Thursday, March 31, 2011

Three Amazing Things About Ashley

Yesterday evening, my sister-in-law Ashley and I journeyed to Sam's Club to do some shopping for Ty's Treinta Fiesta.

Translation: Ty's 30th Birthday Party.

Literal Translation: Ty's 30 Party.

I take great offense to the butchering of the English language, but Spanish, not so much. I butchered Spanish regularly while earning credit hours to graduate with my liberal arts degree. It's what I do.

Back to Ashley, I love my sister-in-law. She was the wedding planner I couldn't afford. She's one of the few things my brother and I have in common (we both love her). She's one of my best friends and there's a gaping hole in my life if I don't speak with her everyday.

With that being said, I learned a few things about my girl during our shopping trip to Sam's that made me love her even more:
  1. She'll do anything for you. Just yesterday she placed an order on my behalf for a cookie cake, volunteered to make fruit skewers for the party and wanted to accompany me on a trip to Sam's.
  2. She makes friends everywhere. In the picture above, she realized the lady at the customer service counter was wearing a finger condom, too, and they became quick friends. Ashley left the counter with a new Sam's card, a lady calling her "sister" and then yelling after her that if she needed another "rubber" the lady had one. The third part was a little awkward. 
  3. She's an amazing shopper. We played the Guess-How-Much-This-Is-Going-To-Cost Game and she came within nine cents of the total! Is that even possible? Plus, if I'd gone surplus shopping without her, I probably would have ended up with enough shredded cheese to fill our swimming pool. She's the queen of estimating quantity, and I would have been lost without her.
I've got much love for Ashley. Or as the guy at Tacomania referred to her, my "bonita cuñada."

Translation: Pretty Sister-in Law.

See, she makes friends everywhere.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Best Dishes: Nana's Strawberry Crusty Shortcake

When my sister-in-law Mandy and her family moved into our house they often remarked on how much I cook. Maybe it was an observation made because they live in our upstairs space that has no kitchen. Or maybe it was an observation made because Mandy, although a dietitian, never cooks! To her credit, if I worked in a kitchen each day, I probably wouldn't want to spend a minute in the kitchen once I got home either.

Their observation made me a little self-conscious! It did seem that each time they popped in our house I was cooking!  But it's because I have a love for cooking. I love to be in the kitchen (although mine desperately needs a renovation). I love to see my friends enjoy meals I've prepared (at least I now have an acceptable dining room). I love to sample and share new recipes. And I know exactly where that passion started. ... with this lady:

This is my Nana. The best grandmother imaginable, and today, she's getting some well-deserved, hard-earned publicity in The Times for her Strawberry Crusty Shortcake. For the record, in all my years I've never heard her refer to it by this name. Also, we've never eaten shortcake at this table in her formal dining room. But she is a woman who knows the power of a good impression and thinks her mural (background) is nicer looking than her kitchen.

When there's a strawberry shortcake in the house, the conversation usually goes something like this:

(Ty and Stephanie enter back door left)

Stephanie: Hey, Nana!

Nana and Big Mick (in unison): Heeeeyyyy, Honey ... hey, Ty!!

(Ty and Stephanie are greeted by big hugs, kisses on the cheek and sometimes pats on the booty. Ty is feeling awkward.)

Nana: I've got something special for you. You might want to go take a peek in the refrigerator.

(At this point, the cats out of the bag and I know there's a strawberry shortcake in the fridge. But it is her pride and joy and I must entertain her.)

Stephanie and Ty (upon opening the fridge): Ohhh .... wow.

Stephanie: It's very pretty. Look at all those strawberries!

We have literally had this conversation no less than 30 times. She loves this shortcake and I'm glad she got some recognition. It's like everyone has gotten the chance to sneak a peek into her refrigerator. I know she's tickled pink and swelling with pride. I love it for her!

And to tell you the kind of woman my Nana is, she made another small, personal-sized shortcake for the reporter to take with her. She's loving through and through! She taught me to love spending time in the kitchen. It started when I was young and we would bake peanut butter cookies together. I always loved being her helper. Even though I was probably making a mess, she let me do it all while she stood by, measured ingredients and cleaned up my aftermath.

I know she wants you all to have her recipe, so I'm passing it along with one suggestion. Assemble to shortcake close to the time you're going to serve it. Otherwise the "crusty" turns into "soggy."

Nana's Strawberry Crusty Shortcake

8-10 cups strawberries
2-3 rolls frozen pie crust
Soft butter or margarine

  • Wash and drain strawberries. Slice berries (not too thin) and add sugar to taste. Slightly stir to make a little juice and place in refrigerator.
  • Place unrolled thawed pie crust on wax paper, add a little flour and roll out until slightly thinned. Turn crust over and put on cookie sheet. On the top side, spread with soft butter and lightly sprinkle with sugar. Using a fork, pierce holes in crust. Repeat with remaining crusts.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 450 degrees for 7-9 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove and put on wax paper to cool.
  • Once cool, break into pieces to fit bottom of 4- to 5-quart dish.
  • Add strawberries to cover first layer of crust. Add another layer of crust on top of strawberries. Add layer of strawberries. Repeat until each layer is filled and finish with a layer of crust on top.
  • Pour juice from berries over crust. Top with whipped topping or whipped cream. Place in refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours before serving.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Before & After Warm Fuzzies

I came home yesterday afternoon, walked in my house, let out of sigh of relief and thought "finally."

Our dining room is finished. Here are a few before pictures of our monstrous green wallpaper (it was on the ceiling, too):

Looking at this heightens my gag reflex.

Here's the room now:

I realize that pumpkin orange may not be the color for everyone, but I love orange. I think it's energetic, warm and inviting. Perfect a room that's meant for entertaining, conversation and laughter.

Just when I thought that was reason enough to get that warm, fuzzy feeling that all was right in the world, Ty instructed me to look outside at our backyard. To preface, the former homeowner was an obsessive gardener, and I guess she wanted to be surrounded by all the things she loved. All corners, sides and hidden spots in our yard were planted.

I, on the other hand, bought a new plant on Saturday and by yesterday afternoon it appeared to be on its last leg. Let's just say gardening is not my strong suit, and considering that, in the year we've lived in our house the yard has gotten a little out of control. I wanted to hire a crop duster to drop weed killer over the entire backyard because we were definitely at the point of purging and purifying for a more simple landscape scheme. One that even I could manage!

Here are some before and after glimpses:

This picture was taken last summer when the crape myrtle was still there, the fence was covered in ivy and a million other massive plants were squelching our backyard pool oasis.

Here is our crape myrtle-less (well, the stump is still there), ivy-free fence and backyard now. May I point out the fantastic power washing my husband performed on our bricks? He's still got a little ways to go, but it looks fantastic.

This is a picture of our house from last summer. Please note the ivy stretching along the fenceline to the left.

And here's a picture of our fenceline now ... completely purged of all obnoxious, all-powerful, overtaking ivy.

As I've mentioned before, I love each little step that we make toward making this home our own. Now I have indoor/outdoor warm fuzzies!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Twice the Love

The sweet Pipkin girls are here, and they're so beautiful.

The girls arrived yesterday around 2 p.m., they both weighed exactly 5 pounds. Lila Mae is17 inches, and Molly Loy is 18 1/4 inches. And I think they're absolutely precious! We haven't made it to the hospital yet (after nine or so hours of labor, I figured they wouldn't mind an evening to catch their breath), but in pictures I would say Lila definitely resembles Walt (grin and all) and Molly takes after Nancy. I'm fighting the urge to take off work and go to the hospital! I can't wait to say hello!

Most of our friends have children, but this birth in particular has been special and strangely emotional for me. Ty and I were in bed last night, fading to sleep, when I broke the silence and said, "Can you believe it. ... Walt is a dad? Walt and Nancy are parents!" How life can change in an instant!

Walt is to Ty what LJ is to me. Walt has been Ty's best friend since high school. They work together each day. Walt was Ty's best man in our wedding. Walt and Nancy will always be a major part of our lives. I know our children will grow up together and develop friendships of their own.
Lila and Molly are the next generation of our families and friendships. I can't wait to see what unfolds for them on the road ahead. 
Welcome, Molly and Lila! We can't wait to meet you!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Funny Texts From Home

I've been in Orlando for three nights now. One more night, and I'll be heading home. And although I've been very busy since arriving, I miss being a part of all the things going on at home. Thankfully, several people do their best to keep me in the loop, and I do my best to return the favor.

These are the shoes I wore yesterday. They were given to me a few years back by LJ, so I thought she would appreciate seeing that I still wear them. I took this picture from a bathroom stall and felt very awkward when my camera phone made that picture capture sound. I thought I should announce to everyone that I was just taking a picture of my shoes. Then a man walked out of the stall next to me and it made my picture taking blunder seem minor. He literally ran out of the women's restroom in embarrassment. I would have thought more of him if he washed his hands.

Nancy sent me this picture last night with the message that I should beware when I leave town because my "Hubby's cattin' around with younger girls." I told her that she better watch him for me. He'll be babysitting behind my back before I know it. Which might be a good thing since Nancy will be having twin girls sometime this week!

Then, right before I got in bed to go to sleep, I got this picture from my sister-in-law Ashley saying "a very sad night ends with me wearing a finger condom." Out of fear that she'd lost a digit ... or a hand (I couldn't really tell in the picture what was going on), I called to make sure everything was OK. Ashley cut the tip off her finger making french fries with her mandoline slicer. I knew all was well when she told me they ate dinner before seeking medical attention.

After dinner, my brother purchased enough first aid supplies to treat a small military regime (see picture above).

The pictures have done a great job of keeping me company while I'm away, but I'm excited to be home and witness things first hand. Especially the arrival of Walt and Nancy's twin girls!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Slow-Cooker Chipotle Beef Tacos with Cabbage and Radish Slaw

The painter finally showed at our house yesterday, which made me both excited and a little nervous. Excited because I've been expecting him for three days. Nervous because I had my crockpot out, simmering with a delicious batch of chipotle beef. I thought the aroma might be too much temptation for him and I might come home to an empty crockpot with no beef.

Fortunately, my brother-in-law was home to keep a watchful eye and protect the crockpot and accidentally walk in on one of the painters tinkling in the half bath. Nothing slips by Justin, apparently not even a little No. 1-ing. I think everyone feels a little awkward now.

In all honesty, I trust our painter. He's done work for us in the past and he's a good guy. But few can resist the savory aroma of a simmering crockpot. Except when you wake up in the middle of the night and your house still smells like beef. That's less than desirable.

When I arrived at home, I was happy to see my beef still in the crockpot and smelling delicious. I poured the beef into a pan and pulled apart the meat. I also made a cabbage and radish slaw, marinated in lime juice, that gave the tacos a tangy crunch. And in my spare time, I managed to uncover the secret to the perfect taco:

After eating at the Gulett's house a few weeks ago, I learned you really can't make any sort of soft taco to perfection without a tortilla warmer. Frankly, I was very tired of my skunky tortillas, so I invested in a warmer and that has made all the difference. Perfecto!

The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of chopped canned chipotles. I would be a little more generous since our beef really lacked the kick we were looking for. And if you're like my husband and think the slaw looks too "vegetabley," still give it a try. I promise it's such a nice contrast to the beef, you won't want to eat the taco without it.

Slow-Cooker Chipotle Beef Tacos with Cabbage and Radish Slaw

3 pounds of beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons (or more) chopped canned chipotles in adobo sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
kosher salt
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage
4 radishes, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
12 6-inch corn tortillas
sour cream, pickled jalapeno peppers and hot sauce for serving
  • In a 4- to 6- quart slow cooker, toss together the beef, onion, garlic, chipotles, oregano, bay leaves and 1 teaspoon salt.
  • Cover and cook until the beef is very tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 1/2 to 4 hours (I vote low and slow).
  • Twenty minutes before serving, heat oven to 350. In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, radishes, cilantro and lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Wrap tortillas in foil and bake until warm, 5 to 10 minutes (or get a tortilla warmer!!).
  • Transfer the beef to a medium bowl (reserve the cooking liquid and shred using two forks. Strain the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl with the beef and toss to combine (I didn't strain the liquid and opted just to fish out the bay leaves).
  • Fill the tortillas with the beef and slaw. Serve with the sour cream, jalapenos, hot sauce and lime wedges.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Several Thoughts for Thursday

I have lots of things to share with you today. Lots of things I've been holding in. Lots of things that can't sustain a single post. Lots of things I've just got to get out.

1. We've been hearing for weeks, and from multiple people, that Ty has a look alike/sound alike on "American Idol." To satisfy our curiosity, we watched the show. We watched six contestants sing and never saw Ty's doppelganger until the recap at the end of the episode. We'd missed the guy, which really sucked because we both loathe "American Idol." Do you think this guy looks like Ty?

{Here's Ty. Handsome devil.}

{Here's the doppelganger, Paul McDonald.}

I see the resemblance, but think my husband is far more yummy to my tummy.

 2. For three days, our painter has stood us up. Huge sigh. Ty talked to him yesterday and he said he would be coming over today with several helpers and have the job finished by next Wednesday. I will be out of town for most of this time, so I'm just hoping I come home Thursday to a completed dining room.

3. For most of next week, I'll be at a trade show in Orlando. Ty and I were discussing scheduling last night and he remarked, "Looks like there's going to be lots of pizza in my future." I felt halfway sorry for him, and halfway pleased that he was so lost without me. Someone please take my husband to dinner early next week. I have a vision of coming home to stacks of empty pizza boxes and leftover pizza crust between my sofa cushions!

4. I went for a walk early yesterday evening with my favorite Jenny. We walked for about an hour, talking about furniture, houses, home decor, church, kiddos ... and then we ran into the Buteau Family. I got to hold sweet Briggs Buteau for a little bit. He played with my hands, fiddled with my watch and looked up to give me this adorable, handsome smile. I melted a little bit. Sweet babies like this are working wonders on me (a woman terrified of motherhood. I may share more on this later). I feel my resistance wearing away. BUT, not anytime soon for all you pregnancy pushers!!

(Revision: I have to submit this update because I originally wrote that I was holding Brown Buteau, when I was actually holding Briggs. See below why this is very confusing!! I can only tell them apart by their hair ... and even then I'm still a little confused!)

5. I stumbled across my old blog yesterday. It spans from 2006 to 2008 and recaps some fun times in my life. I was working as the entertainment editor for The Times back then, so there's a lot of music stuff on there. But there are also little tidbits woven in about my life at that time. I'll admit, my writing leaves something to be desired and that embarrasses me since I was writing for a living. But overall, I was amazed to look back at my life, compare it to my life now and see the ground work God was laying. Ty was first mentioned on January 14, 2008. We were just friends at this point, going to play golf, completely unaware that we would be married in a little less than three years! It just goes to show you how life is continually evolving and we don't even realize it. Imagine the miracles we're witnessing today without even knowing it. Here are some pictures of my favorite moments:

 {Look at sweet, baby Baxter. He was just months old in this picture!}

 {Here's B about a year later. His beard has grown a lot since then!}

{One of my all-time favorite girl trips. About 10 of us went to the beach for Carrie Hart's bachelorette party. I will never forget the memories we made.}

{Here's LJ and I at Mardi Gras with her nephews, John Collier and Cayden. Look how little these guys are!!}

{This police officer was begging for me to go jujitsu on his ass. No really, this was a self defense class I took. I wish I could remember those moves they taught us.}

{This was only the beginning of my passionate and involved relationship with karaoke. I was in Vivian where no one knew me. There was an extra microphone. And it all evolved into me singing "Love Shack" like a rock star. Well, a Vivian rock star.}

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sliced Mushrooms with Melted Fontina

When I think about the things I love most, cheese and mushrooms individually make their way onto my list. Since I made this dish Monday night, the combined powerhouse that is cheese and mushrooms has moved up a few notches on my list.

Here's how my Most Loved List now rank. ... as of today, halfway through my first cup of coffee, which means this list might not be spot-on accurate or even a coherent thought:
  1. My faith and my church.
  2. My husband, Ty.
  3. Family.
  4. Friends.
  5. Mr. Baxter and Lacy.
  6. Sliced Mushrooms with Melted Fontina.
Yep, that's pretty much the order of importance of the things in my life. Although, I may have been slipped some psychedelic mushrooms by Brookshires and that has altered my perspective. Either way, these mushrooms are mind blowing (in a non-drug induced way) and very easy to make.

Ty and I had these mushrooms with steaks that we cooked on the grill. I couldn't help myself. I had to smear a little cheese and mushrooms on my steak. And then I died a little inside. The favors were amazing. The smokey flavor of the steak, with the salty, smooth bite of fontina, and the woodsy flavor of the mushrooms. I was over the moon. Ty, to the contrary, does not rank cheese and mushrooms as No. 6 on his Most Loved List, so he wasn't Jersey Shore fist pumping over it like myself. But he did enjoy it.

This dish took maybe 5 minutes to prepare. So, if you love cheese, it's definitely worth trying since it's super easy. Here's the recipe:

Sliced Mushrooms with Melted Fontina

6 ounces of cremini and shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced (I used pre-washed bagged cremini didn't worry about the shitake)
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 thyme sprigs
3/4 cup coarsely grated fontina cheese
  • Preheat broiler
  • Arrange mushrooms in a single layer in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper.
  • Broil for 2 minutes. Remove dish from over and add thyme and cheese.
  • Broil for 1 minute and serve warm.
This recipe comes from Martha Stewart Living. Yes, I've started reading this home magazine, too. Don't judge, although it does make me feel slightly old-ladyish considering there's a "crafts" section.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Paint Swatches and Scrambled Living

My dining room table is currently located in the foyer of my home. The chandelier is laying on the couch in the room off the kitchen. Dinning room chairs are scattered from here to there. And with it all, I seem to have lost my mind.

Last night I went to the grocery store, and as I was checking out, I realized I didn't have my car keys. I called Ty to tell him I'd locked my keys in the car and he needed to come unlock it for me. As he pulls into the parking lot, I discover that my car is unlocked, my keys are in the ignition and my purse is sitting in the passenger seat.

Help me, Rhonda!

I don't do well living in disorder. Clearly. I woke up at 3 a.m. Sunday thinking about how my house is a scramble right now. I didn't go back to sleep until 5 a.m. and my house is still a scramble. It was a very unproductive moment of panic.

This is not the way we normally live. But if you want to rip down wallpaper and paint your dining room, you've got to handle a little scramble. Our painter is supposed to start working on the dining room this week and finish it up by Friday, and in the meantime I've been focusing on the things I can control ... and regularly saying the Serenity Prayer.

I've been sampling numerous shades of orange paint in hopes of finding the right shade. I've come nowhere close to finding "The Orange," so in a moment of crazy, I broke down and called the hotel where I originally got the idea. I told them I loved their paint, and I wanted to duplicate the look in my home and I was hoping they could tell me the exact color paint they used. I could hear them thinking I was crazy on the other end of the phone, but what did I have to lose?

Several hours later, the hotel's chief engineer called me with some very good news. He'd found the brand, finish and names of the paint colors I asked about. How's that for hospitality! It kind of blew my mind. So, without further introduction, let me present to you to my very illusive paint swatches:

This is Benjamin Moore's Jack O Lantern. She's a Virgo, and despite her name and orangish hue, she believes Halloween is the "devil's holiday."

This is Jack O Lantern's perfect match, Spice Gold. He is the ying to her yang. Calm, subtle, soothing. If paint swatches could walk, he would enjoy long walks on the beach.

After those descriptions, I'm sure you're worried about my mental condition, as well. I just personified paint swatches. See, I don't do well living in the scramble.

I've been looking for accessories and other touches to tone down and add some rustic elegance to our dining room. And I think this is the rug that will make that happen:

I heart tartan.

Hopefully, by the end of the week, I'll have some progress photos to share. And my table back in my dining room. And my mind working at full capacity once again. Fingers crossed!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Having Fun Not Playing Bunco

My sister-in-law invited me to a Bunco group gathering last night where the group doesn't actually play Bunco. This is my favorite type of Bunco group because, let's be honest, after a while the game gets a little old.

It's far more fun to sit around with some girls at Wine Country, enjoy some cocktails and appetizers and spend the night catching up and swapping stories. I didn't know everyone in this group, but I'd met most of them before, and these are some funny, funny ladies.

Here's some of the girls: DeAnn Arnold, my sister-in-law Ashley Netherton, Lauren Gough and Kristen Deere. Kristen and Lauren both participated in the frozen dinner swap, but last night I got to know them both a little better. 

I had the privledge of sitting between Jenny Sanford (left) and Kristi Meiki (right). I literally died laughing all night while Jenny told stories of her 10-year-old daughter getting spray tanned for the Miss Polk Salad Pageant (she admits it's very similar to "Toddlers & Tiaras" at her house), and Kristi talking about paying $50 online for 12 cans of Spaghetti-O's in the original sauce. Insanely funny girls.

And if that wasn't enough to make my night great, my church soulmate Jenny Gulett was sitting right across the table. Love her! That's all I can say! Jenny's sister-in-law Emily Gulett (left) was there, as well as Ashley Chance (right).

It was so fun getting to meet some new girls and spend time with some of my favorite ladies, too. Definitely more fun than playing Bunco.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chicken and Gruyere Turnovers

I made these for dinner the other night. Aren't they beautiful? Warm, flaky, buttery, browned puff pastry stuffed with chicken, Gruyere cheese and peas. Ty was very disappointed about the peas. His "ugh, peas" comment will prepare me well for motherhood. In the end, I don't think he cared too much about the peas since you couldn't really taste them.

I pulled this recipe from the March issue of Real Simple. I've gotten lots of good recipes from Real Simple and Southern Living over the years. I tear out the pages and put them in with the rest of the pile, and when I'm ready to try something new, I sift through my magazine pages and see what sounds good.

The hardest part of making the chicken turnovers was shredding the chicken and grating the cheese. Really, it's that easy. All the ingredients are pre-prepared (very Sandra Lee-esque), making the turnovers a breeze to prepare but still a sight to behold when they come out of the oven. Here's the recipe:

Chicken and Gruyere Turnovers

2 sheets thawed frozen puff pastry (one 17.25 oz package)
1 rotisserie chicken (I picked mine up from Brookshires)
Gruyere cheese
frozen peas
  • Cut two sheets of thawed frozen puff pastry in half to form 4 rectangles.
  • Dividing evenly, top half of each rectangle with a mixture of 1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken, 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere and 1/2 cup frozen peas.
  • Seal the pastries and brush the tops with beaten egg.
  • Bake at 400 until golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Serve with Dijon mustard.
This dish is very basic for how fanciful it ends up looking. I'm beginning to embrace the simplicity and power of puff pastry!

Was this dish one of our favorites or something I'll make regularly? Probably not. But it was fun to try. And at the end of the day, what's really better than a flaky, buttery pastry oozing with melted cheese?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Hazards of Planning a Cake Auction

I decided to step up this year as the leader of my company's Relay for Life team. That involves after-work meetings, in-house meetings, fundraising events and finally the Relay on April 15. It's been a little bit of extra work, but I have great teammates who help plan and push us toward reaching our fundraising goals.

Our first fundraiser was this past Friday. We held a Cake Auction (food fundraisers go over very well at our office!) and 24 cakes were made and donated by employees.

I will go ahead and confess that I was a slacker and didn't bake my own cake, but what I brought was far better than anything I could have made. Marie, the wonderful lady who made Ty's groom's cake, agreed to make both a chocolate and a strawberry cake for the auction. Not only is Marie the best baker in the world, she's the kindest and most generous, too. She also made little individual cakes for me and Ty to have, which was a very good thing or else the cakes may have not made it to the auction.

This is the very meaning of the word "temptation."

And if that wasn't enough, this heavenly chocolate cake was sitting on the kitchen counter for me to lust after.

If Marie would do it, I would contract her to make me a cake each week for a year. At the end of that year, it's likely that walls would have to be knocked down to air lift me to medical care. But up until that point, it would be a very good year.

The cake auction ended up bringing in $1,356 for the American Cancer Society. I didn't know cake could do all that! It helps that I work with a group of very generous people who get caught up in charitable giving. Marie's strawberry cake was the highest moneymaker of the day, selling for $115, and her chocolate cake went for $50.

If you'd like to make a donation to our Relay for Life team, click here, and select "donate to our team." My company has agreed to match whatever money is raised, so if you make a $10 donation, it's actually $20!

Cake or no cake, it's fun to give. I'm just sparing you some calories!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Real Green Monster

When we bought our house a little over a year ago, there was one major thing that I knew would have to change: The Green Wallpaper. I capitalize its name because it is so intense, it has more or less taken on a persona. It's practically the fifth member of our family. The Red Sox have their Green Monster wall, but it's nothing compared to our green walls.

The wallpaper starts in the dining room, covering the walls and ceiling. Then it spreads through the kitchen, covering the walls, ceiling and light fixtures. Then it reaches its final destination in the room right off the back door, where it covers the walls and ceiling. I swear, you've never seen so much wallpaper. It's like a mold or virus that has spread through some of the most used areas of our home. It's dark and oppressive and I hate it passionately!

I'd finally had enough and this weekend, so we started stripping it down in our dining room. I kept putting the project off because I didn't really know what we would be getting ourselves into. When you live in a house that was build in the 30s, you never know what's hiding behind that top layer of wallpaper. I think Ty and I were so relieved we must have high-fived, hugged and cried when we saw it was just sheet rock.

Because the wallpaper was so thick, we had to roll on the wallpaper stripper twice. Once to remove the green paper and another time to remove the back part of the paper. The dingy panels you see in the picture above are the back part of the paper.

With the help of my brother and sister-in-law, Chris and Ashley, we stripped the paper down in four hours. And that includes breaking for dinner. A special thanks to my husband for smoking ribs and a brisket. Love him.

We got very excited when we would pull down big sheets! It was quite liberating.

Chris and I finished up the job by scraping the tiny pieces left behind. Of all the work, this was the biggest pain in my rump. It doesn't help that Chris and I both tend to be perfectionists.

By the end of the night, our room looked like this. I feel the weight of my oppressive green wallpaper has been lifted. Or at least this is a very good start. And new texture and paint will be on the walls, hopefully, by the end of the week!

The room feels so much bigger, and even though it was hard work, I'm pleased with the results. With every small step, Ty and I get closer to really making this house our own.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Best Dishes: Pecan-Crusted Salmon

I have been Poops McGoops lately. This has nothing to do with actual poops. Thankfully. I can't imagine what the world would have to come to for me to blog about that. All I'm saying is that I've been very tired lately. I've had some super challenging days at work. We've had stuff going on several nights this week (what, I'm not exactly sure of). I'm putting on a cake auction tomorrow for Relay for Life. All of this equals me being a Poops McGoops at the end of the day.

Somehow, I manage to pull myself up by my boot straps and make a fabulous meal for my husband. I hope I still do this when we've been married a zillion years. I really hope he's still volunteering to do the dishes after we eat. My friend and I often converse about how hot it is when our husbands do housework. Gentlemen, we really do think it's hot.

Pulling of a great meal is easy when you have a delicious, simple recipe and use quality ingredients. I found this Pecan-Crusted Salmon recipe recently in my Dallas Dish cookbook, and I'm fairly certain I've mentioned it in conversation with most of my friends. Before this recipe, I wouldn't say that I particularly liked salmon. Now, this is our favorite fish dish!

But this is where quality ingredients come into play. Nothing will ruin a fantastic fish recipe like a skanky, smelly piece of fish. The first time we made the salmon, we used some fillets given to us by a friend who had just returned from a fishing trip in Alaska. They were amazing. But since I don't have access to fresh-caught Alaskan salmon, I buy my salmon at Maxwell's Market. It's super fresh, never frozen, and when I shop, I get to visit with my brother's girlfriend who works there.

So, even if you don't like salmon, get yourself some fresh fillets and try this recipe. You will become a convert like me and Ty.

Pecan-Crusted Salmon

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 teaspoons honey
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
4 (4 to 6 oz) salmon fillets
salt and pepper to taste.
  • Heat the oven to 450.
  • Place your salmon fillets, skin down, in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper.
  • Combine butter, mustard and honey and brush across the top of the salmon fillets.
  • Combine bread crumbs, pecans, parsley and pat onto the top of each fillet.
  • Bake for about 10 minutes, or until flaky.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One For One

Several months back, I tried on a pair of Toms and I was just on the fence about the whole look. From my vantage point, I thought they made my feet look very elfin.

For the record, this is where I stand on elf culture:

  1. EL Fudge (Keebler elf-themed cookies) are delicious.
  2. The movie "Elf" is one of my very favorites. It is where I first developed a deep love for Zooey Deschanel. Although, I've yet to figure out the real pronunciation of her name. Or be able to say it without a ridiculous French accent. And I don't even know if her name is French.
  3. I wasn't really into "Lord of the Rings," but technically those are hobbits and I'm not sure if hobbits are different than elves. Can someone who plays World of Warcraft clear that up for me?
  4. Have you ever looked an Elf on the Shelf in the eye? Scary.
But while at Mardi Gras in my cowboy boots this past Saturday, I grew envious of the cute, seasonally appropriate and comfortable Toms I saw many girls wearing. I didn't think their feet looked elfin, and so I thought I would take the plunge and buy myself (and someone else) a pair.

These were my original favorites:

I soon discovered they must be everyone's favorite because they are completely sold out everywhere. Except for this one "gently used" pair for $70 on Ebay. That's expensive. And it grosses me out since you don't wear socks with these shoes. I have a rule against foot-to-foot contact with strangers.

Then I found these. They're not on the Toms Web site, but I guess they are available for purchase somewhere in the universe. I would like for these shoes to find my feet one day soon. I think they would be adorable with shorts, skirts, cuffed jeans.

In the end, I went with what I could find. Simple Gray Toms. They'll go with everything and can be my entry into elfin wear. I'll break them in and they'll break me in to the more dynamic styles available.

I believe this may be my gateway purchase into to a collection of canvas shoes. Welcome to Keds for adults!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife

I've been getting a lot of e-mails this week about a crime spree in our neighborhood. It is cause for concern and a serious matter. But when I think about this criminal, I can't help but think of Antoine Dodson and this video (if you substitute "rape" for "rob". Sidenote: I'm very thankful there are no bed intruders in my neighborhood.).

In all seriousness, I'm hopeful that SPD will catch this guy very soon. If you live in our area, here are the details. I feel it's my civic duty to pass this along to neighbors and friends:

  • There has been an increase in burglaries in District 5 since the end of 2010. Typically, residential burglaries are during the day, however, many of the recent incidents have been during the night or early morning hours (3 a.m. to 6 a.m.) when residents are at home. There are no suspects that the police have identified. They do not know who is committing these crimes. This is an out of the ordinary criminal(s). Most of the residential burglaries have been quick hits and the person gets in and out of a residence very quickly, grabbing whatever is accessible and visible from outside. Purses and cash are the common targets.
  • The police asked that residents report any suspicious activity. For non-emergencies, first call 673-BLUE (673-2583). You should then call our Community Liaison Officer, Javon Tyler, at 673-6950 (office) or 402-3605 (cell).
  • For reliable information, track criminal activity at the following site
 We hope you'll take the precautions recommended by the police department:
  • If you have an alarm system, use it. Use it consistently.  
  • Lock the doors to your home and vehicles, always. 
  • Keep your draperies, shades and shutters closed, so that a person cannot look into your home and see your purse, car keys, etc.  
  • Keep in touch with your neighbors. Let them know if you will be out of town and ask them to keep an eye on your home.  
  • ALWAYS REPORT SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY. This was repeated several times. There are 500 members of the SPD and approximately 200,000 residents in Shreveport. The police need input from residents in order to prevent crimes and apprehend criminals.
  • If someone comes to your door and asks for someone that does not live at your home or asks for directions, call the police. This is a typical tactic that a criminal may use to determine if anyone is at home.  
  • Take note of descriptive details when you call the police to report something. For example, what does the suspicious person look like, what are they wearing, etc.
And in the meantime, maybe we should take Antoine's advice and "hide your kids, hide your wife, hide your purse, hide your car keys. They're robbing everybody up in here."