Saturday, September 12, 2009

Thai Food Rocks!

I rocked a Thai kitchen tonight. Thanks to the random guy's recipe I found on the internet. It is awesome!!! I made a couple of small changes because I was trying to replicate a dish we've had before. One of our favorite Thai restaurants here in Dallas closed, and this was one of the things we usually craved of theirs. Luckily random guy cooks a lot like Star of Siam...Thanks, Random Guy!

Nam Sad (Thai Pork Salad)
Yield: 4 Servings with lettuce leaves

3 Boneless pork chops -- trim fat, grind - or use 1 lb lean ground pork
1/4 c Red onion -- chopped
1/4 tsp Red Cayenne pepper
1 Tbl Fresh ginger root -- about 1 " long
10 Stalks Cilantro - Chopped
1/4 c Peanuts, unsalted, chopped
3 Tbl Lime juice - from 3-4 limes
2 tsp Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 sm Serrano chile -- chopped fine
1/4 tsp Salt
crisp lettuce leaves

In a skillet, sauté the ground pork. Add peanuts when pork is almost cooked, stirring often. When pork is done, drain and discard the liquid. In a glass bowl, combine pork, peanuts and other ingredients. Salt to taste. Place lettuce leaves on serving plate and put mixture on lettuce. Garnish with cilantro.

Serve while Nam Sad is warm.

Nam Pla can be purchased in Asian food stores.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mattress Mania

Never say we aren't efficient. It only took 3 store visits and about 5 hours to purchase a mattress this weekend/week. It took us less time to buy a car, or a house, for that matter. Craaazy. After one night of sleep (can you believe we had that sucker in our house at 8pm last night, a mere 8 hours post-purchase?) I respectfully reserve judgement. Marshall was not so tactful. How can a pair of very intelligent, practical people screw up something so simple? By overthinking. We should have gone with the less expensive one that we both liked, but that seemed, well, too simple. Instead we weighed the advantages of component materials against longevity, examined the fabric on the top for breathability, and stepped on the coil samples the salesman proudly displayed. And after an hour of discussion the 1" of memory foam in the less expensive one paled in comparison to the 2.5" of the one we ended up with. Which is why my hindquarters were a full 2.5" lower than the rest of my body all night, and Marshall woke up with "tingly feet." It will be an interesting 30 days.

p.s. we promptly encased that breathable, cashmere-infused fabric topped mattress with a stain-proof, allergy-reducing, heat-inducing cover. read: plastic. Is $119 too much to spend for one night with said cover?

The fun part of all of this is the imminent redecoration of our bedroom. Having gone from a queen to a king size bed, all the existing linens, and the bed itself, are history. Right now there's nothing but a set of white sheets on the bed. I'm so excited! A designer's dream is a blank slate. I do have some bedding on order, which, being blue this time, necessitates a full repaint, redrape and reaccessorization. WAHOOOOO!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sparking It

In the ever-present phase of dieting, I'm (once again) loving SparkPeople.
It's been 3 weeks now, and I feel really reassured and confident that getting healthy (and smaller) is doable. I just input my foods, and voila, instant calorie count and nutritional info. I desperately need to enter in some exercise hours. Big, huge hole in the chart right now!! Soon to be rectified....

Now, on to fun things. Cookies for grandma. We're going to see Mema in a while and I think cookies are in order. (not that I shall EAT any beyond quality testing, mind you.) I find it ironic that my blog today includes both my dieting website and a cookie recipe.

Here's what I did.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chippers

1 cup oat flour (you may put oats in the food processor to get this if you can't find the flour)
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (or 1 cup packed brown sugar)
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup freshly ground peanut butter (be sure to use natural if it's jarred. you don't want any extra sugar and salt.)
2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Cream the sugars and butter in a mixer until fluffy, add the vanilla and peanut butter and mix well. Add eggs, beating after each addition. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture in 2-3 parts, beating well to combine. Stir in chocolate chips.

Because these cookies have so much flour, they don't spread. There are two ways to cook these. I tried both, and really like the appearance of the scoop method. #1 - Scoop with a mini scoop and place on cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, then press the cookies with the back of a spatula to flatten into 1/2" rounds. Continue to cook until brown. I like these better because they have a more uneven appearance, which is just overall more pleasant and interesting. They are also crispier on the outside and cakier in the middle. Method #2 will produce a crispier, flatter cookie. For these I rolled them into 1-1/2" balls and flattened on the cookie sheet before placing in the oven. They are uniformly smooth. To each his own...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Movie Night

Went to see Julie & Julia tonight. It was a blast. Although I'm an avid reader of Entertainment Weekly (who didn't love the movie) and I knew what to expect, it was still very enjoyable. Have to admit though, the Julia voice BUGGED. Found myself smiling just a little too hard at those parts...headache inducing smiles. Meryl Streep nailed the Julia. That woman is astonishing. The movie really restarted that cooking itch I get so frequently. It's been too hot and wild to cook lately. But it's about time again. Monday night I cracked open a jar of spaghetti sauce, boiled up some freezer ravioli and tore up some romaine. And my poor, sweet, deprived family actually gushed. M - "Thanks for cooking, honey!" G- "You made my favorite dinner, Mom." Gi- "Yum." Glad to know I haven't lost my culinary genius.

So, I've taken a little break from the blog lately. Just too, too crazy around here. Very ready to get back to it. I find myself composing little entries in my head, usually while in the shower or putting on mascara. For some reason mascara application is an introspective time for me. Gillian starts school next week, and Gabe the following week. In my delusional, end-of-summer frazzle I find myself wishing for the routine of the school year. I'll have to revisit this in 2 weeks and see if it holds.

What shall I cook on Sunday??

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Baking, anyone?

So, yesterday and today I've fulfilled the ever-present urge to bake. After all, I will soon have a captive group of tasters. Instead of trying something new I went with the ole tried-and-true crowd pleasers.

Coke Cake: This is the ultimate cake for ease of transportation and bang for your buck. Plus it's amazing. This recipe came from my friend Mendy about 10 years ago, and it's been one of my go-to's ever since.

Preheat oven to 350-deg and lightly grease a 13x9 cake pan.
Combine the following in a large bowl.
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar

Melt the following in a saucepan. When melted, pour the mixture over the dry ingredients and stir well.
2 sticks butter
3 Tbl. cocoa
1 cup Coke

Add these ingredients to the bowl of chocolate heaven and mix very well.
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 beaten eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
1-1/2 cup marshmallows

Pour into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Don't overbake! The success of this cake depends on it being moist!

Now, the icing. Towards the end of the baking time, combine the following ingredients in the saucepan and melt to combine.
1 stick butter
3 Tbl. cocoa
6 Tbl. Coke
Remove from heat and add
1 box of powdered sugar
1 cup chopped pecans.
Mix well, and pour this icing over the hot cake when it comes out of the oven. Let sit for about an hour. Every hour it sits only makes it better and better....

Second, Bran Muffins, sometimes called Six-Weeks Muffins:
Supposedly this mix will stay in your fridge, unbaked, for up to 6 weeks. I've never tried it and can't imagine our family could wait that long. These usually get scarfed up pretty quickly. However, it makes a HUGE batch. As in, the biggest mixing bowl you have might not accomodate this recipe. So plan to be creative. You could buy a giant plastic popcorn bowl, or I use a giant aluminum bowl that's probably 18" in diameter. You can find these at Walmart, Target etc.

1 15oz. box of Wheaties or Bran Flakes cereal, or use Raisin Bran if you like raisins.
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups sugar
4 beaten eggs
1 quart of buttermilk
5 cups flour ( I use white and wheat combined, about 1/2 of each)
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients in your gigantic bowl. Add beaten eggs, oil and milk. Mix well and store in tightly covered bowl or canister. Bake at 400-deg for 15-20 minutes. This will make about 4 dozen smallish muffins, so it's perfect for brunches or showers.

Tomorrow we leave for vacation, so I won't be posting for a while, only eating and hiking and fishing and drinking. Ta ta!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Shutters are up!

No picture yet, I lost my daylight. Plus, I'm really hoping to get that door done in 2 weeks. That will be a much better "after" picture. (But they do look great!) We are exhausted from all the home improvements. I was thinking we were in terrific shape for laundry, packing etc tomorrow, then leaving on Wednesday. Then we actually talked and figured out what each of us wants to accomplish tomorrow, and the outlook is a tad different. I think I'm headed to bed right now, since there's a full day ahead tomorrow....

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rain delay

Well well...never anticipated RAIN. Shutters are moved into the garage and are drying, with the help of fans. Hopefully I can paint today after all. My back is killing me after priming yesterday, and painting the porch rail. Marshall fixed the fence too, so we were pretty productive!

Last night we went to the boat club for July 4th festivities. It was really fun. There was a bluesy band playing, and hot dogs and burgers and all kinds of pot luck sides. Out on the dock it wasn't too hot - at least there was a breeze. We caught fireworks from 3 different locations over the lake, plus all the illegal displays along the shore of the lake. After Gillian figured out where to look for the fireworks (over the tree line), she narrated each and every color, for every one of the 30 minutes we watched. Love the little voice, tired of the frequency sometimes. Today everyone is very tired. We had a meager breakfast of freezer waffles, as somehow we've blown through all the groceries this week lightening fast. I blame Gabe, who we cannot seem to fill up lately. Probably a foreshadow of years to come.

We're looking forward to Big Cedar! Every day Gabe asks for the countdown. He has taken to randomly announcing to strangers how "We're going to Big Cedar on Wednesday!" I pray none of those people have robbery in their hearts, 'cause if so we'll be cleaned out on Wednesday. Poor little Tucker will have to hold down the fort.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Before, Blah!

Drug the whole family to Lowe's tonight for 2 hours. Can't believe the kids hung with us. Got interior trim paint to touch up and repaint doors, spray paint which should look like hammered metal for the porch railing (we'll see - can't be any worse than what's already out there) and exterior paint in a rich, dark brown for the shutters and front door. My vision for this house has always been a creamy white trim with black accents, but after really studying it I went with dark brown. There's a ton of siding on the sides of the house that will need to be replaced very soon, so with the new trim color hopefully it will look much fresher.

We have already replaced the exterior lanterns with a larger, bronze style, and had the front steps redone. I have vintage round brass door knobs which are killer. They came off a giant mansion in Highland Park that was being demolished. I knew the person who bought the house and she said I could take them. They've been waiting patiently in the garage for 2 years. We are also removing those ceiling medallions some kook put on the doors, and dressing the doors out with a nice rectangle of panel moulding. Clean and simple. I can't wait to see how it all looks put together.

So...above is the "before" of the house (during happier landscaping times.) It's not totally offensive, just really boring. Blah. I said 6 years ago how the house needed contrast and have intended ever since to do something about it. We are such procrastinators! However - we are planning to wake up early tomorrow and get a start on those shutters. After picture to come, hopefully soon...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Today was my Friday equivalent. Hectic day, lots accomplished, and Saturday is tomorrow, right? Nope, just feels that way. No worky again until Monday. ahh, summer. I believe we have finally pinned down Client into committing to a few things. AND it only took 4 months. per fabric. whew. All our vendors are just trying to stay in business while Client vassilates wildly on which gold fabric is ideal for the fireplace chairs. Vendors have taken to calling, daily, essentially begging for an order. (so, so sad. bad industry to be in sales right now!) While in the grips of indecision, massively important design features (lovely onyx slabs) have gone away to other houses, never to be seen again. And the work starts over.

Not my problem. For 4 days I'll be playing with my family. Tomorrow, after a doctor checkup in which I fully expect to be spanked, I'll be free to play, read, and do laundry. Piano at 4pm, then pool at 5! Friday we'll gear up for some household projects, namely painting. M and I decided painting was the easiest and cheapest way to make a difference around here in a short time. He keeps saying "I have a whole week off to do home projects," when in reality Saturday is July 4th, Sunday is church, Monday I work so he'll be on kid-watch, then Tuesday is free. Wednesday we leave on vacation. Which one wall do you think will be painted on Tuesday?

Here's my essential paint list: shutters, front door, trim touch up (like, everywhere). I'd also love to prep the foyer for wallpaper but might just deal with painting away the stripes. That was a good idea in theory, just never finished it out. Update to come.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wedding Weekend

Well, I'm still recovering from the fun and craziness that was Mendy's wedding. Yes, it's Tuesday, and I haven't posted in a long time, but hey. I think I only have 2 followers. No pressure. HA!

Just a few notes on the wedding before moving on to my gripe o' the day. Mendy looked radiant, despite the 107-degree Austin day. Yup, you read that correctly. I figure at 7pm it had dropped to around 105. Nobody fainted and Amy (maid of honor) stood still through the wedding with ants crawling on her feet. She gets a huge round of applause from me for that one. The Barr Mansion is lovely, but what made the wedding was the "ballroom" they have behind the mansion. It is timbered, with lovely paper lanterns and bell lanterns hanging from the rafters. White lights crept up all the columns. The wedding flowers mixed the ambiance of Austin-rustic with the elegance of a lovely wedding. Beautiful orange flowers were placed in various aluminum vessels, such as buckets of different shapes and sizes. Some tables had tall wrought-iron candelabras. All the tables had a covering of burlap bordered with the chocolate brown silk of the wedding party's dresses. It was an attractive, interesting mix. And the cake. Oh, the cake. yum.

So, gripe o' the day. My skin looks dirty. That #@%$ spray tan. My clients will think I cannot reach my toes to wash properly. Since my feet were entirely orange, any lessening of the intensity has created a mottled discoloration. ew. And lets not even talk about the area that was rubbed by my lingerie. Serious leprosy. So. The $7 Olay Touch-of-Sun gradual self-tanning cream was working out wonderfully for me, and I think I'll just stick to it the rest of the summer. Better to be white than orange. Maybe my husband can stop calling me Daffy now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Drinks Database


Here's a summer entertaining tip:

Esquire Magazine has a Drinks Database on their website. Search by drink name, alphabetically, by liquor ingredient, or just browse for fun new ideas!

Have one on me!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Best Brownies Ever

I made brownies yesterday for Marshall (with Andes Mint chips inside, his favorite), but since I was down to one stick of butter I couldn't make my favorite recipe, the one below. Instead I used a recipe that calls for oil. They are ok. But they are nothing like THESE. These are stand over the pan with a fork good, don't stop eating until you're sick then come back for one more bite good. It's gotta be the butter, or the extra vanilla. These have a perfect crunchy crust on top, and a thick fudgey center which is positively criminal. I have made these for years to rave reviews. Don't be fooled by the mundane ingredient list, they're really, really special. and addictive.

Hershey's Deep Dish Brownies
(thanks to

1-1/2 sticks butter, melted
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract (use the real kind!)
3 eggs
1/2 cup Hershey's Cocoa
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350-deg. Grease 8" square pan. Combine butter, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Add eggs, beat well with spoon. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Spread batter evenly into pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes.

Often I add chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, toffee bits, Andes Mint pieces, etc. Although plain is still my favorite, these additions are fun to play with.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Today is a good day. Partly because we all slept ALL night, which hasn't happened since last Saturday, but also because I have my girl back. Her virus is mainly gone and her spunk and giggles have returned. I was once again reminded how emotionally wearing it is when your little ones are sick. Not just with a cold, but really, really sick so they only want to sleep and cannot even smile. It must be the worst thing in the world to have a permanently sick child. I know every day that it continued I went deeper and deeper into depression, until by Wednesday I was just spent. My heart just goes out to all the parents dealing with that.

So, we are rested, Gilly is better, Sara and Larry are coming for the weekend (to stay with Jeff) and we'll have a nice Fathers Day weekend. and I am very grateful for the blessings of health and family.

I am also getting very excited about Mendy's upcoming wedding! My minor preparations are taken care of. Shoes - check. Dress - tomorrow. Tanning appointment - check. Mendy's dress is hanging in her guest room and it's beautiful. She will be a lovely, graceful bride. On a selfish note we are so excited to have an adult only getaway (Mom and Dad are keeping G&G), but also I am so excited that this wonderful friend has found someone who makes her happy! That was long overdue. Just goes to show that good things come to those who wait.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Gearing up for Gardening

Well, the weekend approaches, and the chore list is being developed as we speak. Of course, there won't be that many chores, because it's Father's Day Weekend! It's probably not that appropriate to make a giant honey-do list for this particular weekend. With that in mind, however, here's a little contraption that's helpful for both yourself and your Dad/Hubby. So if you left the gift buying to the last minute, and you have a gardener to buy for, you can go to Ace Hardware or Target or Sears and pick up one of these. I would suggest it NOT come with a chore list. Not at first, anyway.

This is a rolling tool box, which functions as a handy bench. It's available from Sears or Kmart . It's called the Step 2 Garden Hopper Work Seat, and it's $29.99.

This folding seat and tool bag can be purchased online at, sku #JETLTK104 for $27. Of course, if you need it by this weekend, we purchased one just like it at the local Ace Hardware for the same price, just last week.

This one is from Target. It's slightly more expensive, but also slightly fancier. I like how it looks a little taller and has more tools. It's only available online for $39.99, but if you don't need it as a gift for the weekend...
Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Luscious Lamps

So, let's face it. There's not that much you can do in designing a lamp. But these guys did surprise me a bit. Lately I've grown so bored seeing the same ole same ole everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE. It's like Target knocked off the high-end designers, but then the high-end designers didn't come out with anything new. So everything's the same! (Which is kinda great for us gals on a budget, but not that great for us designers trying to place stylish accessories in clients homes. They don't want Target!)

First, the Moon Glow Lamp by Barbara Barry. I love how you can light the base separately for soft lighting, and comes with a dimmer switch. It is the perfect scale for a bedside, 28.5" high.

The "U-Fill-It" Lamp. This one stands 33" high and is made to be a focal-point, as in living room or family room. I see all sorts of possiblities here, from sea shells in the summer to berries in the winter. A nice transitional style, this would fit in almost any decor.

The Kate Table Lamp, by Alexa Hampton. Love the simplicity. At 24-26" high, this is perfect for a console, piano, bookshelf, desk, etc.

These great looking lamps are from Circa Lighting. It's a great resource that I use all the time!

Don't forget to check their Web Specials area for some fabulous finds with deep discounts!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Clothespin Photos, Adult Style

Pottery Barn has made this idea famous, but I love this much more sophisticated way of doing it. Any good print or reprographics shop can put your photos onto watercolor paper or cardstock, so the paper will hang stiffly.

That's all for today. I've got a really sick kiddo who has cried ALL day. Poor little thing, she celebrated her 3rd birthday party by getting 102-deg fever and the hand-foot-mouth virus. Ick! It must be terribly painful because she keeps wailing, "I feel sooo bad!" Which, of course, just breaks your heart when it comes out of that tiny mouth. Must go mother now...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Pink Party Pictures

Happy Gillian, with her Birthday Crown headband, princess shirt and pink cupcake with pink candles! Happy 3rd Birthday!

After about an hour of swimming we had burgers and hot dogs, chips and watermelon, with cokes and pink lemonade, of course. (well, that was mainly the kiddos.) Here's Gillian with Auntie Annette.

Gillian explaining why we didn't actually have fire on the pink candles. (because it was too windy was the official explanation, because Mommy forgot matches was the real reason.) We had two varieties of cupcake, strawberry with light pink buttercream frosting, and chocolate with a darker pink frosting. Gillian helped put the pink heart sprinkles on top. We also had little toothpick paper crowns to decorate with, and, of course, the pink princess muffin cups. Because we were at the pool I elected not to bring out my crystal cake stand. But that would have been precious!
On the tables, before lunch, I had Oreos with pink filling, the Princess Pops and Princess fruit snacks, and a giant bowl of cut-up watermelon. All pink, all the time! The kids took swimming breaks and snacked before we had lunch. You can barely see the pops in ziplocs on the table, as well as the Princess Fruit Snack package.

Treat bags for boys and girls... The Girl bags were a cinch. They contained more Princess fruit snacks, wands, irridescent bracelets and necklaces, soft peppermint candies in pink wrappers that said "Princess," and peppermint lollipops that I made in a Princess Crown mold. I found those at Cake Carousel, where I bought the pink chocolate melting chips and lollipop sticks. They were so cute. Unfortunately they were a little melty by the end of the party. Boy bags had a "Sorcerer Wand," aka baton, and sporty boy bracelets instead of the jewelry and princess wands. Annette brought these cute animal hats, which the kids loved. Not so princess-themed, but a big hit!

I think the best thing about this party was the kids felt free to come to the tables and grab a cookie, or piece of watermelon and a pink lemonade juice pouch during swimming time. So there was a very relaxed atmosphere (think pool!). After lunch, while the kids were still gathered around the tables, I brought the cupcakes out of the fridge and you would have thought I'd just presented them with the queen's own tiara, to hear the oohs and aahs and see the smiles. That made the 4 hours in the kitchen worth it. Of course, the time with Gillian "helping" in the kitchen was pretty fun too.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Strawberry-Banana Muffins

As promised, I couldn't help but experiment with an old favorite recipe this week. My banana bread recipe is a favorite with my husband and kids. Here it is, jazzed up a tad. The sweet bananas contrast with the tart strawberries (although the berries are pretty sweet, now, in season.) The butter gives the muffin a cake-like texture - much better than banana breads with oil. Those are dense, but I wanted a lighter bite. These are great as biggies for breakfast, or minis for dessert, afternoon coffee, or in a kids lunch box. Enjoy!

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
3 bananas, mashed with a fork
1 cup finely chopped strawberries (pulse frozen berries in a food processor until fine)
2 cups flour (mix with next two ingredients in a separate bowl)
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350-deg. Cream together butter and sugar in a mixer. Add the well beaten eggs and mix again. Combine the mashed bananas and strawberries and add, mixing just until incorporated. Add the flour, soda and salt mixture and mix well. The batter will be thick. Place in paper-lined muffin cups, 3/4 full. Bake for 20-22 min for mini muffins, or 26-28 min for regular muffins, until toothpick comes out clean. Makes approx 18 regular muffins or 36 minis.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

West Texas Weekend: Lajitas Resort

Look at this great place I found. Well, found in cyberspace, that is. But I plan to go as soon as we are able. The 8 hr drive from Dallas doesn't seem so bad when you factor in the cost, beauty and remoteness of this little gem. Of course, for a weekend getaway, flying is probably preferable. But I'm putting this on the calendar for next Spring Break and taking the whole crew. Imagine how pretty the weather will be in March!

Lajitas Resort, between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, along the Rio Grande. (Close to Marfa, Texas, another place I've been dying to visit. But that's another blog.)


Lobby Casita - sleeps 6

One of the many guestroom types

where I would park myself while Marshall
took the kids horseback riding

Spa Golf

La ed on FM 170 between the Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch

Organic Decor

One of the first things we learn as an interior design major is that unexpected is interesting. Not wacky, off-the-wall unexpected, but the kind of surprise that's pleasing to the eye. One of the best, most pleasantly surprising things in a room is often organic: shape, color, texture, made in nature. That's why it's so important, in my opinion, to incorporate a little of the outside, in.

I was great about this when I was newly married, childless, straight out of college with that design degree in hand. We had a creeping rose on the back fence and I would cut tiny little red roses and place them in assorted vases all over our little house. Now, if I put something like that out, it would be covered in papers immediately, or carted off to become part of a Lego invention. Somewhere along the years the clutter just took over. My organic is now dust bunnies. However, I vow that will change!

Here's a look at some great, real, ways to bring in the softness of nature. Notice these are not florist-designed arrangements. Rather, real people collected these sprigs and stems from their yards and markets and put them in beautiful vessels. Not hard!

Greenery from the yard or garden. I love the "messiness" of this arrangement.
These are perfect for the kitchen, and useful. The decor should be appropriate to the use of the room.

Clean and simple. Pick up a bag of lemons at the store next time you go.
Hard not to love the simplicity here.

Cut some seasonal blooms and put them in the vase that you're probably already using for decor.

A real person who enjoys their bedroom. These little flowers can be purchased at the supermarket, and any little clear glass vase or bowl can be found in your house, somewhere. Softness is especially important in the bedroom - a place that most of us forget to seasonally decorate.

Pink Party prep

Strawberry Treat by Thorsten (TK)

Berry season is here! I cannot even tell you how many pints of strawberries, blueberries and blackberries are being consumed around here. It is the mainstay of Gillian's diet lately. LOVE them! Here's a short list of what we're doing with them:
in yogurt, with and without granola
in cereal
in cottage cheese
on ice cream
with whipped cream
dipped in chocolate (oh yes!)
baked in breads and muffins* - recipe to come
in cobblers and pies

I am really working on a savory component that would incorporate some kind of berry. Suggestions?

Speaking of strawberries, we have a big ole party coming up. We are having fun planning Gillian's "pink" party! Her third birthday is Friday, and I cannot believe it. Meanwhile, while I'm in denial, we've been assembling a cache of pinkness. We found Oreos with pink filling, pink princess candies, pink candles, pink magic wands, pink necklaces, candy molds for pink princess popsicles, and a great recipe for pink strawberry cupcakes. I will try my hand at those Friday. update to come.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Summer Games

One of Gabe's teachers sent home some lists of games to play over the summer.  There are online and board games which she recommends, all that use different creative and critical thinking skills.  We've been trying, as a family, to play more board games lately, especially with our budget shrinking and our kids' brains developing.  So far we have had great success with Sorry and Jenga.   I am looking forward to working our way down this list.  

If you have any suggestions of others, please let me know!

1.  PDQ, by Gamewright.  The pretty darn quick word game.
2.  Quiddler, by Set Enterprises.  A short word game.
3.  Whatzit?, by Milton Bradley.  
4.  Taboo, by Milton Bradley
5.  Oodles of Doodles, by Think Fun.  The fast drawing use your noodle game.
6.  Apples to Apples, by Out of the Box Games.  A game of hilarious comparisons.
7.  Guess Who?, by Milton Bradley.  The original mystery face guessing game.
8.  I Spy Eagle Eye, by Scholastic.
9.  Blink, by Out of the Box Games.  A game of matching shape, count or color of cards.
10.  Matching Madness, by Cranium.  Matching shapes, patterns, numbers and colors.
11.  Blokus, by Educational Insights.  A strategy game for the whole family.  A Worldwide award winner!  (also highly recommended by Gabe's Reach teacher.)

Online Brain Games for Kids
1.  DANA - --
Check out the "Brainy Kids Online" section for games and activities, as well as a "virtual lab" to help your child learn more about the human brain.

2.  Games for the Brain -  -- From Mahjongg Solitaire and Chinese Checkers to trivia games and crime scene scenarios, there's a wide variety.

3.  Fun Brain - -- Web books and comics, movies, and classic fun brain games to keep kids interested.

The tutoring section of the site offers educational games for kids, as well as word puzzles, language builders, online stories, online musical games and mazes.

5.  LearningRx - -- Offers free downloadable copies of Think Magazine and LearningRx Magazine that contain fun brain-building games to take on the road or use at home.

6. - -- A world of math online.  Games including Peg Solitaire, a maze generator and other math-based games.

7.  Discovery Education -  -- See the Home Resources section for lessons and tutoring broken down by subject: math, science, social studies and English. 

8.  Kids Sites - -- A clearinghouse of sites that includes a section of games for younger kids.

9.  Cool Math 4 Kids - -- Touting itself as "an amusement park of math and more," this site offers math games, brain benders, math problems, a math dictionary, times tables and more.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Drinks O' the Summer

Recently I've been introduced to two drinks which are lovely, light and refreshing for summer.  Which brings to mind my favorite summer cocktail, sangria.  I believe I feel a craving coming on.  First - my fave, then my two newest acquisitions.  Try all three and let me know what you think!

White Sangria 
First, it's a cinch to make.  Second, for a party, you must make it ahead of time, and anything that is pre-made and allows you to have more fun at your party is just gravy.  I strongly suggest finding a beautiful large glass pitcher, as this is very pretty and you will want to show it off.   It is also the perfect drink for guests to serve themselves.  And they will, again and again.  Make a double-batch if you suspect thirsty friends.   You don't need to spend a bundle on the wine, but getting a decent bottle will only improve the final result.  If you get a nice dry wine you will need the 1 cup of sugar, but if your wine is sweeter, cut back a tad.

2 bottles Sauvignon Blanc
1 cup brandy
1 cup sugar
2 lemons, sliced
2 limes, sliced
1 apple, sliced
Combine all the above ingredients in a large pitcher and place in the refrigerator for 8 hours, or overnight.  Just before serving add 1 liter of sparkling water, preferably lemon or lime flavored.

The next two drinks are great for any time of day, should the party start early...

Sunny Drink   Thanks to John and Paula for this little gem.  
1 shot vodka
1 cup Sunny Delight orange drink
1 Tbl grenadine
splash Sprite

Pink Drink    Thanks to Mike and Elizabeth for this tart and refreshing bevvy.
1 shot vodka
1 cup Ruby Red LIGHT Grapefruit juice - made with Splenda
juice of 1/2 lime

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Park Pictures

We had a blast at the park with John, Paula and Autumn.  It's Martin Dies, Jr. State park, between Jasper and Woodville, and it's really beautiful.  

We went fishing (Gabe and Paula rode their bikes to the fishing pier.  Brave girl, Paula!) and hiking.  We saw alligators in the water and some beautiful birds.  (water fowl is the correct term, I believe.)  The only thing I hooked fishing was my head.  Indeed, casting proves to be trickier than one would think.  So far I have not developed the brain fever that I was sure would occur from the  bacteria-laden, lake water coated, fish-hook that I speared in the back of my scalp.  I guess Marshall and John were right when they said "Nah" in response to my question "should I put some antibacterial ointment on this?"  hmmmm.

On Sunday we went to the Snake Feeding at the Nature Center, and Gabe went to "snake school."  The Ranger there taught the kids all about the snake and how he eats.  Note the look on Gabe's face when that snake grabbed the mouse.  Whoa!  Something you don't see every day in Richardson!  

We did see about 4-5 in the water.  Crazy, though VERY interesting.  Luckily the park has spent a lot of time and energy figuring out how to keep them uninterested in humans.  There are leash signs all over the park - meaning you MUST keep your dogs on a leash at all times.  Apparently an alligator's favorite snack is dog.  Therefore, if a dog gets in the water the scent will attract the alligators.  Not a desirable swimming companion in the swimming hole!

We are looking forward to going back in August and spending some time in the mini-cabin.  It will take me that long to pack...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

On our way home now from camping, one night early. It is 8:40pm and we are an hour into our 4.5 hour trip home. Marshall has already gotten a speeding ticket for blowing though a small-town arbitrary 55mph zone where there was neither stoplight nor another car to be seen. Except, ironically, the police cruiser parked on the other side of that hill, waiting to pounce like a sadistic panther. The reason we've embarked on this self-punishing nighttime journey after a full day in the sun is this: last night Gabe told Gilly a story about bears in the state park. And sleep was over before it began. In his defense, he was just being sweet and telling her a bedtime story, as she'd asked. Unfortunately he is good at suspense. One day this will be all over and we will not have sweet little kids who will sleep together on an air mattress, their little bodies barely making a depression. So to see their little heads together on adjacent pillows, their little sibling selves whispering to each other in the dark...Almost makes up for 4 hours of sleep. Next time I will tell the story.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Camping Prep

Well, the duffel is packed, the air mattress is beside the door.  Yup, it's camping time.  Somehow I feel that we're taking much less than we will actually need.  I thought camping required all kinds of accutrements.  Yet while packing it felt almost, well, ridiculous, to pack an entire bag of different types of shoes.  More shoes than clothes, in fact.  I am just praying that Gillian will sleep and that John sprayed the everloving @#$ out of that shelter with bug spray, as he promised he would.  If she sees one bug it's bye-bye sleep for us.

We are so, so excited to see John, Paula and Autumn and to experience their new life at the Park.  Not so much about the alligators though.

One thing I have not forgotten is the pile of protective devices.  Bug spray, Sunscreen, chapstick, inhalers for the lung-challenged in our family, bug bite cream, assorted antihistimines, and fruit roll-ups (protection for adult ears).  Update to come Monday.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Argentinian Flank Steak with Chimichurri

This knocked our socks off, literally.  That is a LOT of garlic.  But, oh, man, people pay big bucks for this kinda thing in a restaurant, and all we had to buy was the steak.  I bet most of the stuff for marinade and chimichurri is already in your pantry/fridge.

Here's a picture of the chimichurri, which should last a few weeks in the fridge.  (The flank steak, alas, has already been polished off.)  We both agreed that the chimichurri was the most important component of the dish.  So if something has to give, make it be in the marinade and don't skip the chimi!  Note that the consistency is a cross between salsa and pesto.  There should be enough oil to spread around a little over the meat and on the plate.  You'll need something to dip that bread into, after all.

  • 1.5 lbs flank steak, pound with a meat tenderizer like you’re pissed off (Marshall's term)
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 1/3 c soy sauce
  • 2 Tbls red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ c honey
Marinate for three hours

Chimchurri (make 3 hours ahead, refrigerate)
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, packed
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • ½ c olive oil (1/4 cup cheap, ¼ cup good stuff)
  • ¼ c red wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt

Pulse  parsley and garlic in food processor until small chunks form.
Whisk in rest of ingredients and set aside.

Let steak come to room temperature.  Grill on Xtreme High Heat for 4 mins one side, 2 mins on the other.  Remove and rest for 10 mins.

Slice against grain.  Serves up medium rare, and really delicious.  Don’t skimp on the chimichurri sauce, just dump a couple spoonfuls right on the sliced meat. 

Next 24 hours: Avoid all vampires.  They will perish. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Don't you just love introducing kids to things from your childhood?  Take, for instance, candy.   Taste must be one of the simplest and most enthusiastic methods of transporting backwards in time.  When I think of lollipops, it is always either the Life Savers pops with the hole in the center (backseat of Dad's giant blue car, legs sticking to vinyl) or Tootsie Pops (Halloween.)  Didn't everyone learn to suck for a while, then gingerly test with the molars to see if it was ready to crack?  Sometimes you had to test more than once.  Gillian experienced her first Tootsie Roll center this weekend.   I took this moment very seriously.  It took some convincing, but she learned with her test bite that there was, indeed, a reward hidden in there.  and she was "ESCITED!"  Oh, to have recorded the look on that sweet face when she got that first chocolaty hit.  Here's a shot of her just moments before discovery.

Sometimes being a parent means you let your kids learn for themselves, and enjoy the laugh.  Like Nerds.  No, not the chess club, the candy.  The candy that is so potent sometimes your salivary glands explode a little.   Gabe gave me a good chuckle.  After his cheeks reinflated, he said "What is IN here?"  Then he bravely went back for more.    Atta boy.

Two lessons down, two hundred thousand to go.


Well, talk about a whim.  Everyone else has a blog, why not me?  
We'll seeeeee....