Tuesday, December 30, 2008

dust bunnies beware

I observed something interesting yesterday: I am much more inclined to dust my bedroom, put away my laundry, and Dyson the comforter if there is good music playing. It's just a fact. Yesterday I purchased Apple's iHome iP9 alarm clock. Once we had the thing plugged in and linked up to the iPod, I could listen to my favorite music without having the darn plugs in my ears. I proceeded to immediately clean my entire bedroom, a mission that migrated its way into the spare bedroom. There's something about hunting down dust bunnies to April March and Radiohead that makes hunting down dust bunnies so much more enjoyable.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


The Husband and I survived yet another Christmas. I have to admit that I'm enjoying this two-weeks-off thing that is bestowed upon the world of education. I think I may have needed it this year for the recovery process. The combination of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the whirlwind that ensues in our combined families is enough to make you want to spew eggnog. I love my family (and even the in-laws) so much that I hesitate to say that I'm happy the whole darn thing is over. It starts early Christmas Eve and ends late Christmas night with very little sleep in between. But lest you call me a Scrooge, I've come up with my own holiday list (which I've checked twice)...

The Best Things About Christmas 08:

1) Two weeks off (hands down, the BEST thing)
2) My new Dyson vacuum cleaner (there has to be at least one materialistic item)
3) My granddaddy's eggnog
4) Christmas morning with a giddy 4-year-old niece
5) S'mores with friends
6) Having a "blast from the past" with people I haven't seen in years at The Porch
7) NorthPark mall's holiday decorations
8) Driving through Highland Park with hot chocolate to look at mansion Christmas lights
9) My Nana's turkey dressing
10) Buying extremely inexpensive plane tickets for New York City in January

And we still have New Years in the hopper!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

visions of sugar plums

There's nothing like a bit of girl bonding time while making Christmas goodies. Yet another great memory of my childhood is eating raw cookie dough until my stomach hurt. The kids would eat so much there would barely be enough for the cookies. My sister, my mom, and my Nana got together recently to make our famous sugar cookies. (And yes, we ate more dough than cookies.) We even made powdered-sugar icing to coat the already sugar-laden morsals. I'm starting to wonder how much sugar I've consumed this season. It seems that everyday brings a new batch of candy, cookies, or cake...

Monday, December 15, 2008

no time (like the present)

I feel as though I've been neglecting everyone and everything. My laundry is piling up, the junk mail needs sifting, my friends in Austin probably think I'm dead, and my dog, Maggie, (above) hasn't been walked near enough. When I'm not researching something to teach my literature students or writing an article for the Dallas Morning News or grading essays or (lord help me) Christmas shopping, then I tend to want to spend my spare time reading a magazine or watching bad television (Mary Hart, you smile too much). I need a break so I can get caught up on chores and enjoy a slower-paced existence. The holidays can't come fast enough.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

bringing a little joy to my life

I have to thank Josh for introducing me to Little Joy. This band is one of the best I've heard in quite some time. Thank god for new, good music! "Don't Watch Me Dancing" is my new favorite song. It kind of reminds me of "After Hours" by the Velvet Underground (love it!).

Friday, November 28, 2008

wrap it up

It's a holiday tradition in my household to drag The Husband to the Container Store, where in the parking lot he has a mini-mental breakdown whilst fighting over parking spots. Once inside, he follows me around as I hunt aimlessly for the ideal wrapping paper for the season. He huffs and puffs as I go, "hmmm" and, "What do you think of this one?" It's a festive annual excursion indeed. These were some of my favorites from this year's expedition:

2009, here we come

I'm swooning over this 2009 calendar by one of my favorite Etsy sellers, Modern Printed Matter. It's gorgeous, is it not? I'm a sucker for letterpress and just about anything related to stationary. I love the large numbers standing in for the months.

Monday, November 24, 2008

welcome home

Finally (finally!) we have a new front door. I kid you not when I say that when we moved into our mid-century rancher, the first thing I said I was going to remove was the front door. It had an oval (ick) window with gold-inlaid (ick) detailing. The door knob was also gold (ick ick). Now, four years later, we've finally found a front door that not only matches the historical integrity of the house but is so much more aesthetically pleasing. The Husband installed it with the help of my handy grandfather with minimal cussing. We painted it "andiron," a hue by the folks over at Martha Stewart. I love my new door. It's gorgeous, isn't it?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

pumpkin bread batch #1

My first batch of pumpkin bread this season was a success, and I can thank my Kichen Aide Mixer. I love it straight out of the oven with it's warm and fluffy inside and crunchy, sugary outside. However, I do have a fondness for the day-old-pumpkin-bread snack. After it's been wrapped in foil overnight, it morphs into a cool, moist dessert--especially with a dollop of whipped cream. (I've even been known to grab a slice for breakfast as I'm running out the door each morning.) Pumpkin bread is, I've decided, in my top 10 list of favorite things about the holidays.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

homage to the pumpkin

When I was a child, autumn had not officially begun until my Mom would bake pumpkin bread from scratch. I'd watch her pour all the ingredients into the mixture, from ground cloves and cinnamon to flour and eggs, and then my brother and sister and I would wait impatiently for an hour for the bread to bake. We luckily had a new loaf to devour almost every weekend. She still makes the pumpkin bread, though probably not quite as often, as the kids have moved out now and are attempting to make pumpkin bread loaves of our own.

Last Christmas, The Husband bought me a Kitchen Aide mixer, and I couldn't wait to use it to make a batch of pumpkin bread. However, the fall season was over, and I wasn't about to break the seasonal tradition by making pumpkin bread past Christmas. So I've waited, and not finding anything else worthy of my semi-culinary genius, the mixer has sat unused in the cupboard. I have since been reminded of my neglect, so we went to the grocery store, where I procured all the necessary ingredients to make pumpkin bread. I'll post the results here.

The photo above is an image of the white pumpkin (also called a "Casper") that I got from Central Market. I love these pale pumpkins. It's been the centerpiece on my dining room table all season.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

leafy residential

Autumn in Texas goes quickly. One day it's summer, and then suddenly the leaves are golden and on the ground. Sometimes, the trees skip the golden part completely and morph from green to brown. If you want to see fall in Texas, you must look quick, for after a good thunderstorm, the trees are left bare and it's suddenly winter. This unfortunate fact is a sad one for someone like me, who looks forward to fall so much. This week the trees on our property have dumped tons of happy little leaves all over our St. Augustine grass. I couldn't help but stand in the middle of them and take a few photographs.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008

pumpkin carving

Random autumn fact: the jack-o-lantern was named after the phenomenon of strange lights flickering over peat bogs called ignis fatuus, or jack-o'-lantern.

In the spirit of autumn, my sister came up with the genius idea to have a pumpkin-carving-slash-wine-tasting with the family. The Husband and I made a rat pumpkin:

Here are some other photos of an afternoon well spent:

Friday, October 24, 2008

the deed is done

I hopped down to my neighborhood early voting location this afternoon and voted. I'm so relieved that I am done with it. Politics can get nasty.

But I love the poitical humor. This is one of the best skits from SNL I've ever witnessed. I laugh every time.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

gourd bliss

I love this time of year. Yellow leaves, crisp weather, and glowing pumpkins make me giddy and goofy inside. I yearn to make pumpkin bread, snuggle in warm blankets, and drink toasty beverages. No other season lives up to fall's loveliness. This afternoon, the first gusts of the autumn cold front moved into Texas, and when this happens, I feel suddenly light and free.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

howdy folks...

Since toddlerdom, I've missed the State Fair of Texas only once--the year I lived in London, England (1999). And you better believe I thought about how I was missing it the entire month of October. Yesterday, The Husband and I made our yearly pilgrimmage to the land of corny dogs, livestsock shows, midway rides, and Big Tex. I had an interesting conversation in Austin last weekend with Liz about Big Tex and how Dallasites view him as a normal part of Texas life. If you're from the area, you think it's perfectly normal for a giant, Wrangler-wearing cowboy to be set up in the middle of Fair Park every year. He waves and talks, his motorized jaw awkwardly moving up and down. But take an out-of-towner to the fair to witness this site, and their jaws drop almost as awkwardly. Regardless, it's one of my favorite things about Texas, and D magazine recently took a poll that ended with Dallas voting the fair as the best thing about Dallas. It's true. We love our state fair.

Per usual, we ate several fried items yesterday. One of the best things about the fair is the fried food, and they add a new ridiculous one every year, like fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwiches, fried oreos, and fried nutter butters. This year they had chicken fried bacon, and my carnivore husband just had to try it. They gave us a rather large basket of them, so I forced myself to take a bite. I was not pleased. It felt like a bomb of animal fat and grease had exploded in my mouth. Never again. Justin ended up with a stomach ache. Each year, I never miss the Fletcher's corny dog and a cinnamon roll from the Food Pavilion. But I also nibbled on fried green tomatoes and a fried s'more, which was in-cred-ib-le. Fried marshmellow, chocolate, and graham cracker? Yes, please.

In addition to eating, we also visited the livestock area and the automobile building and watched The Spirit of the Horse, a show we never miss. All the walking (hopefully) burned some calories.

Photo above: One of the many art deco structures on Fair Park grounds. This one houses the food pavilion during fair time.

Monday, October 6, 2008

tales from austin

Austin is my little getaway. Ask any number of people who witness my thrice-yearly roadtrips to visit. Part of it (well, most of it) is that some of my oldest and dearest friends call the city home. But I also love Austin's vibe. The food isn't bad either, and I'm a sucker for an indie coffee shop that plays an entire Elliott Smith record while I sip my chai latte. The Husband and I booked via Hotwire (we normally stay with friends, but schedules didn't meld well this time) and ended up with a Holiday Inn resort overlooking Town Lake. I was petrified at first, as I'm a (guilty as charged) fanatic for high-thread-count linens, Aveda bathroom products, and mod remodeled bathrooms. But the hotel wasn't so bad. It wouldn't have mattered anyway because we ate and sipped our way through Austin the entire weekend. I can't really count how many eating or drinking establishments that we visited, but in addition to my old favorite The Hotel San Jose, here are some of my favorites from the weekend:

Parkside: an urban hip cafe where everything was incredible, from the cesar salad to the mac and cheese and (lest we forget) the homemade donut holes...

Blue Dahlia: organic and healthy bistro that reminded me of cafes I've visited in Santa Fe, Taos, and San Francisco...

Clementine: perhaps the cutest coffee shop to ever hit Austin's eastside. I was smitten, to say the least...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

pinot grigio, anyone?

California isn't the only state with a wine country. Turns out that Oregon, Washington, and most of the other states do as well, including my beloved Texas. The Husband and I were married five years ago in Grapevine, a tiny community in North Texas whose name says it all. I'm a wine fanatic, and I still get giddy at the thought that I can wine-taste so close to home. While Grapevine has less than 15 wineries, many of them offer fantastic selections, especially La Buena Vida Vineyards, my new favorite. Last weekend, I cruise-directed an afternoon outing with my family to this intimate wine hamlet. We made our way through three winery tasting rooms, filling our paletes with drys, sweets, and everything between. It's a great inexpensive outing, especially if your family and friends are on their way to oenophile status. Cheers!

Friday, September 26, 2008

down the rabbit hole?

It's bit a while, I know. I blame it on this. But I digress. I couldn't resist sharing this photograph of a giant brown rabbit sitting in my front lawn. The Husband took this picture through our blinds, so it's not the best. But I'm sure you can make out the fur and ears and perhaps the slightest image of a wiggly nose. We are convinced that this is a pet rabbit that someone let free. I mean, it's a monstrous rabbit. The thing has to be as big as a domestic cat, no?

We are also experiencing a large number of possums this year. Maggie barks and growls and snarls at them while peering out the French doors that lead to our backyard. They are so funny looking and strangely cute.

Monday, September 15, 2008

nanner pancakes

Sunday mornings are the ideal time to whip up some banana pancakes, perhaps my favorite breakfast. I'd almost be willing to eat these babies for dinner. Wait. Scratch that. I would be willing to eat them for dinner. They are best smothered in real maple syrup.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

perfect day

After Hurricane Ike swung through Texas, leaving heaps of rain yesterday afternoon (although the Dallas area only received a fraction of the rain we were expecting), today is one of the most gorgeous days I've witnessed in a while. It's a perfectly comfortable 75 degrees. The sky is a bright azure and punctuated with a few fluffy clouds. I have the windows open to let in the breeze, and as I scurry about doing Sunday house cleaning, I'm blasting some old favorites from iTunes, like Stereolab and Bob Dylan. It's put me in such a good mood that I couldn't help but step out on the porch and snap this shot of our front flowerbeds, happy and healthy after the early-fall rains. Life is good.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

let them eat cake

Once upon a time, a family of five gorged themselves on vanilla ice cream cake...

Yes, these are my loved ones. I'm lucky to have been brought up in the all-American family, the oldest of three children of un-divorced parents who are still happily wed. Last weekend was my brother's birthday, and, well, we like cake. So there.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

giant vermin alert

Sometimes I can't believe that I get to talk about literature all day long. It's really quite unbelievable. Yes, I have to go through the pain and anxiety of grading endless essays and deal with the occasional misbehavior, but I'm so enjoying the process of being able to revisit some of the best books ever written. Since I was allowed to create my own reading lists, I just couldn't resist adding one of my all-time favorite modernist novels, Metamorphosis. And I can't wait (can't wait!) to see my students' reactions. The book is really bizarre and often disgusting. But it leaves you thinking and pondering in the end. It's also quite short and not one of those books that seems to drag on and on (despite the fact that I do teach English doesn't mean I'm one of those Shelley-loving maniacs who swears by bore-me-to-tears epics). So if you haven't read Kafka's great masterpiece, I suggest a trip to Borders. Or Barnes and Noble. Or Amazon. With fall approaching, it's the perfect brisk-weather read.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

a peacock flock!

Late one recent afternoon, several peahens and peacocks sauntered into our frontyard. I love the fact that we have our own neighborhood flock! How many people can say that peacocks roam their neighborhoods? There were about 10 of them hanging around that day, so I casually picked up my camera, walked up to where they were pecking, and started snapping away.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

my cartoon alter-ego

Jen made an avatar of herself, which reminded me that I had one, too! Oh, the silliness.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

read me

In my continuing adventures of learning how to be a prep school teacher, I've come to love ambiguity. In fact, "be comfortable with ambiguity" has been a lasting mantra among my fellow teachers. I was hired to teach 9th grade English literature and some journalism courses. But in the name of change (and ambiguity), my role has changed slightly. In addition to the 9th grade English and journalism/yearbook/newspaper duties, I have been assigned ONE 6th grade literature class due to the large number of 6th graders we have. You could not hide my delight when I discovered the first recommended book on the reading list this year: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Carroll's writings are a love of mine, and the Alice books, well, they are quite frankly some of the best children's stories ever written. During my year living in London, I purposely took a train to Oxford just to visit Carroll's haunts, like the Eagle and Child pub (nicknamed the "Bird and Baby"), and Christ Church Meadow, where he imagined Alice's first glimpse of the White Rabbit and chasing him down the rabbit hole. Sigh. Literature is such a splendid thing, is it not?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

shellin' peas

I spent a recent sunny Sunday afternoon shelling peas with The Husband, my father-in-law, and my grandmother-in-law, who, I'm told, is one of the best pea-shellin' fools in the state. I'd never taken part in this old-fashioned Texas pastime before, and I was surprised at how fun and relaxing it was. Some of the shells were effortlessly easy to open, like pulling apart a shiny, new zipper. Others needed to be forced open, and green bits of pea shell were protruding from my nails. I loved how minty green the peas were, and the smell... don't even get me started. I couldn't wait to eat some. Luckily, we were given a small sandwich bag full of the tiny morsels. I simmered them in hot water for an hour and a half and finished them off with a healthy dose of Worchestershire sauce, sea salt, and pepper. I'm a pea-lovin' maniac now.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Take a gander at my new bag. It's made of jute. I wasn't completely sure what jute was until I looked it up, but apparently it's an eco-friendly material. I now have two of these bags, but the demask design is my favorite. A Texas duo created the market bags after they heard about the number of plastic grocery bags we Americans use every year (the numbers are too depressing to post here) and couldn't find a stylish reusable bag anywhere. I now keep the totes in my trunk for grocery store trips, although it's easy to forget they're back there. As soon as I get in the check-out line without them, I give myself a little mental doh! Get your own market bag for a very reasonable $15 here.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

modern and fabulous

EQ3 finally opened a store in Dallas. We made our way there this afternoon and (holy moly) it was fantastic. Several of their pieces are far too modern for me. But some are just right. The prices are similar to West Elm, which is a definite plus. (It's never okay to spend $10,000 on a coffee table, people. That's just madness.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

indie pop is back

Ladies and gentlemen... I present The Redwalls. Perhaps it's the Beatle boots, but I've liked this band for a couple of years now, and they are coming out with some new material. Download their music and show off your coolness.

Friday, July 25, 2008

garden tomatoes

They may not look as pretty as the tomatoes you buy at the store, but I guarantee they taste better. These lovely crimson and green fruits came from The In-Laws garden, and the flavor just oozes out of them. A tomato's sweetness often gets lost in a salad or cooked dish, overwhelmed by the other flavors. Not these darlings. Oh, I'm drooling right now.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

lifelong love of learning

My posts have been few, I know. But there's a reason for my absence lately. I'm embarking on a new adventure, one I hope I will learn from and enjoy. For the past seven years, I've spent my time as a journalist working in book publishing, newspapers, and magazines. I even worked in radio for a short while. Media, specifically writing and editing, have always been my calling. But this summer, faced with an opportunity to try something new rather than grapple with the turbulent publishing industry, I accepted a job to teach journalism (as well as English). So in the fall, I will find myself standing in front of a room of college prep students. The thought of talking and teaching about words, literature, and writing is something I've grown increasingly excited about. For the last two weeks, I've been embedded in intense training as well as teaching summer school courses. I've also been catching myself up on some reading, such as Siddhartha and other novels I haven't cracked since college or high school. I still plan to continue writing and editing. In fact, I'm working on a piece for the Dallas Morning News right now. I'm hoping I can continue to do editorial projects and still keep my sanity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I am head over heels for the Edison Chandelier from Pottery Barn. I'm not normally a Pottery Barn type (although I do own a few select pieces that I just adore), but this light fixture really caught my attention. It has that industrial vibe, does it not? At 400 big ones, I'm not sure if I'm willing to part with the cash to see it hanging like a beacon from my dining room ceiling. But wouldn't it be glorious? Sigh.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

martha, my dear

This week I decided that I don't listen to the Beatles enough anymore. Once upon a time, I was obsessed (I guess you could say that, in a way, I still am) with all things Beatles. And if you don't know about my love and admiration for Paul McCartney, then, well, you just don't know me very well, do you? I'm still convinced that I have been cheated by the heavens for not being alive during the 60s (specifically, in swinging London). So while I've read all the great books, seen all the great films, listened to all of the incredible music, nothing seems to transport me there as much as my heart longs for it. (For those of you in the market for a great book about those times, read Many Years From Now, Paul's authorized biography.)

I am tirelessly digressing here, I know... To get to the point, this week I pulled out the White Album. It had been a seriously long time since I'd listened to a Beatles record in full (lately I've been more into McCartney, Paul's first solo record on which he played all the instruments). And I was relieved to be listening again. The songs sound just as sweet as they did when I was a child. My Mom used to put on Beatles records and dance around the house while dusting, vacuuming, or cooking, which bloomed into my own obsession with the band, so thanks, Mom!

My favorite song on the record, which, strangely, has never appealed to me much before, is "Martha, My Dear." I love how it's about Paul's English sheepdog, Martha, who lived with him on Cavendish Avenue in London when the song was recorded. When I was living in London in 1999/2000, I walked to St. John's Wood to Cavendish Avenue and stood outside the gates of Paul's former home. I stared at the lawn and windows and realized that, more than 30 years earlier, girls would stand outside and wait for Paul to emerge. It was a surreal experience.

Beatles stories? Anyone?

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

a 30-minute meal

Enthused to try something new, I scoured my Rachel Ray's 30-Minute Meals book until I found something that seemed both interesting and easy. So last night, I prepared Chicken Paillard with Baby Greens. At first, I thought it strange that I was instructed to prepare a roux, cover the bottom of a plate with it, and then place tossed greens on top. (Really? A gravy-type substance with field greens?) But it was a real hit. We both cleaned our plates. Thanks, Rachel Ray.

(Photo courtesy Madeline.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

new curtains

Ikea has an impressive selection of unique curtains. It's a good thing, too, because I was just about to give up on my quest for living room curtains. At long last, I found these beauties. The Husband and I hung them this afternoon.

a fair park fourth

It had been years since I'd seen fireworks, so I organized a family trip to this year's Fair Park Fourth celebration downtown. My parents, brother and sister, and grandparents joined us for a family picnic on the grass. We spread a few blankets and ate sandwiches, eatZi's pasta salad, grapes, chips, and homemade cookies while a polka duo played nearby. My sister and I even did a little jig to the music. Since all the museums were free until 8 p.m., all nine of us scampered over to the Natural History Museum to gaze at preserved bison, bobcats, and dinosaur bones. It brought back memories of school fieldtrips. The fireworks started about 9:30, and we all huddled on the concrete underneath the impressive facade of the Hall of State to watch. Besides being home to my beloved State Fair of Texas, Fair Park has been around since 1886, but many of its Art Deco structures were completed in 1936 for the Texas Centennial Exposition. Interesting fact: Fair Park has the largest collection of 1930s Art Deco, exposition-style architecture in the United States! It's comforting to walk down the esplanade, which bisects the buildings, and marvel at these beautiful buildings, knowing that they're an important part of Dallas history.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

thank you, dallas city council

This is Linus. He was on the short list to be euthanized in a Dallas-area shelter earlier this year. He was rescued by City Pet Rescue and lived in our house for a short period while waiting for his forever home. Luckily for Linus, he is now living with a wonderful couple. But unfortunately for other animals like him, tens of thousands of dogs and cats are put down every year in Dallas alone due to irresponsible owners who won't get their animals spayed and neutered. Last week, the Dallas City Council overwhelmingly passed an ordinance that would require most pets in the city be spayed or neutered (unless you have a permit to breed), among other provisions. I was insanely happy upon hearing the news. Finally, the city is taking some responsibility and forcing it upon the stupid people in this city who don't care what happens to the animals in our care.

good wine under $10

I just finished a bottle of Becker Vineyards' Iconoclast Cabernet. For $9.99, it's one of the best bottles of wine you can buy under the $10 mark. If you're in Texas and near Austin, please visit the winery itself. They have a very Texas-meets-Sonoma tasting room, along with tours and even its own B&B! There's a beautiful wraparound porch where you can purchase a glass and watch grazing horses. I'm a huge Cabernet drinker, and I'm always on the lookout for a well-rounded, affordable vintage. This one fits the bill. (And I just love the label art.)
Anyone know of one I should try?

Monday, June 30, 2008

fresh, summer produce

On Friday afternoon I headed to Rockwall to the Barking Cat Farm "off-the-truck" sale. Each Friday at 2 p.m., they transport a load of their freshly grown items to a random parking lot near the farm and allow the public to purchase directly. A sustainable, all-natural farm, Barking Cat grows fruits and veggies, flowers, and herbs. Depending on the season, you might find tomatoes, onions, radishes, or rosemary, among other produce. They also sell farm eggs, goat cheese, and free-range chicken. I purchased some baby carrots and 2 pounds of new potatoes and baby purple onions. Saturday night, I sauteed the carrots in some olive oil with a bit of sea salt. Not only were they full of flavor, but I felt good knowing I was supporting a local farm that's practically in my backyard.