however, once New Year's Day arrives, eating simply from "poor" foods (black eyed peas and cabbage) is supposed to bring luck and prosperity.

Memories of Mom and Dad serving up big steaming pots of lucky cabbage (whose leaves are representative of paper money) and black eyed peas (for prosperity -- their shape and abundance representing coins) are a major part of my New Year's Day mental pictures of growing up in Texas. For us superstitious southerners, January 1st without these staples would not be a smart way to usher in the new year ... sort of like needlessly tempting fate.

As we've all grown up and gotten older (and a whole lot smarter), we're much better at trying out different versions of these traditional dishes. Today, my daddy prepared a simple, yet delicious meal of black eyed peas, sauteed cabbage, and smoked sausage. If we're not healthy and wealthy in 2010, it won't be a result from a lack of good New Year's Day grub.

Thought I'd share our cabbage recipe ...

1/2 head of cabbage, chopped
4 slices of bacon, diced
dash of fennel seed
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper, to taste

Chop up a half-head of cabbage. Dice and sautee bacon until medium-crisp. Pour off excess bacon grease. Add a dash of fennel seed and a pinch of course pepper to subtly flavor the base. Sautee over medium heat for about one minute, and then deglaze pan with white wine. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat until wine is reduced. Add cabbage and steam, turning frequently for about 3-4 minutes until cabbage begins to get tender. Add chicken stock and continue to cook as stock reduces. Cover and simmer on low heat until cabbage is very tender. Salt and pepper to taste.