Sunday, February 28, 2010

for those who plan ahead ... style on the tree

Anyone who reads my blog knows that I adore Christmas. My preference would be to haul out the holly right after Halloween and soak up every bit of the season until the end of December --Thanksgiving is just a good meal in between the fun of fall and the beauty of Christmas.

So I squealed with glee when I received a spring newsletter today from one of my favorite ornament vendors -- Trendy Tree from the Pence Christmas Tree Farm, located in the Northeastern part of Mississippi.

The purpose of the newsletter was to market Easter items -- psssh. Forget it! I went straight to the Christmas ornaments. RAZ ornaments are my faves, and their 2010 collection has been released, so I spent the better part of an hour lost in Yuletide heaven. Is it November yet?

Some of my favorite finds ....

Friday, February 26, 2010

germs and rodents

It's been a tough few weeks ... I've been pretty sick and just can't seem to shake it. After much denial and resistance on my part, I was finally ordered to bed this weekend by my doctor, complete with a round of antibiotics and a stern lecture by the nurse about getting enough rest.

This morning I obliged her and called in sick to work. I woke up, planning to fill Aidan with a warm breakfast before taking him in to school. During the flurry of our morning activities, I didn't yet have on my glasses or contacts, and I noticed that the dogs had left me a pile of leaves and junk on the carpet. As I bent down to pick it up, I quickly realized that the 'pile of leaves' was a dead rat, proudly deposited for me by one of my happy canines.

I don't know if I'll ever fully recover. I washed my hands for at least 5 minutes.

Ty will be home for Spring Break in 2 weeks. I CANNOT wait. I also don't think I'm going to let him leave.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

it's rodeo time in houston

In Houston, Texas, rodeo time is BIG time.

It's not just about calf-roping or bull-riding. Rodeo is a part of this city's soul. Everyone gets involved in some way, and the smell of BBQ seems to constantly hang in the air.

Kicking off the festivities is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's World Championship Bar-B-Que Contest ... or as most Houstonians call it -- "Cook-off." And let me tell you -- it's a Texas-sized party.

The Houston Chronicle sums up Cook-off:

...the rodeo cook-off, a three-day extravaganza that begins Thursday and turns Reliant Park into Barbecue City, U.S.A. About 250 teams will participate in an event that grows more elaborate and festive each year as teams try to outdo each other not just with awesome barbecue but with hospitality and no small measure of showmanship. Last year more than 217,000 people attended the event, which is open to the public (but team tents are private and admission is by invitation only) and generated more than $1.5 million for the rodeo's do-gooder efforts. It's a Texas-size party before the rodeo gets in high gear; a chance for barbecue aficionados to wax rhapsodic about the finer points of smoke ring and bark, and perhaps lasso a prize that earns bragging rights for years to come.

So much more than just beef. The beer flows freely, corks are popped at will ... good times and good music everywhere.

Tents of different teams feature elaborate bars with free-flowing beer, wine and cocktails as well as live music and, of course, food. Friends meet up with friends, often times in cold [but perfect!] "rodeo weather." And it's never boring.

It's a great time of year to be in Houston -- so much tradtion. Great food and even greater people.

Let the fun begin!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

tableau tuesday

More snow on the way today. Craziest winter I've ever seen in all my years growing up in Texas.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

with cheese and jalapeños, please

There are very few things in life that I adore more than a Whataburger with cheese and jalapeños -- for breakfast. Yes, for breakfast.

Not every day, mind you. But frequently.

I don't know what it is, but I often wake up with a hankering for jalapeños. And most mornings, when I'm rushing around trying to get Aidan to school and myself to work, don't easily lend themselves to a heaping plate of huevos rancheros con jalapeños -- that's what weekends are for.

Enter Whataburger -- the little burger joint in Texas that's been getting it right for over 60 years.

How many burger places do you know that'll make you a cheeseburger with jalapeños at 6:45 a.m.? And at Whataburger, they don't bat an eye or question it a bit. They just make it ... exactly how you like it.

So, so great. It's been my breakfast of champions for years -- make mine a Whataburger with cheese and jalapeños, please.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

a great way to eat broccolli

This is one of my favorite veggie dishes. It's an Ina Garten recipe, so there's no surprise that it's made with fresh ingredients, as well as an extra yummy twist. It's delicious.

I'd probably never think of pairing broccoli, lemon and basil together, but it's an awesome combo. And the added crunch provided by the pine nuts and roasted Parmesan, mixed in with the garlic and salt, creates a salty/crispy crust that's an amazing conrast with the soft vegetables.

I've made this both in the summer and the winter, and it's been perfect each time. Oh, and an easy (lazy) way to do the broccoli is to just buy a bag of fresh florets --I get mine from Costco. And you can't beat Costco's price for pine nuts as well (just make sure you freeze the left-overs -- pine nuts are loaded with oil and will go rancid very quickly).

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli


  • 4 to 5 pounds broccoli
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Good olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves (about 12 leaves)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 8 cups of florets. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic on the broccoli and drizzle with 5 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan, and basil. Serve hot. (Yield: 6 servings)

Friday, February 12, 2010

going green (or blue)

Talk about an awesome way to recycle some of Ty's old uniform shirts!

Britina from Burnt Toast Designs custom made two large tote bags for me, and they turned out super! They're just begging to be filled with a good book, a few magazines, and a beach towel.

I love cute and crafty!

more snow in texas

This winter has been cold ... VERY, very cold.

North Texas was blanketed yesterday with record-breaking amounts of the white stuff.

We woke up to some scattered flurries on the northwest side of Houston this morning as well. And beyond that ... again ... it's cold.

Here are some pretty shots from yesterday's snow day in DFW.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

rather monumental, don't ya think?

Taylor Lautner turns 18 day.

Look out, Jacob Black ... that rumbling sound you hear is the shameless growling of cougars all over the world ....

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

a few nips and tucks

My blog just received a little pick-me-up, care of the brilliance of Penny Lane Designs.

Bright and fun. Just like life should be!

Thanks, Marina! You rock.

comfy retro

I love the old-style Dr. Scholl's clogs, but the wood soles kill my feet. I used to have a pair, I and can't tell you how many times the shoe slipped and I ended up stepping on the edge of the wood with the bridge of my foot. It's killer pain. No more wooden-soled Dr. Scholl's clogs for me.

So I was thrilled a few years ago to find a softer alternative from Dr. Scholl's -- the Dr. Scholl's Original Twist. You get the same look, but with a soft, cushioned sole. I bought a pair in black and goldmine -- super cute. They're some of my favorite shoes. You can slip 'em on and go, but they're a bit of a "dressier" upgrade from flipflops. And I adore the fact that "Feels Crazy Good!" is printed on the bottom of each pair. Adorable.

Now, Dr. Scholl's has now introduced another comfy surprise to their classic clog look inventory -- the Women's Haven. And it's awesome (as well as very reasonably priced!). Plus, no wood insole! Instead, it has a cork-look to it.

Just ordered a pair in Pink Pampero -- love 'em! Can't wait for warmer temps!

Monday, February 08, 2010

it's that time of year

My first box of Girl Scout cookies was delivered bright and early this morning to my desk, care of one of my lovely fifth grade students.

Thin mints, of course.

Every year I swear I'm going to refrain. But every year, I fail miserably. How can I turn down a classroom full of brightly-shining, sweet-faced Girl Scouts? Passing by their little tables outside the grocery store is one thing, but looking them in the eye and declining their request in person is just something I don't have the will power to do.
And as someone who endured the same rite of passage when I was their age, I'm never able to refuse.

And it has absolutely nothing to do with the chewy goodness of those Caramel Delites (they'll always be Samoas to me). Or the timeless taste of the Thin Mints.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some incriminating little chocolate crumbs to wipe off my face before the first bell rings.

Friday, February 05, 2010

new york times gives h-town some love

A great read in the New York Times Travel section about my beloved hometown: Remixing Regional Flavors in Houston.

RARE is the city where a chef can set up tables inside a former car dealership and pack the house nightly. But on a recent evening in Houston, I sat inside that space, which as been reborn as Reef, a bustling, hyper-inventive seafood restaurant, and thought about the unusual fish on my plate: a Gulf of Mexico wahoo, to which the chef and co-owner Bryan Caswell had done unexpected, and unexpectedly delicious things.

I was thinking, too, about how, in the years since I left Houston, where I grew up, it's gone from a city where the high-end restaurants were as gilded as they were mostly mediocre to a place with a world-class food scene and a rising generation of culinary stars. Instead of playing catch-up to restaurant trends elsewhere, Houston's most talented chefs are finding their own voice: uncovering the food traditions of the area's ethnic populations, experimenting with little-known seafood varieties from the nearby gulf, and embracing Texas's strange agricultural rhythms.

$2,000 trash bag

For a mere $1,960, you too can own a Louis Vuitton ... TRASH BAG (aka the The Raindrop Besace purse).

It comes in green and brown, and it's waterproof.

Look for toilet paper scarves in LV's fall line.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

wednesday waffles

I can't even begin to count everything that I'll miss about home once we've moved this summer. But one thing that I absolutely will not miss is our hectic, rushed, unbelievably crazy weekday morning schedule.

I will miss teaching very much. But I'm relishing the thought of being a stay-at-home-mom, spending time with Aidan, volunteering at his school, and all in all, setting a slower pace.

I basically have to be at work by 7:00 a.m. And in order to get Aidan up and out of bed (the most difficult task of the morning), dressed, fueled with breakfast, and loaded up in the car, extreme precision planning must be involved. From there I drop him off at school and then get myself to work, all before 7:15 (at the very latest). Oh yeah, then of course there's the extra nuisance of having to get myself dressed and presentable during all this madness. It ain't fun.

And if even the slightest hitch in the giddyup arises (i.e. rain, a lost shoe, spilled milk, a random tantrum), the whole routine is thrown into a tailspin, and we're both left frazzled -- not a great way to start the day. I've spent countless hours at work feeling guilty about sending my little guy off to school on the wrong foot after a particular insane morning.

So needless to say, I can't wait to spend a bit more leisure time together in the mornings once we're up in Boston. I'm not saying we'll be eating crêpes and drinking mimosas every morning, but the simple fact that I won't be racing around the house like a madwoman at 6 a.m. will be a huge change.

And best of all, I won't be doing it all by myself anymore.

This morning we got a little preview of what's [hopefully] to come.

I have an appointment today, so I took the day off work. Aidan was able to sleep in until 7:30 (this is huge), and then we made Belgian waffles and watched a recorded episode of the new Team Umizoomi (don't ask) that he's been dying to see. Then we got ready and headed out the door for a super day at preschool, with a full belly and some good family time under our belts.

All in all, a TERRIFIC way to start a Wednesday.

Monday, February 01, 2010

fleur de sel caramels

I've wanted to make these for months, and a cold Sunday hangin' with Mom and Beverly was the perfect opportunity to finally do so.

Oh, and they're even better than they look.

Recipe from Gourmet, October 2004.


  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel (add extra for garnish, if desired)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water


Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.

Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces, sprinkle with fleur de sel, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

yield: Makes about 40 candies