Sunday, November 29, 2009

Enjoying the View

One benefit of living in a room above your garage, affectionately known as the Tree House, is having a nice view of the neighborhood's changing foliage.

I think I'm the only person I know who takes pictures of flowers and trees on a regular basis.

It's cool.

I don't know how much my neighbors appreciated my creepy afternoon photo-op, but leaves don't always change color in Texas. Some years they are green one day and dead and brown the next day with the first cool front.

This year the they are putting on quite a show.

A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books.
-Walt Whitman

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No Subject

I have been all over the place this week. Nothing was adding up to one cohesive post, so everyone is getting a random compilation from me today.

MG emailed me yesterday to point out that we had exercised for three consecutive days, so why not keep the dream alive and go for four? Since I've actually been in a pattern of losing, rather than gaining weight (as would be typical this time of year), I was on board with the plan. Last night we (BF, KS, MG and I) went to a Pilates class. Other women were shocked at our age, after assuming we were in high school (which I took as a compliment), and after an hour of torture our instructor pointed the four of us out and said that we need to be sure and make it back next week. Something about inflexibility and inability to hold the plank position for very long... or maybe it was the pained faces we were making at each other the whole time. Not sure.

I gave myself a break last night and after we returned home from class (followed up with a stop at Chipotle, let's be honest), I watched Twilight and read some of KS's magazines while she made homemade pecan pie. She is supposed to be delivering it to a very lucky young man today but it did not escape without us sampling it. Had to.

While reading recent issues of House Beautiful and Real Simple, I realized that I really have not taken time to explore the designer haven of Etsy. I like the idea of people being able to start out small with an online storefront as opposed to investing in actual real estate. It makes starting a small business more accessible. I love that.

In my reading I found out about a similar website, Foodzie, and now my eyes have been opened to all sorts of amazing gift ideas and things to try. Who wouldn't want an assortment of cheesecakes in jars, or skillet bacon jam? There is even a tab called "Discover" which finds you geographically and tells which vendors produce things locally in relation to you.

I leave tomorrow night to go to Houston, where I plan to see a few friends, enjoy a Friday off then head to College Station, where I attended college at Texas A&M for four years. I visited once after graduating but am sad to say that I have not been back in over two years now. AV, BF and KR will be driving down on Friday, so I'll meet them there in the evening for dinner, drinks and a favorite tradition of mine: Midnight Yell Practice. I cannot wait. College Station holds great memories for me and fostered a group of friends that has continued to grow and stay close even 2 1/2 years out of college.

A near afterthought is the fact that New Moon comes out this weekend and I have friends all aflutter with the ongoing Team Edward vs. Team Jacob debate. It's very heated and there are many compelling Vanity Fair photos making the case for each.

With writing, I find, you can have all the right ingredients, give plenty of time and care, and still get nothing. Also true of love. Cooking, therefore, can keep a person who tries hard sane.
-John Irving

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Dream


Sitting at a desk by a window... {maybe with some lovely hydrangeas?}


A woman, especially if she has the misfortune of knowing anything,
should conceal it as well as she can.
-Jane Austen

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Birthday Girl

A privilege of living with me includes receiving birthday tributes, so let me tell you a little bit about KS, who started her next quarter-century of life today!

There are many things you will never know about someone until you live with them. I know that KS leaves her beautiful blue topaz Yurman ring in random places throughout the house, kind of like a big Where's Waldo game, but it can most often be found in the china cup in out kitchen that holds the Splenda packets. She has ninja skills like knowing how to change a tire, assembling furniture that involves the use of power tools, swatting bugs with precision and applying flawless eyeliner. KS loves YouTube- I never knew the greatness of David After the Dentist or Kittens Inspired by Kittens until living under the same roof as her.

Thank you KS, for thinking I'm funny on occasion and for asking my opinion on things like fabric samples even though you have impeccable taste. You make people laugh at the most unexpected times. You are a calming presence and I admire your ability to be frustrated without getting angry- it's very lady-like.

Thanks for baking MG and I delicious things like homemade strawberry pie and sugar cookies and for introducing me to Tanqueray gin. I can't believe I was of legal drinking age for three years before ever trying a Tom Collins.

I love that you had polka dot tea cups and curtains displayed in our house before we even had a refrigerator, microwave or washer and dryer. Your penchant for polka dots is rivaled only by your love of monograms.

I'm jealous that you get to sleep later than I do and I'm convinced that you are always trying to put me to sleep when I am in your car by playing Ray LaMontagne.

I'm glad that you both make and understand nerdy Harry Potter references.

I'm sorry that MG and I bought you a baby turtle thinking it would be a fun gift for an animal-lover such as yourself, only to find out it's illegal and could give you salmonella poisoning. Our bad.

Happy 25th, KS. I think you are just wonderful.

A true friend is the most precious of all possessions and the one we take the least thought about acquiring.
-La Rouchefoucauld

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Women at Sporting Events: An Exposé

Let me tell you a little story about what happens when you give 11 girls suite tickets to an NBA game.

My friend BF invited our friends and Bible study girls to go to the Mavericks vs. Rockets game last night. The company she works for has season tickets to many Dallas sporting events, and she was granted sole use of their suite, including 12 tickets, at this game.

Job perks? Check.

We all met up and BF and LB were driving us to the game, each with a full car of girls talking a mile a minute. Once we got close to the American Airlines Center, traffic picked up and LB lost sight of BF's car. Turns out we were in a turn-only lane complete with a wall of orange cones to enforce the right turn, while we actually needed to drive straight to get to our parking garage. Traffic, mind you, was horrendous and there were pedestrians everywhere. LB stopped before turning, rolled down her window to talk to the police officer directing traffic, smiled and asked if he could get us to the gold parking garage.

The man literally stopped traffic for her, moved cones and directed her into the middle of the intersection where he guarded her car until he could let us through and told her exactly where to park. This same officer blew his whistle at a guy jogging and told him to get back on the sidewalk while we were waiting. LB, happy and universally adorable as she is, thanked him with such praise as: You're my hero! and my personal favorite: You're a pal!

Lesson learned: never underestimate the advantages of being a woman. It is a powerful, powerful thing.

I already knew it was going to be an entertaining evening, not only for the fact that we would be in a suite at a Maverick's game, but also because what on Earth was going to happen with 11 girls left unchaperoned at a sporting event? It's almost confusing to people to see a bunch of women together to watch game. Shouldn't we have been dragged there by dads, husbands, boyfriends or dates?

How quickly you forget that girls will go anywhere that involves some level of sitting around, eating and socializing. Especially if you want to give us VIP entrance access and popcorn.
CC and her roommate AH were already exchanging fighting words over gmail- CC being a Dallas native and Mavericks fan; AH being a San Antonio native, NBA photographer and a Spurs fan. They are the greatest of friends, let me tell you, but they are both fiercely loyal and their NBA team rivalry is actually one of the only things they ever argue about. Thank goodness we weren't playing San Antonio or else I think we would have had to put them in separate camps.

The suite had two tables, one short and one tall, and eight chairs in the middle with a huge flat- screen T.V., then several stools and seats where you could sit and watch the game. I figured there would be lounging at the tables- girls hanging out and catching up without paying so much attention to the game hoopla, kind of how women typically congregate in the kitchen when you go to someones house and while guys watch the game.

Would you believe that every girl present eschewed network television to watch the game the entire time?

Believe it.

Of course we were chatting about life, guys, KK's impending wedding and there was talk of whether or not the tight-rope walker at half-time had reproductive capabilities after having so many unfortunate falls on the rope, but all in all everyone knew what was going on. KR and I even discussed possibly coordinating a double-date between she, Kris Humphries, Dirk Nowitzki and myself.

I honestly would not have guessed that 11 girls would be so into a basketball game. I would have predicted more bonding over Diet Cokes inside the suite, roaming around the club level, possibly browsing pink and white Nowitzki jerseys and leaving early. There was none of that, though KR did spy the dessert cart sometime during the third quarter. CC and I have a long-standing bond over our love for the Mavericks, so we sat together during the fourth quarter having a tête-à-tête to analyze our new players added this season, who on the team has shown improvement, etc. I even consider that to be quite normal though because we've been to so many games together over the years.

I've definitely been at sporting events before and heard girls mess up in asking which quarter/inning/set/period the game is in. For example, asking: Which quarter is it? at a baseball game. Along those lines would also be: Did we win? -or- Who are we playing again? How much time is left? Who has the ball? The kind of questions which make guys roll their eyes and wonder why they brought girls along in the first place. We had none of that- I was so proud.

It was a generous gesture of BF's employer to let us use his tickets- that's not the kind of thing we get to do every day and it was enjoyed by all parties... except for maybe the tight-rope guy.

He's still recovering.

Winning may not be everything, but losing has little to recommend it.
-Dianne Feinstein

Monday, November 9, 2009

Earlier Every Year

If you have had the slightest brush with retail since Halloween, you've seen that stores have their Christmas decorations out already. Everyone acts like it's so outrageous whilst secretly not skipping Mariah Carey's All I Want For Christmas Is You when it pops up on shuffle in November.

My roommates and I ventured over to the Knox-Henderson shopping area of Dallas Sunday afternoon and watched it go from light to dark from the inside of Pottery Barn. Translation: we were there for about an hour and half with two detour visits to the Apple store by MG. KS was analyzing the sofa selection, seeing as we plan to have a Christmas party next month and still need to furnish our front room. KS is knowledgeable about furniture and knew to quiz the sales staff on how many times the covers had been pre-washed, how long each fabric grade would take to make, if the cushions could be ordered overstuffed, if the sofa came in other sizes than those on the floor, etc. I don't think I can ever make a major furniture decision without her again.

During her inspection I found new lampshades for my bedside table lamps (the ones they came with were cheap and dented) and ornaments with our initials on them for our impending Christmas tree purchase. While perusing the store I also came across bedside tables that I loved at first sight and momentarily deluded myself into thinking they would be a wise purchase. Thankfully MG was nearby affixing silver holiday bird clips onto various baskets and voice-of-reasoned me out of the purchase.

KS, while also getting her sofa questions answered by two Pottery Barn personnel, managed to find Christmas presents for both of her brothers and also something I can best describe only as bark hurricanes. Here is a picture of the candle version to give you an idea:

Time to spare at Pottery Barn is a dangerous thing indeed. MG and I inspected all of the holiday decor, she discovered little fur wine holders (I am terrible at naming Pottery Barn inventory) and I found oversized silver glass ornaments which I envisioned hanging from the ceilings with rich, red satin ribbon.

I looked at a bag of pine cones and automatically flashed forward to a month from now, thinking: Will I need these? Can I fill a glass container with them and set them on my mantle? We don't even have a fireplace, or a mantle for that matter. Where will the stockings go? How will Santa get in?

I think our prospective Christmas party might send MG fleeing for the hills after Thanksgiving. Her eyes get big and terrified each time she spots my copy of Williams Sonoma: Holiday Entertaining. I emailed the two of them last week about invitations and slid in MG's co-coaches and non-favorite people on the list just to see if I could get a laugh. Amusing, no?

It might be no accident if I slip some Peppermint Schnapps into her hot chocolate. That is, if it dips below 75 degrees long enough to warrant hot beverages at a Christmas party.

Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
-Hamilton Wright Mabie

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Literary Cardio

While doing my requisite 45 minutes of cardio activity on the elliptical at the gym tonight, I brought a book to distract me from the repetitive motion and fluorescent lighting.

In front of the digital timer and calorie-counter I placed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a novel which popped onto my radar when MG said she read it in two days, she found it so enjoyable.

Short story tiny, the fictional book is comprised entirely of correspondence written between a writer, Juliet, to friends in British territories after World War II, and to a group of people she does not know personally on the island of Guernsey. Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands off the coast of France, and the historical context of the book includes the fact that the people there were essentially cut off from outside communication and news for five years during the war.

Five whole years.

No internet.

No newspapers.

No tweets or texts.

All they had were books and each other.

Maybe I should cut myself off from communication and focus on writing with this much cleverness; anyone who can make me smile or laugh with their written words is a winner in my book. I can only hope to do the same for others one day...

From Juliet to Sophie

"Now, about Markham V. Reynolds (Junior). Your questions regarding that gentleman are very delicate, very subtle, very much like being smacked in the head with a mallet. Am I in love with him? What kind of a question is that? It's a tuba among the flutes, and I expect better of you. The first rule of snooping is to come at it sideways..."

A tuba among the flutes. I love it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Stirring the Pots

Most of what I cook is inspired by something I have had at a restaurant or someone's home.

I love to recreate dishes I have enjoyed and I search cookbooks and online recipe sources and menus for what I want. Even then I add and subtract ingredients as I see fit because I love herbs, spices and all things garlic-related. If you ask me for a recipe I'll be able to recite the ingredients but never the amounts- that's not how I operate. The exception to this would be baking, obviously, and anything my paternal grandmother made, God rest her soul, especially around this time of year for Thanksgiving. Homemade cornbread stuffing and broccoli cheese casserole are not walks in the proverbial culinary park, and I don't take liberties with her old recipes because they are sacred and already perfect.

In addition to enjoying time in the kitchen, I am also a cookbook junkie. I was at my friend LS and her husband's apartment recently and while she and other friends were whipping up chocolate peanut butter cupcakes for football-watching men-folk, I was pouring through the enviable collection of Williams-Sonoma cookbooks she received as weddings gifts.

I know you're thinking I need help but you've probably never tried truly delicious chilaquiles verdes, have you?

Anyway, in the interest of shelf space and reviewing my options, I also enjoy finding good online sources for recipes. For example, I recently discovered that the magazine Texas Monthly has a great online archive of recipes; many from Texas chefs.

One of my favorite online recipe sources for over a year now has been The Pioneer Woman's blog. KS and I made a variation of her breakfast burritos for a hungry crowd at literally four in the morning after our friend HA's wedding and the party-fatigued people were pleased.

Pioneer Woman has a huge following and just had a cookbook published, which I obviously took care of pre-ordering weeks ago from Amazon and received with glee from the hands of my postman on Saturday morning. Most of the down time I had this weekend was spent sitting on our couch with her cookbook in my lap, reading all of her hilarious commentary about her family and their life on a ranch in rural Oklahoma. I'm still deciding which recipe to try first and hoping that the Grocery Store Fairy will magically stock my kitchen with all necessary ingredients to make PW's great-looking lasagna. I'm getting over my fear of failure with recipes involving yeast and specific measurements, so hopefully I'll get to her cinnamon rolls one day soon as well.

The Pioneer Woman may never know this but she is a bit of a celebrity amongst Dallas girls my age. Something about being unfailingly funny and having a great husband and four kids; finding a sense of humor in everyday situations and loving food.

Yeah, suddenly her appeal makes perfect sense.

She probably also doesn't know that we'll be at her book-signing in Dallas next month, but if she's wondering about the 20-something clan of girls staring at her with star-struck awe and saying "you are my hero!" I can pretty much guarantee that's us.

Anyone hungry yet?

I hope you get a kick out of this book of mine. I hope it makes you smile. I hope the recipes bring you recognition, accolades, and marriage proposals. And I hope it encourages even the most harried urban cook to slow down, relish the joys of family, nature, and great food, and enjoy life.

-Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman Cooks