After a long weekend away and a visitor the week before, I could not get it together this week! And now it’s Friday so I’m going to quit trying. Next week’s a fresh start, right?
October 21, 2015 — just a few days ago — was the day Marty McFly and Doc Brown traveled to in Back to the Future II. See how futuristic we really are.
A fellow Stitch Fix stylist told me about Dressember. Have you heard of it? Do you think you could wear a dress every single day in December for a good cause? I’m considering it…
I think Daylight Savings Time is a little hokey, too, but is there really a petition to end it? Seems so.
Lots of talk about dogs in our house these days… I think we’re ready for one but we’ll see how soon it happens. If not by Christmas, then I’ll just need a tree full of these adorable dogs of Instagram ornaments.
Some of my favorites made the cut in this list of how not to look like a disaster after a long flight. Some of them help me not look like a disaster on a daily basis!
I’ve been taking little steps to remove as many chemicals from my daily life as possible. If I can’t pronounce the ingredients, I probably shouldn’t be putting it in or on my body. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions to this. I’m sure wine gums, my favorite candy ever, have plenty of stuff that’s bad for me but I’m going to keep on eating them. Baby steps.
One of my first vices to go was my beloved Coffeemate. And sadly, I hate to report that my morning coffee just isn’t the same without it. Rest in peace, hazelnut creamer… I’ve known for a long time that it’s oh-so bad for you (just Google it if you’re curious), but it’s oh-so delicious. It was really hard to cut ties, but I did it about two months ago. You know how they say it takes 21 days to break a bad habit and then you’re magically “cured” of said habit? That’s not the case with Coffeemate. I still miss it. But I haven’t caved. I have, however, tried lots of alternatives and here’s what I think of them:
Whole milk just isn’t as creamy, and I long for the sweetness of Coffeemate. It’s doable, but not remotely as tasty, obviously.
Vanilla almond milk is a step up from whole milk. But again, not as creamy, not as sweet.
Agave combined with the whole or almond milk helps a little, but the sweetness is more of a sugary sweetness, not whatever the sweetness is in the crack cocaine-like Coffeemate. Agave with almond milk is my go-to at the moment, but I’m still unsatisfied.
Kalona Half & Half was one of the two “healthier” options I decided to sample on a recent trip to Whole Foods. It’s creamy, but it didn’t wow me enough to trump almond milk or even whole milk.
SO Delicious Hazelnut Coconut Milk Creamer was the other option from Whole Foods. This one was my least favorite. Perhaps the “dairy free” label should’ve tipped me off, but this one was overpoweringly sweet and oddly flavored. I can’t put my finger on whether I found it to be tart, sour or bitter. All I can tell you is that I threw this one away before finishing it.
I’ve seen plenty of recipes on Pinterest to make my own creamer. Honestly, it seems like a lot of work for something that won’t taste as good as the real deal. According to my sister, she tried one of those recipes and it wasn’t any good; ergo, I won’t like it, either.
How do you take your coffee? Are you a badass black coffee drinker? Do you still use Coffeemate or something equally terrible? Sugar? Milk? Open to ideas here!
October 10th marked my grandma’s 100th birthday. I always think of her on this date — and lots of other less significant dates. I often think of her when I’m cooking or baking; she was a superstar cook and baker with years in professional kitchens. I think of her at the holidays; she always made dozens and dozens of cookies and I vividly remember them cooling on paper-thin dish towels on her little kitchen table. I think of her when I see old ladies who remind me of her, and sadly, whenever I see, hear or read something about Alzheimer’s disease. My grandma died in 2003 after suffering from that horrific, debilitating disease. I think of her in her last years much less often than I think of all of the happy, fun memories of her when she was herself.
100 years is a long time. I decided we needed to celebrate 100 years, even if she couldn’t be here to do it with us. That, and as you know by now, I can always find an excuse to throw a party, cook, eat and drink! Conveniently, my two local sisters were already planning to visit that weekend. We were going to informally christen our new patio. But when I realized what the date was, I convinced my mom to come, too. We celebrated Gram exactly how we would have if she was still here — by making and eating lots of yummy food, hanging out and just being together.
Let me tell you about my amazing grandmother’s cooking. She spent years cooking at the Missouri Athletic Club and Stix, Baer & Fuller’s restaurant, so she knew a thing or two! Her list of specialties (all from scratch, of course) is endless, but the dishes that first come to mind are chicken and dumplings, bread and butter pickles, grape jelly, coffee cake, chocolate pie, rhubarb pie and cookies, cookies galore — chocolate chip (which were about the size of a half-dollar, if that), Mexican wedding cookies, iced sugar cookies in holiday shapes and colors and the cookies that everyone still longs for — peanut blossoms. I volunteered my sister Joan to bake these cookies for our gathering (and they were gone by Sunday night).
You could say Gram was the executive chef of the family. She most often planned and prepared the hors d’oeuvres for family parties or the main feast. One of the things that Gram made for every family party was platters of deli meat rolled fancy with cream cheese and a pickle in some varieties, with intricate roses made out of tomatoes in the center of the tray. While we made our best attempt to recreate this snack, I think Gram would’ve given us an E for effort.
I’m thankful that my sister Jennifer volunteered to make the quintessential Gram dish: chicken and dumplings. And I’m thankful that Nora didn’t like it so there was more for the rest of us!
We had a fun day remembering Gram and bringing up old memories. One of my funniest memories of her is something I totally remember happening, but at the time I didn’t understand why it was so funny because I was really young — four, maybe five years old? Gram used to babysit me a lot and I was at her apartment one day, wanting to help. I was at that age where I wanted to help with little chores, which is exactly what Nora does these days. I was going to help her dust her living room furniture, which I used to do frequently. She gave me a little dust rag and I insisted on furniture polish, so she gave me an aerosol can and I went on my merry little way, polishing her whole living room suite. I was a pretty quick kid (my apple didn’t fall far from the tree); after I finished my task I looked at the can and asked my grandma what “O-F-F” spelled. No, she hadn’t given me bug spray — nor furniture polish. She gave me Easy-OFF oven cleaner by mistake! I vaguely remember her muttering words I probably wasn’t supposed to hear and scurrying to clean it off the furniture!
One of my sisters posted the photo of Grandma and Grandpa (above) on her Facebook page on Gram’s birthday, and a family friend commented, “She was the perfect example of a grandma anyone could wish for.” That, she was.
Grandma’s Peanut Blossom Cookies
1/2 c shortening
3/4 c peanut butter
1/3 c sugar, plus extra for rolling dough
1/3 c packed light brown sugar
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt Brach’s stars (sub Hershey’s Kisses, which are much easier to find!)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In large mixing bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter until blended. Add sugars; beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to peanut butter mixture.
Shape dough into 1″ balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
Immediately place chocolate pieces on top of each cookie, pressing down slightly. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.
Grandma’s Chicken and Dumplings
1 1/2 c flour
1 tbsp parsley, chopped (1 tsp dried)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
Combine flour, parsley, baking powder and salt. Combine milk, vegetable oil and egg and combine with the dry blend. Stir enough to moisten the mixture but don’t over-beat.
With a tablespoon, form the dumplings and drop them in boiling chicken broth*. Cover tightly and cook for 12 – 15 minutes or until done. No peeking! Serve immediately.
* Depending on how many you plan to serve, you can boil a whole chicken or just chicken breasts along with carrots and celery, well seasoned with salt and pepper. Reserve the broth for cooking the dumplings.
I am really missing fall weather these days. It’s still in the high 80s and 90s although dare I say chilly some mornings? I’m forcing myself to wear jeans; it’s my version of a rain dance, I guess. It hasn’t worked so far…
I’m so looking forward to the weekend. We’re hosting my mom, sisters and brother-in-law for our informal patio christening party. And, when I realized the dates, I decided that we’d also celebrate what would be my grandma’s 100th birthday tomorrow. I can always find an excuse to have a party (especially one that involves cake and ice-cream).
Enjoy your weekend!
Here’s what we’re cooking up this weekend, in honor of what would be my grandma’s 100th birthday. She was the queen of chicken and dumplings.
These little First Thanksgiving candles remind me of the ones my mom had on our Thanksgiving table when we were kids. Nostalgia is nudging me to buy them.
I’m feeling especially TGIF today. Felt like a long week! The little artist above is very into crying over everything these days — not getting to press the button to close the garage door, wanting a cup of milk, forgetting to say her prayer at dinnertime and of course any time the TV gets turned OFF. There just isn’t enough wine sometimes..
On Monday, I witnessed something that really rattled me. Nora and I were leaving the grocery store and there was a bit of a commotion in the parking lot. A woman was running, zig zagging through the rows of parked cars. She honestly seemed a bit maniacal. I overheard someone say something about forgetting where she parked, but she seemed awfully distraught to only be looking for a car. We’ve all been there, right? She finally found her car, which was parked in the same row as mine, and her frantic state was warranted: she had left her infant in the car. It was truly heartbreaking to witness. She was so upset, crying, and so was the baby when she pulled her out of the car. I overheard her telling two other women who jumped in to console her that she didn’t know how it happened, she just moved here from Colorado, has three other kids, got into the store and picked up a package of strawberries and quickly realized she didn’t have her baby. Clearly, it was an honest accident and it rattled her, too. I’m not sure what was more heartbreaking to witness — this poor mother who probably felt like the world’s worst parent in that very moment, or the total asshole parked next to me who, while getting into his car, shook his head and said, “what an idiot.” Admittedly, when I see similar stories on the news that usually don’t end so well, that’s my first reaction, too. I always think, how can you forget your kid? Well, I’ve seen it happen in real life and can only say thank god this woman remembered before it was too late.
On Wednesday, we were awakened at 2:30 a.m. by our smoke detectors going off — two of them. And then again at 5:20 a.m. Why don’t those batteries ever die at noon? Miraculously, Nora slept right through it.
Wednesday was also the first day of fall. In Austin, we had an “unseasonably warm” temperature of 95 degrees. More of the same yesterday. It’s a good thing I no longer like pumpkin spice lattes (regardless of the fact that they’re finally incorporating real pumpkin…), because it’s still iced everything these days (probably gonna have to try the toasted graham latte, though — how good does that sound?!).
We have a busy weekend. We’ll go to the acclaimed Pecan Street Festival for the first time tomorrow. And on Sunday, Nora will have a babysitter while KP and I go to brunch with two other adults. Yippee! A reward to end the lllooooonnnnnggggg week.
I’m loving everything from Smitten Kitchen these days. Correction: I’ve always loved practically everything from Smitten Kitchen, but these days I’m actually making stuff. Case in point — this delicious apple cake that I made for Nora’s preschool dinner this week. Sadly, and thankfully, we have no leftovers sitting around at home, otherwise I’d fall off the Weight Watchers train hard. Repeat!
I have a love/hate relationship with Starbucks, but even still, I’m pretty jazzed about the fact that I can now order and pay on my phone — from home, or wherever — and have my drink waiting when I get there.
Yeah, sometimes I wonder if I want to walk away from this blog altogether, too…
I find it kind of funny that KP insists on using men’s Dove shower gel. I use his Jack Black face wash, after all. But apparently it could be much, much worse.
Now that we’re homeowners, I guess we should be concerned with things like fall home maintenance… luckily many don’t apply because we live in Texas, after all.
In case you missed it, my favorite Irish boy band has a new album coming out next year. Yippee!
George Ezra’s “Barcelona” is on repeat at our house these days. Love.
Pretty much the whole reason we chose to go to Oregon for our anniversary trip was wine. We went to Napa for our first anniversary and had a delicious time, but we’re more pinot people than anything else, so the Willamette Valley seemed like the perfect place to visit. And it was.
We tasted wine at seven or so wineries over the course of about two days which may seem like a little or a lot, depending, but it seemed just right to us. After all, we had to fit in ample nap time at our home away from home, the glorious Black Walnut Inn.
I like wine a lot, but a wine connoisseur I am not — nor is KP. We’re very much the types who know what we like but you definitely won’t find us waxing poetic about tannins, oxidation or balance. Maybe that’s why, near the end of our trip, I decided that everything tasted like cherries. Leggy, approachable cherries.
Here are my three favorite places where we sipped — and rarely spit — in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
1. Anderson Family Vineyard
Our first stop was Anderson Family Vineyard in Newberg. It was highly recommended by our concierge at The Nines in Portland and he made the required reservation for us. We like these smaller vineyards that compel you to join their club — because you can’t really find the wines elsewhere. And I loved the Anderson family’s story; operating a vineyard was their lifelong dream and they’re living it. Cliff and Allison, the husband/wife duo behind Anderson Family Vineyards, are very hands-on; she conducted our tasting (and turned me back onto pinot gris!) and he was there, running around doing things a busy vintner does, I guess. Their wines — pinot noir, dijon chardonnay and pinot gris — were so good that of course we had to join the club. Now if only it would cool off in Austin, we’d get our first shipment…
2. Torii Mor Winery
One of the cool things about Black Walnut Inn is that they provided a list of their favorite local wineries, categorized in different ways. If memory serves, Torii Mor was classified as a “hidden gem” or the like. It was one of my favorite wineries we visited because it was so uniquely beautiful. Yes, every single winery we visited was picturesque; it’s hard not to be in that part of the world. But Torii Mor was really memorable — and the wine was amazing.
I love the story of this winery’s name. “Torii” refers to ornate gates often seen at the entrance of Japanese gardens. “Mor” means earth. Together, it is “beautiful gate to the earth.” There are “gates” like this all over the property.
Torii Mor was probably the quietest, most peaceful tasting room experience we had while in Oregon. There is a small Japanese garden adjacent to the tasting room, and there’s a huge wrap-around deck on the back of the property which is nestled in the trees.
3. Archery Summit Winery
Archery Summit felt like the black label of all of the wineries we visited. Very high end. Very pricey club. Very exclusive feeling. We tasted several pinot noirs and I was on my best behavior.
Other Wineries We Visited
Erath is pretty common. We’ve bought it at Whole Foods and HEB. It’s good pinot noir. But the tasting experience there compared to Anderson and some of the others felt a little more “corporate,” for lack of a better way of putting it. Less of a personal touch, more robotic. As one of our wino friends said, it’s the Mondavi of Willamette. Still, the wine was wonderful and the scenery even more so.
White Rose Estate
I don’t remember exactly how we stumbled upon White Rose. I think we went because it was close to Archery Summit, and we were more fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants on this trip. If we visited a tasting room and there were others closeby, we checked them out, too, usually. The wine was fine, but my favorite part of White Rose was the cute little tasting room. It was this little log cabin-like building, and it was really dark and cozy inside.
There was lavender everywhere. Seriously, Willamette couldn’t be more picturesque if it tried.
Durant Vineyards and Red Ridge Farms is also near White Rose and Archery Summit; I think that’s how we ended up in that area to begin with. Everyone in the area raved about the farm and the olive oil and we wanted to do some gift shopping and get some snacks, so that’s where we went. The tasting room wasn’t even on the agenda, but since we were already there, how could we not?
Red Ridge Farms is a really cool little place. It’s part nursery where I suppose locals go to buy plants and gardening stuff, part gift shop where you can do olive oil tastings (and buy olive oil in every variety imaginable) and buy luscious lavender lotions and bath salts, kitchen stuff, oh, and picnic accoutrements to pair with your wine tasting on their lawn.
They also have these amazing little ice-cream sandwiches. (He even let me have a bite.)
Seven of Hearts
Seven of Hearts was another, well we’re already here tasting. We went to Carlton to check out Republic of Jam (and I’m sorry, but calling that little shop a “tasting room” that has “flights” of sweet and savory bites is a bit of a stretch… we were told we could sample whatever jars of jam they had — in little cups) and Seven of Hearts has a tasting room just a few doors down, so in we went. Full disclosure: we went in so I could use the bathroom, and doing the tasting was my way to not feel guilty about that. Surprise, surprise… the joke was on us. Because we walked out with a case of wine headed our way.
I did a relatively good job of jotting down notes on all of the wines that I liked. Just now, I wanted to share which Seven of Hearts it was that sucked me in (because one of the whites was so good, I couldn’t resist… the 2013 Viognier & Roussanne?). But I have no idea where said notes are. See, a true wine connoisseur wouldn’t be so callous. Thank goodness we have some shipments coming so I can remember what it was that I liked so much.
By the end of our trip — I can’t believe I’m going to admit this — KP and I both needed a little bit of a wine break. You know those things you see on Pinterest about what to do with leftover wine? I always scoff. Who ever has leftover wine?! Well, after all wine all day for consecutive days, I needed to get some vodka in the mix, or something. And I can only take so much serious wine talk for so long. By our final day in the valley, everything was leggy and approachable as far as we were concerned.
I always feel so cliché when I lament how time is flying. But really, how did it already get to be mid-September? I pulled out my calendar to look at free weekends and realized they’re dwindling between now and the end of the year. And, thanks to Facebook’s “On This Day” feature, I was reminded that four years ago, I had already begun my Christmas shopping at this time. Time to get crackin’!
KP and I are having a date night this weekend. Sometimes we’re really good about having them regularly, and other times other things get in the way. Besides, our life is like a date everyday. HA. HA. HA. We’re going to Barley Swine, which is someplace I’ve wanted to check out before we even moved to Austin, and I’m glad we’re making it happen before they temporarily close to relocate.
Whatever you’re up to this weekend, enjoy!
Ever since Champion seemingly discontinued my favorite running tank, I’ve been on a mission to find one that I like that isn’t racerback. What’s with all the racerbacks? My search is over. I’m not a Carrie Underwood fan, but she has an awesome seamless tank top and it’s super flattering.
I tried Clinton Kelly’s Creamy Cauliflower Rice Pilaf this week and even my non-cauliflower fan husband liked it — sans raisins and added a bit of grated parm. A repeat for sure.
“Over-wined, overfed and oversized.” – my friend Jen
My sentiments exactly. After a delicious summer of overindulging, I’m not loving how my clothes fit these days. Hopped back on the Weight Watchers train last week. It’s the only thing that ever works for me. My problem is being disciplined on an ongoing basis. The never-ending battle continues…
It rained at our house on Tuesday night. That was the big excitement of the week. I think Nora forgot what it was. We all stood at the front door in awe of the super brief weather event. Then KP and Nora relocated to the backyard and she saw her very first rainbow — more excitement! Now, every day when she looks out our back windows she wants to see the rainbow…
The last unofficial weekend of summer is upon us, although it doesn’t feel like it living in Austin. We’ve got plenty of time left for outside fun and BBQs. That’s not bragging; I am actually very ready for fall and hate seeing all the cute fall layers that I can’t wear here any time soon.
Whether or not you’re unofficially bidding summer adieu this weekend… enjoy!
With the new school year upon us and especially with my nephew starting his first year of college, those days — and the ones spent job hunting thereafter — are top of mind. So it felt really timely when The Ladders recently approached me to share some anecdotes about my first job and lessons learned.
I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years, particularly if I count babysitting as a teen, gigs at various retailers in the mall and several roles in ecommerce, which is what I consider my background as that’s what I’ve done since I graduated college too many years ago to mention. Currently, I have the hardest but most rewarding job I’ve ever had — staying home with our two-year-old daughter, which I’ve been doing for about a year and a half. Recently, I became a part-time Stylist for Stitch Fix, too. One thing that I can say about every single job I’ve ever had is that it’s taught me something. If you’re not learning anymore, and/or you’re not being challenged, it’s probably time to move on to the next. Luckily for me, I don’t think our daughter is ever going to stop challenging me! Job security.
When I think about the job that best prepared me for my career, it was a summer internship for the U.S. government, which I started the summer after I graduated high school. To be fair, the job sort of fell into my lap; I didn’t search for it nor did I really have to interview. My sister works for the federal government, and two of my other sisters also had this type of job in the past, so I was lucky in that I just knew about it from them. So what does a summer intern for the government do? I worked at an Air Force base and I did a lot of general office tasks, my least favorite of which was filing and my most favorite of which was helping to coordinate travel for Air Force personnel in our office. It certainly wasn’t anything glamorous, and to be honest, the context of the job was totally irrelevant to me. But I liked the job. I worked there every single summer and some winter breaks until I graduated college.
It wasn’t the specific tasks I did that taught me any memorable lessons, but it was the environment that I worked in and the people whom I worked with who left an impression on me. My immediate supervisor was the administrative assistant, and the office ticked because of her. By working alongside her and others in the office, I learned basics that not everyone learns before they enter the work force — little things like how to carry yourself, how to communicate effectively, the importance of meeting deadlines and the like. Some of these things can’t be taught from a book, but learned by immersion and observing the behavior of others. There were also plenty of people in the office who opened my eyes in terms of how not to behave professionally.
My job as a summer intern set me up for success after college. I was comfortable and ready to step into the working world. I’m very proud of my career path and I don’t know that I would’ve gotten where I did without having that experience from the start.