Thursday, June 30, 2011

Betty Netherton: "I knew I had a little umph left"

In my life and the lives of so many others, my grandmother is an absolute treasure. Whether you call her Nana (like me) or Betty, chances are if you've met her, you've found her irresistably charming. She's 81, but full of spunk and spirit and determination.

My friends often comment on how cute Nana is, and I'll admit, she's pretty darn cute.

A few years ago, Nana went into the hospital. She seemed to be doing OK, just a minor illness, and then she took a turn for the worse. I was in bed one night, after spending part of the evening at the hospital, when my phone rang and my stepmom told me I needed to come back to the hospital that things weren't looking good.

Ty drove me to the hospital. I couldn't focus on anything besides where this night might lead. As soon as we walked onto her floor, and I saw my entire family and the look on their faces, I broke down in tears. I was going to lose my grandmother.

No matter how long and rich a life a person has lived, nothing prepares you for moments like those. Loss is loss. It leaves you craving for one more moment with the person you love.

I was fortunate enough to get more moments. Nana's determination kicked in and she fought for her life. She spent 60 days in the hospital and it took nearly an entire year for her to fully recover.

But look at her now.

{Doug Collier/The Times}
A local reporter played a round of golf with my grandmother this week and told her story beautifully. Next to her husband, family and faith, golf is one of Nana's greatest loves.

Here's Nana's story, if you'd like to read it.

I'm thrilled that not only is she healthy, but she's able to play the game she loves.

Reading her story today made me a little teary, mostly because I feel so blessed.

This remarkable lady is my grandmother.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Frozen Dinner Swap: Taco Pie

Ty and I are going on vacation next week, which means this week is a little crazy. I have to do laundry, pack, grocery shop, get a spray tan (yes, this is necessary) ... and LJ and I are putting on a baby shower/girls night/dinner for my sister-in-law Mandy tonight, too!

Needless to say, one of the things I'm not planning to do this week is cook. This frozen dinner swap happened just in time for our family! I decided I would start my frozen meals with my sister-in-law Ashley's dish, Taco Pie.

Are you having a hard time keeping up with all these sister-in-law references?

You can't tell by this picture, but this serving pan is about five inches deep and it's filled to the brim. Ty and I hardly put a dent in it, so I'm sure you could feed up to eight with one recipe.

The dish possessed one of my favorite food qualities ... it was some major cheesy, gooey goodness.

By the way, I think I have a cheese problem. Thoughts?

The layers of cheese, tortilla, beans and seasoned meat made the dish taste like an unfolded taco in a pan. Delish! I love dishes that bring new life to familiar flavor combinations. This would put a new spin on family taco night, for sure!

Once Ty and I finished dinner, I was sure to send Ashley a text.

I sent her this picture, with a message that read: "Yum. Yum. Yum."

Here's the recipe if you'd like to try.

Taco Pie

1 pkg flour tortillas
1 lb hamburger meat
1 can red enchilada sauce
1 pkg taco seasoning
1 can refried beans
1 can chopped green chilies
1 small onion chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 16 oz pkg shredded cheddar cheese 
  • Sauté onion and garlic until clear, set aside.
  • Brown hamburger meat, add onions back, and add taco seasoning according to instructions on package
  • Add green chilies and enchilada sauce. Mix well. 
  • Put two tortillas in bottom of round casserole; next add a layer of refried beans, top with meat mixture, then cheese. Repeat twice ending with cheese. 
  • Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Serve with sour cream.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Small Town Special

Five days a week, I drive east 45 minutes (from my driveway to my desk) to get to work. The only advantage is that all traffic is heading in the other direction, into town, while I'm heading out. I've been doing this for nearly two years, and in the beginning, it meant some major adjustments.

Waking up earlier.

No more lunching with friends.

No more running errands on my lunch break.

Nearly an additional two hours added to my work day just from my commute.

All the "tending" that comes along with life has to be done on the weekends.

It's a good job, so that's the compromise I made. Plus, if I lived in a larger city, I would be doing this anyway. That's my pathetic attempt at a justification. But in the beginning, I experienced major culture shock. It may be just 45 minutes down the road, but someone might as well have dropped me in a foreign country.

See, this is a small town. Although my company is the largest employer in its parish, this town is very small. And I am not a small town girl. I've always thought small-town living seemed to have its charms on television shows and movies, but knew I couldn't thrive in that environment if it were reality. I like shopping, having options and sushi.

But, in a way, it has become my reality. At least from 8 to 5 each weekday. For the past two years, I haven't experienced much this town has to offer. If I eat out, it's either Subway or a Wendy's salads. ... and I don't think I can sustain that for another year. So I thought it was only fair to give this small town a shot.

I'll be trying local restaurants and shops in an attempt to experience what small town living has to offer. Not to mention all the interesting things that I'll probably stumble upon for free.

It's time to broaden my horizons. I figure it would be a shame to work here all this time and never experience the good things this town probably has to offer. Each week, I'll be blogging a new experience.

Maybe we'll soon find out that good things really do come in small packages.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Week in Pictures

After this week, I'm all tuckered out.

Speaking of tuckered, I'm so excited about yesterday's birth of Mr. Tucker Moss Duvall. Ty and I have been joking about the things we'll tell our kids regarding Tucker one day.

"Just because Tuck skipped swim practice doesn't mean you get to."

Or, "Well, Tucker gets to do those things because he's older than you. When you're his age ..."

I love to think about those little things that I know we'll be saying one day!

Tucker's dad, Moss, and Ty go back very far and got into lots of trouble together all the way through their college days.

Heaven help us! I'm now praying we have all girls!

Here are some other interesting photos from my week:

My brother Taylor went to the Tyler Zoo this week, and at some point, he came across this mug and thought he would send a picture of it to me. My reply: "Story of my life."

He did not buy it for me, however, I can only imagine what it would have been like to walk into my Monday morning conference call with that mug in hand.

Ty came in limping one day and I asked him what was wrong. He said his knee hurt where he'd been stung by a wasp the previous day. He put on some shorts (yes, he's wearing shorts in this picture) and showed his knee to me.

I freaked out a little. From the sight of it, I thought we might lose a leg in the middle of the night. But the leg hung on and the swelling is slowly going down. Of course, even with it looking as bad as it did, Ty didn't want to seek medical attention. He wanted to go eat at Carrabba's.

I found this picture of an outdoor cabana and think I will use it for backyard inspiration. Ty and I have wanted to add a covered structure to the backyard, and I think this has the right look. Instead of white, I'll probably use a natural wood finish. Top it with wisteria and twinkle lights ... instant party!

However, cabana is very low on the list.

I did Painting with a Twist last night with my sister-in-law, Mandy, and mother-in-law, Margaret. After seeing last year's Christmas card, I refuse to be photographed with these two. I always look gigantor next to them. Not to mention, Mandy is weeks away from having a baby and you can't even tell.

My self esteem is shot.

And, to add insult to injury, my painting is the worst one!!

On that all-inspiring note, have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ty's New Reupholstered Chairs

As a wedding gift to my husband, I promised him I would fix up his office. And nine months later, his office looks like this:

Clearly, I haven't gotten very far on this project. I hope this is not a poor reflection on me as a wife. And to my credit, I did provide that nice, big desk for him. You're so very welcome, honey.

Ty's not really in his office much, but I would still like it to be a nice place for him to get some work done. And I'm sure his office mates would appreciate him sprucing things up a bit. Their office building is less than two years old. It's a beautiful space with lots of reclaimed wood and rustic finishes. But right now, Ty's office is a depressing sight in the middle of an otherwise beautiful place.

The walls won't be such a problem. Note the collection of duck-themed artwork resting along the wall. They've been banned from display in my home, but they would look nice in here and represent Ty well.

But, I think one of the most important parts of creating an inviting office is to provide comfortable seating for office visitors. It ended up being one of the most expensive parts of his wedding gift project, but I wanted the seating to make a statement. To be masculine, but pretty.

These are not pretty, but I knew I could work with them. I bought them for $25 each at an auction my company was having to get rid of some old office furnishings. The price was right, and with the right fabric, I knew they could be beautiful.

I found some fabric at my friend Amanda's store, Milling Around. I refinished the arms and legs in a creamy white paint and glazed them to create a distressed finish. Then I roughed them up a bit with some sandpaper and sent them off to be reupholstered.

And I just got them back yesterday evening!!

I think they are absolutely beautiful. The upholstery guy did a fantastic job and the fabric lines up perfectly to create a magical, lovely pair of office chairs.

I'm so pleased, I have to remind myself that they're just chairs. 

I'm so pleased, I have to remind myself that they're not going in my house.

I'm currently storing them in the garage because I fear if they come in my house, they'll never come out. And a promise is a promise. And I think under all circumstances, it's good to keep promises to your spouse.

In this instance, I could be easily swayed. Beautiful fabric is a weakness.

I plan to find some accessories, do some sprucing and finish up Ty's office in the coming weeks. I'll be sure to share the final results with you guys!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Belated Father's Day Thoughts

Around Mother's Day, I posted this long, serious blog about my views and fears on becoming a mother. And then Father's Day came and went without a post. Probably because being a dad isn't something I have to worry about. Obviously.

But I thought about it, and if there's any one person in my life who deserves some credit, it's my dad.

He had to be a mom and a dad. He had to navigate hair bows, church dresses, slumber parties and my godforsaken hair. He had to do all those things that don't come naturally to dads. He had to do all the things a mom would normally do.

If you look at my childhood pictures, I don't think you could say it was done flawlessly. That's not a slam against my dad. He did what any dad would do. I dressed sort of tom-boyishly. My hair was a disaster, although we really tried everything. I didn't take dance, I played golf.

But the point is he tried.

And all of those things are external. On the inside, the things that really matter about a person, he gave me in huge supply. Character, integrity, strength. I learned those things from my dad.

This is one of my favorite pictures with my dad. I think it perfectly tells the story of a father-daughter relationship. Dads are there to pick you up when you fall. To dust you off, bandage you up and give you the courage to try again.

Even when my dad didn't understand my heartache, he gave me the courage to keep trying when life was cruel.

To think, he did all that for me.

I know my dad loves Ty, but I'm sure there's some emotion that goes into giving your only daughter away to be married. Relief definitely being one! Some of my favorite wedding pictures were taken in the moments my dad walked me down the aisle.

It's so symbolic of the journey we've been on for the past 30 years. Because of my dad, I arrived at this great place in life.

A girl worthy of a husband who loves, cherishes and respects her.

I'm so thankful for a dad who taught me to value myself, work hard and never settle. It was a long, bumpy road to get to that point.

I can't wait to see where our road leads from here. As strange as it sounds, I've learned a few lessons in motherhood simply by watching my dad.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Frozen Dinner Swap Returns!

The frozen dinner swap is back! Revived for the first day of summer. Just in time to save us from having to turn on our stoves and ovens during this sweltering heat. It's hard to get motivated to cook when it's so darn hot.

A group of us got together last night to catch up and swap meals and devour appetizers and wine. It's always such a good time, and I love sampling some new recipes. I highly encourage everyone to round up friends and start your own recipe swap. Here's a list of what everyone brought and recipes I'll share in the coming weeks.

Taco Pie
Latina Lasagna
Chicken Dorito Casserole
Red and White Tortellini
Chicken Zuchini Casserole
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Chicken Spaghetti
King Ranch Chicken

I took a risk this time around and made a recipe I've been lusting after but have never made. Risky move. I made six servings of Latina Lasagna, a delicious recipe I eyeballed in Southern Living several months ago. It's a fusion of traditional lasagna and south of the border flavors. Mexican-inspired lasagna doesn't sound the most appealing, but this dish is a divine twist on the original.

It was a hit in my household. We nearly mowed down the entire pan. And there's only two of us.

I hate to call anyone out ... but I only had one serving.

The best part about this recipe is you can use no-boil lasagna noodles. Boiling should be forbidden this time of year.

The second best part about this recipe is that it uses chorizo, a spicy mexican sausage, which is not expensive and has far more flavor than ground beef.

Me encanta el chorizo!

English Translation via Google Translate, "I love chorizo."

Odio Wal-Mart.

English Translation via Google Translate, "I hate Wal-Mart."

It's true, but I'll go there for chorizo.  

I found my chorizo at the Wal-Mart in the small town (population 12,799 as of 2009) where I work. If you can find it here, you can find it just about anywhere. Check in your grocery store near the other refrigerated sausage or wherever the specialty chilled Mexican ingredients are kept.

Here's the recipe and more great swap recipes are on the way!

Latina Lasagna
You can assemble and chill this up to two days ahead to bake before serving. Simply add 20 to 30 minutes to the baking time.

Yield: Makes 8 servings
Total: 1 Hour, 48 minutes

1 ½ pounds fresh chorizo sausage, casings removed
2 (24 oz.) jars tomato and basil pasta sauce
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 (4.5 oz) can chopped green chilies
1 (15 oz.) container ricotta cheese
1 cup whipping cream
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 (16 oz.) package shredded Mexican four-cheese blend


·    Preheat oven to 375. Cook sausage in a Dutch oven over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until meat is no longer pink, breaking sausage into pieces while cooking. Drain; return sausage to Dutch oven. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in pasta sauce, cilantro and chilies; cook, stirring often, 5 minutes.
·    Stir together ricotta cheese, whipping cream and eggs until smooth.
·    Spoon 1 cup sauce mixture into a lightly greased 13x9 inch pan. Top with 4 lasagna noodles. Top with half of ricotta cheese mixture, one-third of shredded Mexican cheese blend, and one-third of remaining sauce mixture. Repeat layers once, beginning with noodles. Top with remaining 4 noodles, sauce mixture and shredded cheese blend. Cover with aluminum foil.
·    Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly. Let stand 20 minutes before serving. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekend in Pictures

We had an unintentionally exciting weekend. You just can't plan for everything. Although, I do try my very best. We had some good and bad surprises over the past several days.

We came home from a baptism Saturday to find this burst water main waiting at the foot of our driveway. As we drove up our street toward the house, we could see water flowing, coming from the direction of our home. That's when we got that sickening feeling in our stomachs.

Doesn't my shadow look frustrated? Water poured and poured out of our yard for hours. When one hour became six hours, I lost hope that any city workers would be arriving at our house that day. You could hear rocks and debris rushing under the concrete slab. I was sure it was going to collapse. The neighborhood kids did enjoy playing in the cool, free stream of water.

I woke up Sunday morning and walked out back to see the river covering our street. It sounds so peaceful and relaxing, like a babbling brook. However, relaxation quickly passes when you remember this is pouring out of your yard. And as a result, you have no water pressure. And can't wash your hair, dishes or clothes.

As of this morning, Ty said the city workers had arrived. Two days after the water started spilling out of our yard. I'm nervous about what awaits me at home. Part of my driveway demolished? A gigantic mud hole? No running water in the house?

After such an exciting afternoon, we decided we would spend our Saturday evening at home. We really needed to be home in case any city workers came by so we could show them where our sprinkler lines and supply lines are located. And by we, I mean Ty. We agreed we would rent a movie, order a pizza and stay in.

We thought Arthur looked funny. And then Direct TV tried to charge us $29.99 for the rental. Completely absurd! So, we watched Red Riding Hood instead and more or less hated it. I still remain a devotee of Amanda Seyfried.

As a result of our water problem, we had to skip church Sunday. But that afternoon, once we'd resolved that no one was coming to fix our water problem, we went to Querbes to watch my little brother, Taylor, compete in the City Amateur Golf Championship.

{Douglas Collier/The Times}

Taylor won last year's tournament and was playing in the final round that afternoon.

 {Douglas Collier/The Times}

There were a lot of our family members there. My parents, grandparents, brother and sister-in-law, aunt and uncle and other close friends. ... we were a fleet of white golf carts. It was a fun (and hot) way for us to spend Father's Day together.

It was especially fun to watch since Taylor won!

I gave my dad some steaks ... but I'm pretty sure my gift doesn't compare.

We took a family photo with our champ. I'm still not sure how Taylor managed to play two rounds of golf ... in 100 degree weather ... wearing a black shirt.

Proud siblings. Here's Taylor's interview with one of the local news stations.

Today, I thought life had returned to being somewhat normal. And then my husband sent me this picture.

The fence to our backyard was pulled up to be replaced this week. It needed to be done, but I'm pretty sure it looks like a natural disaster has struck our house.

More photos to come tomorrow.

I'm nervous.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Whoa, Blackberry (Bam-A-Lam)

When you move into a new house there often accompanies moments of exploration and discovery. You wonder why the previous owner did this or that. You spend hours trying to figure out exactly what each light switch does. You devote time and effort into unraveling the mystery and history of your home.

Well, of course, unless your home is new construction then please disregard my ramblings.

Old houses, like ours, are quirky. We've lived in it over a year and still don't know what all the light switches actually do. We have two closets that lock from the inside (I imagine them to be his and hers panic rooms). And since we've been discussing a remodel, we're a little nervous about all the treasures we'll soon discover. For starters, we're pretty sure there's a hidden window built into one of our walls.

Sometimes I love all of those interesting details. Sometimes I'd rather not have to play Sherlock Holmes.

But with it, comes the occasional fun and exciting discovery like the one we came across this week. Our home's previous owner was a compulsive gardener. So with each season's change, we find something new we'd never noticed before.

I was thrilled with this week's find.

A week or so ago, I'd noticed a bush at the foot of our driveway with beautiful pink and tangerine blooms on it. We were discussing what to plant in the backyard, and I wanted to see if our landscaping friend knew what the plant was. We walked down the driveway to see the blooms and instead found this:

Where were all my beautiful blooms and what were those knotty, thorny things all over the bush? Then I saw something familiar.

Holy smokes, we have blackberries! Our bush is covered in emerging blackberries that I'm just waiting to ripen and turn into cobbler.

It's a little embarrassing how excited I was.

We have a lot of plants like that. Even some that we're still trying to figure out. Some of you are better gardener's than I ... admittedly, that's not saying much. So, I would love to put your detective skills to the test as we try to figure out some of these trees and plants. 

We figured this one out last summer when our bright orange flowers started turning into these small, green bulbs. For most of the warm months, this tree bears small pomegranates. They never get very big and they never ripen to that deep purple color, but I think we might be the only people in our neighborhood with pomegranates growing in their backyard!

Still not 100 percent sure on this one, but we think it may be a bay leaf tree. The leaves are the right shape and texture, but the tree isn't as full or the same shape as the bay leaf trees I've looked at online.

We're almost certain this is a fruit tree of some sort. We have two of these in our yard and think they're probably grapefruit or lemon, based on these massive thorns that scrape my arms every time I mow around them. They're lethal.

Sorry this isn't the best picture. Sometimes my camera takes after me and has a hard time focusing. But look at those thorns. They hurt like the dickens!

I really, really, really wish these were lime trees. On our honeymoon, our resort's courtyard had four gigantic lime trees, their branches heavy with fruit. I can't imagine how much better my Corona Light would taste with fresh lime from my backyard.

OK, I just decided I'm going to move there permanently.

I'd be interested to hear the exciting things you've discovered in your home. And I always appreciate your help with my backyard mysteries!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Can Someone Give Me a Hand? Or Two?

After an incredibly horrible day yesterday, I did myself the favor of going to the liquor store. $85 later, I was on my way home with only one bottle of wine and an assortment of goodies. Ty teased that only I could go to the liquor store and come home with more food than beverages. It was a moment of weakness. And as a result of my emotional vulnerability, I came home with two blocks of cheese, prosciutto, a sleeve of crackers, two different appetizers (for a party I'm attending Monday), and some blueberry sweet rolls for breakfast Saturday morning.

Some women shop for clothes when they're feeling down, I shop for cheese. ... and all is right in the world.

I did share some of my cheese board with Ty. Then I ate some Captain Crunch for dinner and went to bed. I'm feeling much better today.

Now, on to the next topic and problem I would like to discuss for today.

Since I turned 30 a little over a month ago, I've started to notice some physical changes. Of course, there's the reality that cantaloupe never affected me the way it does now, but I've started to notice a more severe problem -- the emergence of old lady hands.

I was so disturbed, I had to call my sister-in-law to see if she'd noticed my hands looking particularly old lately. She was thrilled I had called and shared this revelation with her because she too was feeling her hands looked old.

Then we exchanged pictures via text.

{Ashley's hand.}

{Steph's hand.}

I know, you've never seen saggier knuckles on a 30 year old.

That same night, Ashley decided she was going to combat her old lady hands by covering them in Vaseline Petroleum Jelly before going to sleep. 

I couldn't do it because I kept thinking, "The only thing worse than a 30-year-old with paper-thin wrinkly hands is a 30-year-old with paper-thin wrinkly hands and acne."

I just think this would give me acne.

Oh well, I guess I'll follow up this post next week when my liver spots begin to appear.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two Problems I've Been Having

Let me just start this post by saying, "I've got 99 problems, but sorbet ain't one."

That's a Clint Gulett quote from our evening at the Mabry House. And it's true. While I feel like I have 99 problems, sorbet is not one of them and never will be.

Problem No. 1: I just popped three liquigels and chased it with a grape Jolly Rancher. It's just that kind of day. If that doesn't work, I plan to emotionally medicate with the three bags of candy/chocolate I bought on my lunch break. If that doesn't work, I'm stopping at the liquor store on the way home for a magnum of Cab Sav and a block of cheese.

Problem No. 2: Man, I love a cantaloupe. That's why yesterday, after looking up the calorie count on my favorite fruit and realizing there was only 188 calories in a medium-sized cantaloupe, I proceeded to eat the entire thing. I was unaware of the water weight this would add to my physique. Around 9:30 last night, I looked about 26 weeks pregnant with my cantaloupe baby. I tried to get Ty to take a "pregnancy highlight" photo but he thought I would regret that decision. It would have been darn funny.

Today, my cantaloupe baby is gone. But it has given me a brilliant idea to pass on to the school system. Forget the flour sack baby, all you home ec teachers. Start making kids eat entire cantaloupes and experience that displeasure.

I feel better after getting that out.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Night of Mystery

This past weekend, my husband took me to dinner at Noble Savage. And unbeknownst to us, he also took me to prom.

My wine was served in these 2010 prom souvenir glasses all night. Loved it. And then I kicked my leg up and made out with my husband against a downtown street light. Not really. But you can understand my overwhelming desire to do so.

Also, why do they give teenagers souvenir wine glass when they can't legally drink? You can fill a wine glass with M&Ms all day long, but it's still a wine glass.

We've eaten at Noble Savage several times. It's an eclectic place with sensational food. Each week, the chef prepares a variety of special dishes beyond what's on the standard menu. Specials include red meat, wild game, white meat, fish and sandwich options. I've never actually ordered off the standard menu because the specials are hands down the way to go.

Friday night, I went with the white meat, which was chicken cordon bleu. The chef stuffed the chicken with prosciutto (personal fav) and smoked gouda. Hold on to your souvenir wine glass because this is by far the best chicken I've ever had.

It's Tuesday and I can't get that chicken out of my head.

I may have the white meat version of Mad Cow.

What a sad way for our prom Friday night to end.

Update: Today's Living Social deal is for half price on food and drinks at Noble Savage. It's a perfect opportunity to try Noble Savage if you haven't been!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Crunchy Herbed Chicken

I always thought all chicken was created equal. That it didn't really matter if my chicken was organic or vegetable fed or harvested in a humane way. Chicken is chicken, right? But after making one of our household favorites, Crunchy Herbed Chicken, with Smart Chicken instead of the regular run-of-the-mill meat, I was sold.

First, I didn't even have to trim fat off the breasts because there was no fat to trim. Then, my chicken breasts came out so juicy and fresh tasting that the quality of meat was obvious. You always hear on cooking shows that using high quality ingredients is the most important. Now, I'm sold that it's first step to making a delicious meal.

So, back to the Crunchy Herbed Chicken. Ty and I have enjoyed this recipe for years. I found it in Real Simple Magazine three years ago and have since given it a permanent designation in my cookbook. If you're like me, you always love to find new ways to prepare chicken! It's such an easy, wonderful weeknight meal that really amps up those everyday boring chicken breasts.

Before this dish came along, I thought of parsley as a worthless little sprig of garnish. You'll be amazed at the fresh, herby flavor it provides. Your kitchen is going to smell delightful as these bake.

Crunchy Herbed Chicken

4 slices white bread toasted
1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 clove garlic, chopped
kosher salt, pepper
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Pulse bread, parsley, garlic and 1/4 tsp salt and pepper until course crumbs form.
  • Add the oil and pulse to combine.
  • Transfer to a plate.
  • Spread mustard over chicken and dip in bread crumb mixture.
  • Place on baking sheet and bake on 400 for 18 to 20 minutes or until golden.
**If you're short on time, you can use regular breadcrumbs or Panko breadcrumbs. The Panko gives it a nice, crispy texture.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Reason I'm Still Reading "Unbroken"

A few months ago, my friend recommended I read "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand. She said it would start slow and eventually pick up, and I wouldn't be able to put it down.

Well, I'm halfway through and can't seem to pick it up. It's been a slow read for me, and with it has come the realization that I greatly prefer fiction. I'm sure Ty is sick of hearing my comments that there's no dialogue and it reads like a report ... a very well written report.

But I'm still reading it. And in my own weird way, appreciating it.

The book tells the story of Louie Zamperini, a 1930s track star who endured and survived in the midst of insurmountable odds during World War II. Universal has acquired the screen rights to "Unbroken," so it looks like there's a movie to be made soon. Here's how Hillenbrand describes first meeting Zamperini and learning of his story.
Eight years ago, an old man told me a story that took my breath away. His name was Louie Zamperini, and from the day I first spoke to him, his almost incomprehensibly dramatic life was my obsession.
It was a horse--the subject of my first book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend--who led me to Louie. As I researched the Depression-era racehorse, I kept coming across stories about Louie, a 1930s track star who endured an amazing odyssey in World War II. I knew only a little about him then, but I couldn’t shake him from my mind. After I finished Seabiscuit, I tracked Louie down, called him and asked about his life. For the next hour, he had me transfixed.
Growing up in California in the 1920s, Louie was a hellraiser, stealing everything edible that he could carry, staging elaborate pranks, getting in fistfights, and bedeviling the local police. But as a teenager, he emerged as one of the greatest runners America had ever seen, competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he put on a sensational performance, crossed paths with Hitler, and stole a German flag right off the Reich Chancellery. He was preparing for the 1940 Olympics, and closing in on the fabled four-minute mile, when World War II began. Louie joined the Army Air Corps, becoming a bombardier. Stationed on Oahu, he survived harrowing combat, including an epic air battle that ended when his plane crash-landed, some six hundred holes in its fuselage and half the crew seriously wounded.

On a May afternoon in 1943, Louie took off on a search mission for a lost plane. Somewhere over the Pacific, the engines on his bomber failed. The plane plummeted into the sea, leaving Louie and two other men stranded on a tiny raft. Drifting for weeks and thousands of miles, they endured starvation and desperate thirst, sharks that leapt aboard the raft, trying to drag them off, a machine-gun attack from a Japanese bomber, and a typhoon with waves some forty feet high. At last, they spotted an island. As they rowed toward it, unbeknownst to them, a Japanese military boat was lurking nearby. Louie’s journey had only just begun.

That first conversation with Louie was a pivot point in my life. Fascinated by his experiences, and the mystery of how a man could overcome so much, I began a seven-year journey through his story. I found it in diaries, letters and unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as far-flung as Oslo and Canberra. Along the way, there were staggering surprises, and Louie’s unlikely, inspiring story came alive for me. It is a tale of daring, defiance, persistence, ingenuity, and the ferocious will of a man who refused to be broken.

The culmination of my journey is my new book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. I hope you are as spellbound by Louie’s life as I am.
There's a reason I haven't put this book down. There's so much power in the truth. Not simply to hear the statistics of war, but to hear an intimate story of what men endured.

I remember as a little girl, my grandmother would sometimes pull out the telegram that arrived at her house. No matter how much time had passed, tears always welled in her eyes as she described in perfect detail the day they found out my grandfather's brother Don had been killed in war. From what I can understand, it's a feeling that never goes away.

I think there's much to value in "Unbroken," even though I can't say it's my favorite book to have read. I'm gaining the understanding of what so many have lost and endured to afford me my freedom.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cheese, Two Ways

Ty and I met The Guletts for dinner last night at Tacomania, where I proceeded to order this.

Holy freaking cow ... I love the Queso Asada Billy! This is by far my favorite guilty pleasure in the entire world. It's half fajita meat and vegetables, and half a sizzling plate of molten, melted, salty, gooey, heaven-in-your-mouth cheese.

Clint did have one question about my order, "Why do you get the chicken? The beef is so much better."

I explained that I knew he was right, but I felt like I was doing my body a favor by ordering the healthier option of chicken. Stick with me and you'll be able to justify just about anything to yourself. I can always find excuses for cheese.

So after dinner, we went home and caught an episode of "Million Dollar Decorators" on Bravo. We'd never seen the show before and were blown away by some of the homes and their over-the-top decor. These people have some serious cheese of their own.

One designer used a hand-woven leather fabric that cost $500 a yard. Insane.

In that same home, the furniture alone cost $3 million. Excessive.

In another home, the renovation and furnishings for a roughly 10x10 outdoor space cost $100,000. Stupid.

I told Ty I would like to call one of these decorators and ask them to finish up my dining room for about $5,000. I'm sure they would tell me it couldn't be done.

Here's my philosophy. There's nothing really that impressive about a decorator's finished product when they're working with such an inflated budget. Of course, the spaces are beautiful. But with that price tag, I'm sure I could create an equally impressive room. When price is no object, it seems easy to me.

I'm far more impressed with people who find affordable home decor and make it look like it cost a million bucks. Is it just me?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Coffee in the Afternoon

Last week, Ty and I splurged on a portable air conditioning unit for our bedroom. When it's 100 degrees during the day and you have windows dating back to the mid-30s, things tend to get rather hot. We don't like hot. We can't sleep hot.

Sidenote: Is it really only the beginning of June? Do we really have at least three more months of this?

After one hot night of tossing and turning, Ty was done. He'd mentioned a window unit ... I told him not to mention it again. I can't bear the thought of hanging a window unit out the back of my house. Thankfully, they have these neat little portable air conditioners that sit inside very discretely! It was something we could agree on.

We went to Lowe's the next day after work, brought home our ac unit, set it on 65 and slept like babies.

However, this has created one small problem.

I've never slept better.

I wake up each morning and it takes a while to get my bearings. I've been sleeping so hard that I can't even figure out where I am when I wake up. Or who this strange man is sleeping beside me (just kidding, Ty!). I'm all but comatose.

And the coma has been sticking with me throughout the day. I just had afternoon coffee. I never have afternoon coffee. But I wasn't going to make it through my day otherwise. The coma was setting in.

In the instance I have afternoon coffee, there are very strict rules:
  • Morning coffee must come in a mug. It involves cream and Splenda. Powdered creamer is not acceptable. It's just not natural.  
  • Afternoon coffee must come in a small styrofoam cup (The way it is served at auto repair shops. Well, that's what it reminds me of). It can not be served with creamer or Splenda, just a small single scoop of sugar.
I'm sure from all of these points you've realized two things about me.
  1. I'm sleepy.
  2. That makes a little crazy.
For all of us, I hope my body adjusts very soon.