Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sips of the South: Southern Recipe Boxes

I am so excited that I've found so many cute ladies blogging away about so many shared interests that I hold near&dear to my heart. & y'all are so friendly&sweet, too!

This post is my first contribution to the Sips of the South series. This was started at the adorable Sweet Tea & Biscuits, a blog I just started following & already love.

(& do check out her giveaway, too; but hurry, it ends SOON!)

(Ladies were instructed to open their family heirloom boxes & knock the dust off...Some good Southern home cookin' recipes are the goal here.)

To be sure to properly represent the Southern theme of it all here, I decided to share one of my favorite recipes that features pecans, the South's favorite nut.

(Well, aside from Britney Spears. Ha!)

In the South we can find a way to work a pecan into any dish, & we even call calorie&sugar-laden pecan-topped treats like sweet potato casserole "side dishes," so as not to interfere with our dessert plates on Thanksgiving day.

(Because, hey, the main ingredient is a vegetable, right?!)

But as you may remember, I am a baker at heart, & desserts are my weakness.

I believe this recipe came from an old Junior League cookbook. I've been wanting to join the Junior League ever since I graduated college (& thus retired into alumna status in my beloved sorority) & moved back South. But we haven't stayed anywhere long enough yet! However, now that it looks like we've actually

finished collecting degrees,
& gotten our roots (re)planted,

I hope to join my local chapter during their next provisional period, after I've met the residential requirements.

*Please note that these are not "turtles." To make turtles, however, you can undercook this mixture a bit, roll into a ball, & place on wax paper in refrigerator before dipping.

Oh, by the way,
how do YOU pronounce it...?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Straits Garlic Noodles

Now I want to start this recipe post by sharing off the bat, right up front, that I do not want you to plan to make this for supper. Y'all got me? I'm labeling this post "recipe failing."

However, I don't want to be mean, & post this recipe, & have whomever the lovely original author is

find it,
& be hurt,
or upset,
or (worse) angry about it.

So the reason I'm posting this recipe is because obviously I thought My Prince & I would like it. I was disappointed when I didn't like it (after My Prince added God-knows-what-all to his serving, he liked it fine...more on that later, though), & it means that I probably resorted to eating honey nut Cheerios for supper that night. Food has calories in it, even food that's not breaded or deep-fried, & I won't waste the calories or energy on eating food I don't care for.

So I post this recipe today, even though I chalked it up as a failure. Maybe if you

read through it,
& read through my notes,
& view my photos,

you'll catch something that I didn't, & we can rescue this recipe together.

Or maybe you'll have some suggestions for

or corrections,
or omissions,
or substitutions,

that would add (or subtract) the magic touch that rescues this recipe.

...or maybe we'll determine it's not worth working on any further, & you can share with me a comparable recipe that is fabulous without needing any changes at all!

I found this recipe in People magazine. It is supposed to be the recipe that the cooks use at the Atlanta restaurant Straits (owned by Chris "Ludacris" Bridges).

Straits garlic noodles

  • 2 pounds egg noodles
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons garlic
  • 4 tomatoes, cut in quarters
  • 2 stems of basil (Thai or regular)
  • 1/2 pound Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup oyster or soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 1 cup bean sprouts (optional)
*Boil egg noodles in hot water for 10 minutes, until tender. Strain & set aside.

*Heat up a wok or or medium-size skillet or pan. When it's warm (about 2 to 3 minutes), add butter, followed by garlic, tomatoes, basil, mushrooms, & strained noodles. Saute for 3 minutes, stirring regularly.

(I used a skillet. I don't have a wok. I doubt that this significantly contributed to my bad outcome, though. Also, this recipe didn't specify whether to use fresh garlic or minced garlic or what, but since the measurement was in tablespoons, I assumed minced garlic would be fine. Any ideas about that? I did use real, fresh basil stems.)

*Add oyster sauce or soy sauce to pan & toss with noodles until fully blended. Sprinkle black pepper & sugar, tossing well.

(I used soy sauce. Do you think omitting the sugar would help this? I don't think I liked the sugar...)

*If desired (this is an option at the restaurant), add protein such as chicken or shrimp, or a vegetable. Plate&serve.

(I did add the bean sprouts, which you'll notice never got mentioned again after the ingredients. I did not add protein, & My Prince & I did decide that that might would have helped the dish. The consistency&texture were fine. It just plain didn't taste great. My Prince added chicken, which may have helped a little, but it wasn't enough to convince me to make it again with added protein. He also added nuts, but they were honey-roasted peanuts, not cashews, so I was appalled&disgusted by that addition. I think he may have added hot sauce, too. His concoction makes me nauseated just recalling it today. I simply drowned mine in soy sauce to make it edible...I love soy sauce! Seriously, though, if anybody has any suggestions, please share. We keep a lot of these ingredients on hand, & this would be convenient if it were better!)

*There is a Straits Restaurant in Atlanta, & I've heard that it's good, though we haven't been. This is supposed to be one of their recipes, but I can't imagine that something so unsavory could be so popular. It's possible that one of the questions I posed to you was the problem. There is also the possibility that there was something lost in the translation between the kitchen & the interview People magazine did with Chris "Ludacris" Bridges.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What I Want This Weekend, January 29th, 2010

I wish I weren't so materialistic sometimes, but the fact is

I like things.

Specifically, I like

pretty things.

& now I have

a little girl that I get to buy pretty things for.
& a house that I get to buy pretty things for.
& on&on it goes...

So here are some pretty things I've come across this week,

from some blog
or catalog
or friend
or magazine
or another;
or just from my own browsing&shopping&surfing,

that I need to convince My Prince to dole out the cash for...

As you know from my earlier post, I have to find something cute&fabulous for Pretty Little Bare Feet's Valentine's Day. I'm already getting to the point that I'm thinking, "Another stuffed animal?" But this one is so cute that I think we could find a place for it. & My Prince has already agreed we can take her to the Workshop (for the first time!), & get one of these for Valentine's Day. Yay!

Burberry Plaid Bathing Suit

I saw a post on a celeb baby blog somewhere that featured a celeb tot sporting this. I can't even remember who it was, Honor Warren, maybe? Anyway, Pretty Little Bare Feet currently has two bathing suits:

one by Mary Engelbreit, which I think she's already outgrown;

& this one from Lilly Pulitzer, which should be fine for our beach trip next month, but which I'm sure she'll have outgrown by summer.

So I was thinking, oh, this Burberry bathing suit will be the perfect little preppy indulgence for Pretty Little Bare Feet to splash around in this summer. It seems, however, that the official Burberry website, as well as Saks, is already out of stock on this. But I found it on the website for a shop in Arkansas, 3 Monkeys Children's Boutique; & I happen to have a good friend that lives close to it & shops for her own spoiled littles there.

(She sent gifts for Pretty Little Bare Feet from there - some adorable Juicy Couture bibs&pacis that she still uses, & the cutest little pink velour Juicy romper.)

So I may just have to call her & have her wander over to see if they have any bathing suits in the appropriate size. If My Prince can bear to pay that much for a bathing suit for a toddler (surely he will; the Lilly was almost that much?).

I've also found a couple others I love, in case we can't find the Burberry.

Loria Bathing Suit in Belmont Pink by Ralph Lauren

Moving on...

I spotted this on the Finer Things blog. I love this blog, & Fine Stationery is one of my newest favorite stationery shops. I had to break out of my usual go-to places for stationery, to find Raggedy Ann invitations for Pretty Little Bare Feet's birthday party. I'm so glad I did! Everybody complimented the lovely invitations, & the customer service & shipping from Fine Stationery were great! I've also been finding a lot of other pretty things on their website that interest me! the plates! I don't know if I can convince My Prince to let me order these until I switch out the table linens with the seasons. But won't they be lovely on my favorite spring/summer table linens? Oh, wait, y'all haven't seen those yet! Those are queued up for my first Style Me Monday post. ;)


AE Skinny Cord in Hampshire Blue

I know, I know, I know. I really must

let go,
& grow up,

But a lot of my casual everyday clothes from high school & college were from there, & some of those things I still hang on to, year after de-cluttering year. Every now&then, they'll have a season just full of cute little preppy things - & so inexpensive, too.

Like addition to those cute little pastel cords (which are on clearance for $12!!!), they have all of this cute nautical stuff right now, little silver anchor bracelets&rings&things.

& I just adore this little AE Tote Bag in Natural

So I may get those cords because they are such a good deal, & I don't have any in that color. & I may get some of those nautical accessories. But I probably won't get the little tote bag.

Because My sweet, sweet Prince pre-ordered the Lilly Pulitzer Pandamonium original tote for me for my birthday!!! YAY, & Happy Birthday to MEEE!

(Do you want to see it again?!)

(Also a fresh bouquet of sunflowers on my bedside table, & sweet cards from My Prince & Pretty Little Bare Feet...I won't be obnoxious & share all of the other lovely gifts I've received. But my mama & My Prince have good taste, & I feel very blessed&grateful&loved.)

T.G.I.F.! What do YOU want this weekend?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wishful Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

I've seen a few of these cute little Wishful Wednesday buttons here&there on blogs I like, & I've finally hung around here in the blogosphere long enough to pay attention to what's going on. Now I'm following the Seattle Smiths (too cute!), & I've read how this works. So I'm going to participate!

Whether it's a

or stranger...

Who intrigues you??

I wish...

I could spend three minutes in a sister wife's shoes!

At first I was thinking of the "obvious" choices -

Elisabeth Hasselbeck,
Lilly Pulitzer,
Rachel Zoe,
Sara Evans,
Trish Suhr

- you know, some of my favorite celebrity women that are beautiful&classy.

Then I thought, well, no, those are certainly women that I admire; or are at least women that have characteristics that I'd like to incorporate into my own self; but...

...maybe if this is just three minutes we're talking about...

...maybe I'd use such a short amount of time to really "walk a mile in" the shoes of a completely different lifestyle?

(Granted I'm a runner, but even at my best, I usually averaged about an eleven-minute-mile, so let's say "walk a quarter-mile in...") ;)

I suppose I should 'fess up to what you're all already thinking.

Yes, Big Love is pretty much my favorite television show ever.

But I do have an interest beyond that!

One of my best friends & closest sorority sisters, during my first two years of college, transferred to a college in Utah after our sophomore year. Having grown up in a small Southern town, I can't honestly say I'd ever had any real experiences or relationships with anybody of the Mormon faith, but I was very close to "Hope," & I have to admit that it was probably as influential for me to learn about her faith as it was to learn about all of those other subjects they covered in my freshman classes (more influential, really, than journalism, as I changed my major after that first semester).

& I was truly touched that she invited me to attend her baptism. She also gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon, with notes in the front from some of her favorite verses.

Yes, I know that writing about Big Love, & then writing about a member of the true Mormon church, is probably along the same lines of offensive as an assumption that I am

an ignorant redneck
who married my first cousin
at the local KKK headquarters.

So let me clarify.

I do not actually believe there is a real comparison between the two. I absolutely understand that sects that practice polygamy are not recognized by the Mormon church, & are not affiliated with the Mormon church.

However, I don't know that I would have ever had any real interest in such a different faith from my own, had it not been for Hope's influence. She was (& is) one of the

most genuine,
sweetest, &

ladies I know. Her friendship did make me more aware of the stereotypes that members of this church have to bear, & of how wrong they are. & it has made me a little more vocal in defending members of the church when I hear arguments or jokes that are inaccurate. & I probably extend more friendliness to a Mormon missionary than I otherwise might have.

(This may or may not have had any more to do with my watching Big Love, than the fact that a friend at the Banana Republic I used to work at kept talking about what a great show it was - enough that I sat down & watched most of the first season in one big marathon.)

So already having a foundation of empathy for the undeserved stigma that so many of our Mormon friends are living with, I suppose it makes it easier for me to have empathy for the blatant discrimination that modern-day polygamists face.

(& I do not believe that polygamy is moral, by any means, but there's a different place for that discussion!)

Now, obviously I have no desire to actually convert to polygamy, & I reserve the right to give back my "three minutes in another's shoes" if it gets too intimate. ;) But I do think I'd like to know what that kind of life is really like, apart from the depictions in the newsmedia & pop culture.

Would a real sister wife be in love with her husband?
What would she really think about her sister wives?
Would she long for something different,
or would she be content in her world?
Does she doubt her beliefs,
any more so than any believer does at some point?

I'd be interested to know, & to really, truly gain an unbiased perspective of it all.

But only for three minutes.

Then I want to come right back to my house in suburbia, to my one adorable husband.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A New Pretty for my Blog

Thank you to Short Southern Momma, for this pretty piece of blog love (it's my first award!). =) I love her blog, & it inspires me. She also has a great giveaway going on right now!

Rules for the tag-ees:

  • List ten things that make you happy.
  • (Try to do one of those things TODAY!)
  • Tag ten bloggers that brighten your day.
  • Make sure to link back to the person that tagged you!

Ten Things that Make Me Happy:

1. DVR. Without it, I'd never watch anything on television. Thanks to DVR;

I don't watch hours upon hours of television every day,
& it takes me months longer than the actual run of most shows to actually complete a season of the show;


I am still able to remain relatively current in the realm of pop culture,
without having my television on during the day when Pretty Little Bare Feet is running around the house.

2. Baby name blogs&websites. One of my many quirks is my obsession with baby names. I had Pretty Little Bare Feet's (real) name picked out when I was about eight years old. I read it in a book. That being said, I'm already behind on picking out our next child's name (unless it's a boy, as I picked another one out of a book that I read during college). I started collecting baby name books when I was about six or seven years old, & being an only child, I could spend hours of time making up imaginary games using baby name books or listing names I read or saw on television. Finding others out there who are as obsessed as I am (or, better yet, way worse than I am) with baby names...well, it makes me feel more sane. & it satisfies an interest that isn't always as fascinating to

my family,
or My Prince.

3. Karaoke. I LOVE to karaoke, & one of these days, I'm going to find some like-minded folks around here to go hit up karaoke with me. I was somewhat of a regular at several places throughout my college years, & I am way out of practice.

It is cheesy.
It is fun.

& although I like to think I'm a decent singer, the best karaoke stars are those that sing badly - & loudly.

4. Playdates. I am so grateful for playdates. Pretty Little Bare Feet is the only daughter in my group of momfriends, & she's the youngest.  Amazingly, each of the other momfriends in our circle is really, truly a cool chick that I'd be happy to hang out with whether we had toddlers the same age or not. We meet each Monday morning, & I can't tell you what a difference it makes to start the week off by socializing with good friends.

5. Running. I love to run. I enjoy other

physical activities,
& workouts,

as well, but I am happiest running. Before I had Pretty Little Bare Feet, I was averaging six miles a day, several days a week. I haven't joined a gym in the town that we are living in now, but there is a space in what some people would consider our "breakfast nook" that My Prince & I are planning to fill with an elliptical soon. I can't wait!

6. Holidays. See my previous post. We are in the middle of Valentine season, & I have already

taken Pretty Little Bare Feet's "Valentine photo card photo,"
picked out the Valentine photo card for this year,
& additionally picked out Valentines for Pretty Little Bare Feet to give her little boyfriends.

I am excited that our friends have also decided to do a special Valentine playdate, & I will have an excuse to find something cute&pink to bake for the occasion.

We are ordering

the matching address labels,
& the coordinating mini petite cards.

7. Lilly Pulitzer. Um, have you seen the new Spring 2010 line? It is fabulous.

(This particular Pandamonium original tote has shot to the top of my must-have list.)

I have my fingers crossed.  I have directed My Prince to my closest Lilly Via Shop to do my birthday shopping. He always does well. One of my Christmas gifts from him was the Lilly Pulitzer Dayle printed knit top, & I wear it to death under cardigans right now.

8. Good hair days. I have a lot of them, especially if straight hair is "in," as my hair is naturally very straight & very thick. Lately it seems like I'm having even better hair days than is the norm. I went to my usual beauty shop, that I've been frequenting since I was a little girl, about two weeks ago, & although I didn't get anything other than my usual "trim-up-the-long-layers;" I did request

two darker blondes & a light blonde, for my colors;
rather than
my usual two light blondes & a darker blonde.

Loving it. & my hair seems to be holding curl better lately, too, which is usually very hard for me to achieve!

9. My house is still decorated from Pretty Little Bare Feet's birthday party, & I've decided to leave it mostly decorated until later this week. It was so much fun, & I really didn't stress about it as much as I had figured that I would.

10. The White Dog. She makes me happy because

she curls up next to me,
no matter what I'm doing,
or where I'm sitting;
& she is the epitome of


(Oh, & she also loves Lilly Pulitzer.)

I tag...

Thank you all for your inspiring blogs! I am grateful that you make entering the blogosphere so friendly&welcoming to a busy mama that can't quite make the time commitment to perfect it just yet!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Clubbing

So I've been meaning to update the blog for almost every night this week. For, as you can see, it's been almost a week.

The thing is, I have several really great excuses for why I haven't. ;)

1. Pretty Little Bare Feet's birthday party is coming up, & my bastion of calm&organization is going to become a zoo of chaos. I need to prepare myself - both mentally & with a dust rag.

(Oh, & go check out this party on Design Dazzle's blog. Pretty Little Bare Feet also has a Raggedy Ann theme, but I admit I didn't put nearly the effort or money into it that this fabulous party host did!)

2. I've made several little road trips in the last few days.

First, Pretty Little Bare Feet had a routine appointment out of town,
then I made a spontaneous road trip to MEET SARA EVANS(!) at a book-signing,
& THEN I had my own routine appointment out of town.

3. The next recipe I have listed to blog about - well, I'm not wild about it. But the thing is, I wanted my blog to be about recipes I've TRIED, which won't always include recipes I've LOVED. & isn't that okay? Aren't plenty of blogs devoted solely to the good stuff? I have a desire to feature recipes that I just plain don't like, or don't understand, as well. Maybe you can suggest ways to make it better?

I had every intention of blogging the recipe this afternoon. But in an unforeseen turn of events, on a Wednesday, which is the busiest day of the week in the Screen Door household, Pretty Little Bare Feet reverted back to her old quick catnap ways, & woke up hollering for me to come rescue her from a mess, about which I will spare you the details.

Pretty much every Wednesday, My Prince & I have a date night, of sorts. Now that Pretty Little Bare Feet is with us, our date night is often takeout, but it's the one night during the week that I flat-refuse to allow my little vain blonde head to ponder calories or fat grams.

We usually

are merry,
& well, act married, in the best sense of being married.

Further, now that we've moved into our new house, I usually get out&about after My Prince gets home from work, which means I'm usually running a few errands before I get our "date night" meal, errands that have eluded me

because of the frustration of doing them with a baby in tow,
or because they're on the other side of town,
or whatever.

Anyway, having spent the better part of the last few years doing a lot of commuting, I have to admit that I sort of relish the drives by myself.

I'm an only child,
& who always related better to "adults" than to peers
(which I think is supposed to be a common "only child" trait).
I love to read.
I am perfectly content to be by myself.
I prefer order&quiet to chaos.

Don't get me wrong -

I love to socialize,
I can certainly be the life of the party at times,
& I am by no stretch of the imagination any kind of "shy."

BUT I probably wouldn't be any of those things if I weren't able to soak up the kind of internalizing&philosophizing that I do

in my own head,
on my own time,
from time to time.

So anyway, tonight I was zooming around town, blissfully content to be lost in a CD of my own mixing.

(I pride myself on excellent taste in music...there is neither rhyme nor reason, just random admirations&obsessions...with the occasional "perfect running song" for this lover of that famously lonely&solo of workouts...running!)

But then I came home.

I will spare you some more messy details, as I prefer poopy diapers to my mother-in-law, & that is not a

or polite

thing to say. I am sparing you the details because I think it is ugly & in poor taste to air one's dirty laundry in any kind of public, even on a blog where not everybody knows your name. I promise you that I am completely sincere when I tell you that I pray that God will direct my heart to understand what I am supposed to do with regard to some of My Prince's family members, & their ways.

With the messy details omitted, I will tell you that my happy-to-be-alone-in-my-own-me-time high came crashing down around me when I got back home.

But. You know what I've realized? I may never have any kind of meaningful relationship with either of my parents-in-law. But what I do have is class. & dignity. & I have never taken anything but the high road when confronted with any of their ugliness. I vow to

the blog world,
my family,
& my own self

that I will NOT set an example of anything other than class&dignity, for Pretty Little Bare Feet.

(Are you wondering why this blog post is titled Book Clubbing? I promise I'm getting to that.)

I remembered, after we put Pretty Little Bare Feet to bed (& after I had a drink)...

I have a reputation to uphold.

Since August, I have attended EVERY SINGLE MONTHLY MEETING of my Book Club, & I have ALWAYS arrived having read the book, word for word, from beginning to end.

(I did change subjects rather abruptly, just so you know you're not confused. I told you I was A.D.D. I can't even stick to my so-called theme for this blog - I have to meander off into my own thoughts sometimes. Still, I promise I will return to the cooking you came here for.)

Yes, of course you're right. This book club reputation is a


thing to brag about - especially on a blog! But you know what? It makes me happy to know that it's true.

(I'm also happy that

I've never watched a full episode of American Idol, only snippets in sports bars, which should be ashamed they were playing it on the big screen;
I'm proud that my daughter has never been inside a Wal-mart;
& I won the county spelling bee in sixth grade.)

Back to book club...I do love to read. & much like my tastes in


I am convinced that my tastes are superior to everybody elses's.

(Please tell me you are the same way. Please tell me everybody feels this way, & I'm not the most pretentious snob ever for saying it out loud.)

This is completely contradictory to the fact that I become obsessive about a certain blog-brand-magazine-musician-or-TV-show, & am in fact in no way superior to anybody else that is just as obsessive about the same blog-brand-magazine-musician-or-TV-show, which is especially unnerving when I realize, say, that my fellow Lilly Pulitzer fanatic is also a "Twihard" (I shudder to type that) or, worse, a liberal.

(I hope by now you realize that I am only half the arrogant know-it-all that my anonymous, bold, blogger self assumes to be. While I do actually wrinkle my nose at the things I virtually wrinkle my nose at, I am an insecure perfectionist at heart. Who has a lot of admiration for a lot of liberals. & even one or two Twilight fans.)

Because of my "you can't be a non-conformist if you don't drink coffee" outlook on culture (which is so ironic, considering I subscribe to US Weekly), I have never thought I'd be interested in a book club, & certainly not a devoted member. I HATE bandwagons. I hate hype. It completely ruins it for me if

everybody I know,
& their sisters-in-law,
& their teenaged daughters,

are listening to it,
reading it,
watching it,

But the thing is, I've learned since joining my book club back in August, not that many people ARE reading it, even when they are professing that they are. I was appalled to learn that educated, intelligent women "skim" novels that they've willingly picked up to read! I have read a LOT of books, & I have not loved all of them. I have read books that I've wanted to chuck out of our car window after finishing. But I always finish & always read word-for-word. This may be neurotic. Or it may just be that some of my favorite books weren't decided for sure if they were going to be favorites until their endings were neatly - or sometimes not so neatly - tied up.

(For example, anything by Joshilyn Jackson, Michael Chabon, Michael Cunningham; or Life of Pi by Yann Martel...All excellent.)

I read fast (always have - but don't ask me to balance your checkbook unless you have a few hours). I enjoy reading. So I read often. One book a month for a book club is a fraction of what I read on my own. So I'm still picking out MOST of my own books. But I'd be flat-out lying if I didn't admit that some of the best books I've read recently have been book club picks that I might or might not would have otherwise ever considered reading.

(I probably would have picked up The Help by Kathryn Stockett at some point. I probably would not have picked out anything by Alexandra Fuller, whom I LOVED.)

So here I am, having earned my degrees & earned my freedom from reading lists & syllabi, & what am I doing, for not the first time in the last few months? I am staying up until midnight, if not later, to finish the book that will be discussed tomorrow morning at my monthly book club meeting.

& you know what? I may be the only one there besides the host. & even the host may not have read the book. & the ones that did read it may admit to skimming it. But the conversation usually doesn't stay on the book for very long no matter what, so my pride in having read it & finished it in time, (& in, as usual, having an opinion about it) is usually in vain. At least at that point in time.

BUT you know what took my mind off of all of the nonsense that brought my


outlook down?

My book club pick. Which is one of those I might or might not would have otherwise ever actually gotten around to buying&reading.

I think, to be fair to myself & my real, true love of books, I would do a disservice to my experience, & the author's work, not to devote separate blog entries to the individual books that move me.

But I will tell you that this month's pick is The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. & maybe it's because

I've read most of it with my own canine soulmate, the White Dog, beside me;
or maybe it's because I've been convinced in recent years that cute Southern belles can, in fact, appreciate NASCAR
(it's true - but there is a definite fine line between the class of fan you'll find in each infield zone at Talladega - not everybody uses a monogrammed koozie);
or maybe it's just because I needed somebody else's well-written words to serve as a reminder that

life is short,
but life is good,
& you get out of it what you put into it.

Whatever the reason, I am suddenly, proudly waving my book club flag.

(Though I am STILL annoyed that it took Oprah's recommendation to get folks to appreciate Anna Karenina, Daughter of Fortune, Faulkner...)

So now, excuse me, I need to refill my drink & go finish my book.

I'll blog about noodles later, I promise.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Santa Fe Burgers with Avocado Relish

I should probably just go ahead & admit, relatively right up front, that I have a tendency to buy cookbooks that are "pretty." In fact, I keep my less-pretty cookbooks on the top shelf of our pantry, bookended by vinegar on one end, & the White Dog's ridiculous treat collection on the other.

(Why, yes, I do have a green&pink garbage can, thank you for noticing. & yes, I did keep the shopping bag from my last visit to a Lilly Pulitzer signature store. It is the perfect size for containing the White Dog's clothing collection. & yes, I do wear an apron when should you! I'm keeping an eye out for a new, more colorful one...)

However, my pretty cookbooks...

my Essentially Lilly,
my Junior Leagues,
my Magnolia Bakeries,
my Mary Engelbreits,
my Sweet Serendipity,

those get to live on my countertop, under my cabinets. Yes, they take up precious counter space, but they're so...

& inspiring...
& I just want to look at them every day!

I move them when I'm undertaking serious cooking tasks that require ALL of the counter space in my kitchen. Or if I fear a splatter could land on one of them, I throw a pretty towel over them until order is restored.

(Why, yes, I do have a pink toaster, thank you for noticing. Not pictured: my pink blender, or any of my great number of brightly colored, green&pink, girly&preppy dishes, prep bowls, utensils, etc. My Prince doesn't mind that our kitchen has been completely taken over by such femininity, because I spend so much time in it, & he gets to eat whatever yummy creations are made in there.)

I tell you this because I worry you might think there is some rhyme or reason to how I find cookbooks or recipes, but it's simple, really. I like to bake more than I like to cook - though I love to do both - so I have an abundance of baking, desserty cookbooks. & I like pretty cookbooks.

Anyway, after posting real photos, I hate to disappoint you by telling you that I have no photos of this burger recipe I'm posting. BUT My Prince says I cannot blog all of these favorite recipes that I did months ago without including these burgers. This recipe came from Mary Engelbreit's Dining Out Cookbook, & I made it for Father's Day 2009.

I suppose burger recipes are more customarily a summer staple, but I actually made these on the stove because we didn't move our old college hand-me-down grill with us to our new house.

(Plans are in the works to get My Prince one of those behemoth manly grills that will take up one entire end of the patio - definitely before kickoff for football season. What? Football season's not over, you said? Oh, that's think the NFL qualifies for "football season?" Well, bless your heart.)

Besides, it's never too cold to grill in the South. Even when they cancel school because they think some snow flurries might flutter about in the middle of the afternoon.

Santa Fe burgers with avocado relish

(yield: serves 4)

  • 1/2 ripe Hass avocado, peeled&chopped
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup "thick&chunky" salsa
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 4 seeded rolls, split
  • 8 thick slices ripe tomato
  • 8 small romaine leaves
  • 1 small red onion, sliced into rings (optional)
*Preheat the grill to medium-high & oil the rack.

(Obviously, you're going to have to make some adjustments if you do this on the stove, as I did. You do know how to cook a hamburger patty on the stove, right? In your iron skillet? Oh, law, you DO have an iron skillet, don't you?)

*In a small bowl, stir together the avocado, sour cream, salsa, & cilantro. Set aside at room temperature.

(Of course, this is the avocado relish. You may have to set it aside someplace that you can't see it while you cook the burgers. Because it is delicious, even by itself, & you don't want to, um, keep "tasting" it & have to make more later...OH, & BY THE WAY, did I mention before that when you're baking, use real whole milk? I also encourage you to use REAL full-fat sour cream. No, I don't drink whole milk on a regular basis, I drink skim. & no, I'm not a big ol' cook like Paula Deen...I fit in the same size zero jeans that I wore before I became pregnant with Pretty Little Bare Feet. HOWEVER, if you are going to eat a big, fat slice of cake, a couple percent difference in the milk is not going to make a big difference in your belly bulge, but it will make a difference in the deliciousness of the indulgence. & I believe people would give that Paula Deen a lot less grief, if she would take up running or yoga...& eat smaller PORTIONS of the good, real stuff. This is turning into a separate blog entry altogether. Buy real sour cream.)

*In another small bowl, stir together the chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt, & pepper. In a medium bowl, sprinkle the beef with the spices & gently combine, handling the mixture as little as possible. Form 4 patties, each about 3/4 inch thick.

(If you're going to make these, make them right. Don't scrimp on the spices. They truly MAKE the burger. Ground coriander is one of my favorite smells, & it is not that hard to find. & make note of the suggestion to "handle the mixture as little as possible." I wholeheartedly reaffirm. My late granny would say some of those foolish folks on the Food Network ort to be ashamed the way they constantly keep their hands in the food they're going to serve. She might would even call it vulgar.)

*Grill the patties for 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium-rare; grill the rolls, cut side down, for about 2 minutes.

(Again, there are easy adjustments to make if you want to cook these on the stove. It doesn't make a whole lot of flavor difference if you still use the correct spices, unless you just really can't eat a burger that doesn't taste like charcoal. & of course you can use a toaster - pink or otherwise - to toast your buns.)

*Spread the bottom half of each roll with the avocado mixture; top with a hamburger patty, 2 tomato slices, 2 lettuce leaves, & red onion, if using. Add the top halves of the rolls & serve, accompanied by the remaining avocado mixture.

(If you're like me, "hamburgers" is a foreign term. There is no point in trying to give me a burger, of any kind, with any toppings, unless you add cheese. I can forgo the bun - & often do, halfway through, if I'm starting to get full - but I always add cheese. Just a slice of American or cheddar.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Another of my favorite recipes from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook is their chocolate chip cookie recipe. It's the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I've baked because the texture is absolutely perfect (chewy&soft - but thick, not airy); & the taste is just sweet enough...not too rich, not sickeningly sweet.

chocolate chip cookies

(yield: makes 2-3 dozen cookies)

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup (1 1/3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

*In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, & the salt. Set aside.

(This may be a big, fat "duh," but make sure you are using baking SODA & not baking POWDER. Although I've caught myself before I've actually added the incorrect ingredient to a recipe, I have pulled the wrong one down from the cabinet in a frazzled-mommy moment!)

*In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the egg & the vanilla extract, & mix well. Add the flour mixture & beat thoroughly. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden brown.

(I have never found a good argument for differentiating between dark brown sugar & light brown sugar. Both are yummy to me. If you have dark brown sugar, I don't believe it will make a difference...I wouldn't spend the money&time to go get light brown sugar. I do, however, distinguish vanilla flavoring from vanilla extract, as well as imitation vanilla extract from the real thing. Make sure you get the real thing - Madagascar, if you can - a big bottle of it lasts forever, even if you bake a lot, because recipes rarely call for more than a small amount of it. & I can definitely taste the difference! As far as amounts go, you are never going to hurt anybody's feelings if you throw in more chocolate chips than are called for!)

*Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

*The Magnolia Bakery sometimes adds in 1 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans, or substitutes vanilla chips or chopped Heath Bars for the chocolate chips.

(I haven't really played with this particular recipe, to add nuts or change the chips, but that's just my preference. I am a creature of habit. I am not a big fan of nuts, especially in baked goodies. When I want chocolate chip cookies, I want plain old chocolate chip cookies, warm & fresh out of the oven, with a glass of cold milk!)

(I apologize for the dreary iPhone photos. This is another recipe that I had no plans to blog about back when I baked it, as I had no plans to blog at all. I'm attempting to get a bit more sophisticated when photographing my culinary goodies these days. Or at least waiting until they've been moved from the wire rack to a prettier dish!)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Lemon Vanilla Bundt Cake

I actually baked this lemon vanilla Bundt cake back in June 2009, but as long as you can buy good lemons for the lemon zest, it's not necessarily a "summery" cake. It's a bit heavier, as it's a pound cake, but it's quite good. My Prince really prefers light sweets to rich sweets, so he really enjoyed it. & it made for a wonderful, indulgent breakfast with a cup of coffee, too!

I found this recipe in the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.

lemon vanilla Bundt cake

(yield: makes one 10-inch cake)

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup club soda (not seltzer)
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

(Do go ahead & set out your eggs ahead of time, as well, to ensure they are at room temperature. This recipe specifically instructs them to be room temperature, but I generally almost ALWAYS set my butter&eggs out ahead of time - up to an hour, if possible - when baking. The butter is easier to work with, & usually fits the bill for "softened" without having to do any additional microwave or warm water tricks that could result in "melted" butter. & the better your batter or dough sets up, the better the consistency&taste of your final product!)

*Grease & lightly flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.

(My granny's time-tested strategy for greasing & lightly flouring cake pans just plain won't work in a Bundt pan. I admit that I used Pam for the Bundt pan - & I usually use it when just "baking" a boxed mix of brownies...& I just looove the way Pam smells!!!)

*In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter & the sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour in thirds, alternating with the club soda, beating after each addition until smooth. Add the vanilla extract & the lemon zest & mix well. Pour the batter into prepared pan & bake 70-80 minutes until golden brown or a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for 20 minutes. Remove from pan & cool completely on wire rack.

(Again, I reiterate the importance of taking your time with your batter. Be patient with properly alternating your ingredients. It really does make a difference.)

*Supposedly, the secret to the tender crumb is the club soda. My mama had never heard of baking a Bundt or pound cake with club soda, & she was appropriately impressed with this recipe. I also really love the flavor of the fresh lemon zest (& I love the way it makes my kitchen smell, too!)

(Back when I baked this, I had no plans to blog about it. I had no plans to blog at all! I'm attempting to get a bit more sophisticated when photographing my culinary goodies these days. Or at least waiting until they've been moved from the wire rack to a cake plate!)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year, & Happy Everything Else this year!

Happy New Year! I have resolved to blog more, amongst other things...

do more yoga,
give more,
run more,
swear less,
take more photos.

Pretty Little Bare Feet has never been a good napper, although I can't complain too much about it, because she has pretty much always slept through the night, since she was about six weeks old.

However, in the last few weeks, I have begun a subtle shift toward putting her down for ONE nap a day, in the afternoon, & crossing my fingers that it will be a long, consistent one. This has been working, for the most part, since I started it a few weeks ago. It's resulting in more rest for her - & more time to get things done, for me!

So I'm going to attempt to keep my "blog more" resolution by periodically using this newfound naptime as blogging time. I may even venture out into the blogging community a bit more, in an attempt to make blogfriends, in an attempt to seek out motivation to keep updated!

So this being the tail end of a long line of holidays, I felt I should blog about my obsession with holidays...

I LOVE holidays. All of them. Not just these winter ones around Christmastime - all of them. I suppose it really became an out-of-control thing when I worked in a candy&stationery store off&on during my college years. Of course, in those realms of retail, absolutely every holiday is celebrated&marketed.

It stuck...I am now the exact consumer that Hallmark, magazines, & television specials are targeting. I go all out for pretty much every holiday,

from buying the cards,
to making the crafts&recipes,
to decorating the house,
to dressing up Pretty Little Bare Feet
(& the White Dog),
to packing it all back up in my gift/holiday closet upstairs in the guest room.

It's obscene, but I LOVE the festive spectacle of it all.

So this blog post is essentially just a photo summary of the lengths that I went to over the last year, sans any cooking projects because I am doing those individually. I'm also not going to bore anybody (least of all myself) with the excessive details of Christmas, although I will gloss over it a bit because (I am ashamed to admit) some of it is still around for me to photograph&recall.

Valentine's Day.

Did the fact that Pretty Little Bare Feet was too young to be anything but completely oblivious to my efforts, deter me from putting together Valentine's gifts for her & My Prince?

Nope, not at all. 

I even forced the White Dog to celebrate.

In addition to

his mushy card,
stuffed mouse that was similar to Pretty Little Bare Feet's,
& whatever other gifts I gave My Prince for Valentine's Day
(& which I am sad to say, I don't fully remember),

I also gave My Prince cupcakes that very much resembled the White Dog.

Last, but not least, there were four sweet little stuffed animals that I gave Pretty Little Bare Feet on Valentine's Day itself. She wasn't impressed, in the least, w/

a white teddy bear from Hallmark;
two Ty Beanie Babies, a dog named Heartbeat & a giraffe named Smoothie;
& a pink Ty mouse named Patter.
(My Prince got the gray one, named Pitter.)

Of course Pretty Little Bare Feet was forced to go straight from little Valentine hearts outfits to little bunny outfits.

One of my favorite little Easter onesies of hers was from Baby Gap, & said "funny bunny" on it.

& then the Easter bunny came!

I found the handpainted basket at an adorable little gift shop in the town we were living in. They also painted Pretty Little Bare Feet's name on the back of it, in pink-&-white polka dots. The Easter Bunny also came to visit My Prince. I suppose it may be silly to fix an Easter basket for your grown husband, but he thinks it's sweet, & I think it's sweet, & he fixes one for me, too. His parents never really celebrated or went all out for holidays, just sort of putting in the minimal amount of effort necessary to consider them recognized, so I suppose I put forth a bit more effort where he's concerned, just because I hate that he missed out on so much of the fun of them!

(& well, as I said, I tend to go a bit overboard for holidays...I even fixed my mama an Easter basket. =))

Some of what was in Pretty Little Bare Feet's Easter basket:

a Bunnies by the Bay bunny wrist rattle,
a Bunnies by the Bay plush Emmie duck,
a little chocolate colored plush bunny from Harry&David,
a funny bunny frame from Chasing Fireflies
(with a photo of My Prince & Pretty Little Bare Feet in it),
a chocolate bunny
(because My Prince insisted that a proper Easter basket must have one, even if the recipient can't eat it),
Pretty Little Bare Feet's first Bible
(it was difficult to locate a children's King James version, but I managed!), &
copies of I Am a Bunny by Richard Scarry,
Happy Easter, Biscuit! by Alyssa Satin Capucilli,
& some other Easter books.

She also got a bigger Easter bunny, who didn't fit in the Easter basket...& apparently didn't get photographed!

Oh, & this little tshirt was just too cute, & it doesn't show up in the Easter basket photo.

baby love bunny tshirt from Chasing Fireflies

Some of what was in My Prince's Easter basket:

Jelly Belly jelly beans,
some specialty chocolates&eggs (coconut, etc.) from a gourmet chocolatier,
a Dove chocolate bunny,
some Almond Joy eggs,
& a Scofield reference Bible (King James version).


It's truly one of my favorite holidays. I cannot get into anything scary, AT ALL, but I love love love cutesy little ghosts, pumpkins, witches, etc. I have some crafts&recipes that I did last year that I will blog at a later time, but I will share that we did a photo card with Pretty Little Bare Feet on it, which we found at one of my favorite stationery sites, Polka Dot Design. We changed it to say "Happy Halloween."

Pretty Little Bare Feet posed for the photo card photo in a "Daddy's Little Devil" onesie from Old Navy that her granny had bought for her.

Her granny also bought her a "Ghostess with the Mostest" tee.

Of course the White Dog got in on the Halloween spirit, sporting a "Witch in Training" outfit that coordinated with our Halloween doormat (which I found at Kohl's).

In 2008, while I was pregnant with Pretty Little Bare Feet, my mama called to ask me if I wanted her to buy Pretty Little Bare Feet's first Halloween costume, as she was out shopping after Halloween & came across a mouse costume at Old Navy that would be the right size for Pretty Little Bare Feet's first Halloween. I said, "Sure, if the price is that great." I hadn't really thought about what we'd do for her first Halloween (though I have next year's all planned out!), so a mouse sounded fine to me. Of course, then, a couple months before Halloween, a friend of mine mentioned that her little boy was going to be sporting the same Old Navy mouse costume, & I hit the brakes, thinking...

How many little Old Navy mice are going to be running around?
& is that costume really that gender-neutral? The ears are pink!

(I should point out that this same friend, whom I love dearly, but who admittedly has no real interest in fashion, femininity, etc., lets this little boy wear Dora the Explorer floaties. Yikes.)

So my mama&I made some modifications. Pretty Little Bare Feet wasn't just a mouse for Halloween.

She was a girly, preppy little mouse.

The morning of Halloween, Pretty Little Bare Feet found her Halloween gifts in an adorable little tutu witch Halloween trick-or-treat bag, which I found on Etsy & had monogrammed for her.

I'm not sure who it was that brought Halloween gifts...the Great Pumpkin, maybe? But in addition to the new trick-or-treat bag, some of the fun things inside included:

a couple Halloween bibs, which I think I found at T.J. Maxx;

a Baby's First Halloween candy corn rattle, which I found at Babies R Us;

one of her favorite treats, canned pumpkin;

& amongst other things, a Ty autumn bear named Bumpkin.

We also forced the White Dog to dress up as a French maid on Halloween.

She gets forced into a costume every year, & she hates it, & hates us for it, every year.

My Prince also carved a mini Minnie Mouse jack-o'-lantern for Pretty Little Bare Feet, in honor of her costume.

He did it freehand (& last-minute!), without using stencils.

We put it outside for the trick-or-treaters to see.

& I found my own little divalicious "jack-o'-lantern" at Target.


IS A HOLIDAY WORTH CELEBRATING. & I don't just mean on the actual day, at the actual dinner. I mean, it should be decorated for & celebrated in the weeks leading up to its date, just like all of the other holidays should be! I admit I get a bit put off when folks skip right over Thanksgiving & start playing Christmas music, or putting up Christmas decor, as soon as they've emptied their trick-or-treat bags out.

& although we don't have a big to-do of gifts (because it's kind of hard to find Thanksgiving-themed gifts, especially for small children), I did try to make it special for Pretty Little Bare Feet.

My faithful Etsy addiction (which is out of control) led me to get an adorable custom boutique applique girly turkey&name bodysuit, personalized for Pretty Little Bare Feet.

I also gave her a Baby's 1st Thanksgiving bib that I found at Babies R Us. It's Pooh, & I'm not wild about having an overmarketed character on everything my baby plays with, wears, etc.

But it was hard to find Thanksgiving anything, & even harder to find anything even remotely feminine.


oh, Christmas! I could go on&on&on about Christmas forever, or just start a Christmas blog.

Suffice it to say that since Christmas is the most marketed, most celebrated holiday out there, I have A LOT of Christmas

ornaments, etc.

& suffice it to say that Pretty Little Bare Feet got an obscene amount of Christmas gifts (especially for a first Christmas...that she doesn't even understand!).

But since this post was supposed to be more of an illustration of the gifts&things that I do&find for all of those other holidays that don't get as much love&attention, I'll gloss over the exorbitant excess that was Christmas here at our house.

We do two trees.

a smaller, more "fun," white tree, in the kitchen, with lots of candy & gingerbread -themed ornaments, & lots of pastels;

& a larger, more traditional, green tree, in the dining room, with lots of gold&red, Christopher Radko, Lenox, & Raggedy Anns.

(I have some better photos of the big tree, with the tree skirt, & with all of the gifts wrapped underneath, but I haven't gotten around to uploading them yet...will do!)

We used three different photo cards this year, two from Polka Dot Design,

& one from Target. We also used two different boxes of Mary Engelbreit Christmas cards.

I'd be on here all day if I posted every Christmas-themed outfit that Pretty Little Bare Feet wore over the season, but I the dresses that we had Christmas photos made in were a smocked one that my sister-in-law gave us; one with a tutu skirt that my mama gave us (I believe she may have gotten it at Kohl's); & a red gingerbread jumper that I got at Cracker Barrel. (She wore a little Santa hat w/ that one.) that I've committed to being a blogger this year, I may commit myself to being more diligent about photographing the assorted&various lengths that I go to for holidays this year.

Happy New Year, & Happy Everything Else this year!