Monday, September 27, 2010

Happy Birthday to me...

           I had a fun birthday weekend even though it was totally different from past birthdays. Every year since I went to college, I've had a bunch of close friends over to my parents and my Dad's made his famous Caajun BBQ'd shrimp-really spicy and totally delicious! Here are some pictures from birthday dinners all the way back in 2005 and 2006!

Here I am with friends Ashley and Sarah, always part of the Caajun shrimp dinners, and that's Mom and Dad in the kitchen working on dinner.

No, idea what was going on here. I'm just glad I'm not on the bottom of the pyramid--thanks Ashley, Chloe and Sarah for sacrificing your spinal health.

Again, why? We must have been in cheerleader posing mood. Instead of
birthday spankings...we'll pick you up!

What's a birthday without Mom's famous Wesson Oil Cake?
Rhetorical question of course, and that's my friend Brit on the left!

           Well, this year, the whole family and many of our friends were busy with the World Equestrian Games opening ceremonies and rehearsals so we didn't do the birthday dinner this weekend, maybe in a few weeks. W was off work on Saturday so we celebrated then. I woke up greeted by the fragrances of Panera hazelnut coffee (with half n half of course) and cinnamon rolls baking in the oven. The coffee was perfect and the cinnamon rolls, bless their hearts, were a little burnt...but rich with the flavor of love (sorry, couldn't resist). Then W gave me some beautiful flowers-all fall colors-and a fun pumpkin carving kit (he knows me so well). I'm still enjoying the flowers and sniffing them maniacally.

I also love the mod square brown vase.

               Mom, Chloe and Jack stopped by later in the morning with lovely cupcakes from Caramanda's. The strawberry ones that I already loved and some yummy, glossy German chocolate ones that I love now.
They tasted as good as they look. (And are still tasting, I still have 4 left...mmm...3)

            In the evening, my sweet husband picked up Idian food for me (chicken tikka masala, naan, papadam and samosas-to be exact), even though he can't stand it and it makes him sneeze. He ate a mushroom and swiss burger from McDonald's. W also bought wine and two big, fat pumpkins. We had a blast carving them up (using our new kit) and drinking wine on the front porch with Baby P hanging out in his swing. You tear the pattern out of the book and tape it on the pumpkin, then punch holes through the paper and start carving. I was skeptical about my design because it looked really complicated. Here's how they turned out!

Whole pumpkins, pre-carving

W's quirky grin...

             And my terrifying Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow! I'm not expecting it to last, we have pumpkin eating squirrels in our neighborhood. But we'll enjoy it for now! There were cars backed up around the block to look at these magnificent works of art. :)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bathroom Redo

My bathroom has been in need of a paint job and some freshening up for a while now. I liked the bold colors a few years ago, but I've started liking neutrals on walls. Rooms look so much bigger, more fresh and clean with a nice bright neutral on the walls.

So over a few episodes of Gilmore Girls (I like to watch and listen while I work) and in between feeding the baby...putting him to sleep...etc... I brushed and rolled and made-over my bathroom.

Surprisingly it only took two thin coats of that lovely taupy, grey to cover the red and chartreuse. I kept the brown shower curtain, shade and towels and found a new rug at Bed, Bath and Beyond on clearance. It is bigger than the rug I used to have and while still a neutral, it has threads of navy, blue/grey and teal as well. I'm going to look for some light teal towels sometime and make some kind of wall art that brings in the teal as well. I'll post it when I'm finished. I also added a plant, I love houseplants to brighten things up and they just seem fresh and clean to me. I'm looking for a rectangular planter-in a blue or brown shade. Overall, I like it and am so happy to have a more inviting room!

It's movie time!!

Baby P is starting to notice things around him a lot more, watch and see...

And here he is playing on his playmat that I love and carefully chose because of the great colors and patterns (it's an infantino vintage boy playmat) , talking and looking in the mirror...

Here's my favorite, peek-a-boo, W and I are laughing like crazy can't help it
seeing that funny, open-mouth smile!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I love Mexican food, my husband not so much. That didn't come out right. I love my husband and Mexican food, he does not love Mexican food. Hah. However, a couple of years ago I went to a great Mexican restaurant in Asheville with my friend Sarah (I can't remember what it was called) and ate a dish that I could not stop thinking about. It was Mexican street tacos with shredded pork...yum...very lean, delish, I didn't feel sick after eating them. You put the pork mixture on a small, corn tortilla, sprinkle it with lime juice and cilantro then roll it up and eat it. I decided I needed this recipe so I started searching online and found one that sounded similar so I tried it and started adapting it. I think it's now pretty much...I don't want to say perfect....but...freakin' amazing might be a good adjective. It's also a crock pot recipe so it's super, super easy! My husband, W, loves it! We had friends over last night for dinner so I decided to make this, take a few pics and share the tasty results with you! Here it is:

PERFECT Shredded Pork Tacos
-serves 8-10 (or more, 4 lbs. is a lot of pork, freezes well though)

4 lb. pork (either pork butt or pork tenderloin--I use tenderloin because
                 it's leaner and almost always on sale)
3 poblano peppers, roughly chopped and seeded
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 bunch of cilantro
2-3 T Worcestershire sauce
Juice from 3 limes
3 cloves of chopped fresh garlic or 2 T minced fresh garlic (you know the kind
    you can buy in a jar and keep in the fridge, an absolute must-have)
4-6 tsp. Cumin (start with 4 then add more later if needed)
4-6 tsp. Emeril's Essence spice mix (again, start with 4, add later)
salt and pepper to taste (wait to add salt at the end b/c Emeril's has salt already)
1 package white corn tortillas
Manchego cheese (in the specialty cheese, so, so good and creamy)
lime wedges
salsa verde (optional)

Add onion, garlic, 2 of the poblano peppers, 1/4 c. chopped cilantro, worcestershire, juice from 2 limes and half the dry seasoning, to the slow cooker then stir. Rub the pork with the other half of the seasonings and place in the slow cooker, fat side up. Cook on high, 4-6 hours until tender. Remove as much of the fat as possible (usually just peels off easily) then shred pork with two forks-stir in onions and peppers from the bottom. Add remaining Poblano pepper and check the seasoning--usually will need more cumin and Emeril's a little salt and pepper. Cook another hour to hour and a half. Just before serving, stir in another 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped cilantro to taste. serve with warm corn tortillas, cheese, lime and salsa verde. Enjoy!

I also tried a new recipe for Mexican rice that turned out good. I changed up a few things. Here's the recipe:

Mexican Rice

1 T. butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped (with seeds)
1 tomato, seeded and chopped (or 3/4 big
    tablespoons of canned rotel tomatoes)
2 big tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cube chicken bouillon
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 c. chopped fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic, chopped or 1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
4 c. chicken broth
1 T. vegetable oil
2 c. long grain white rice

In a medium sauce pan, cook butter, onion, peppers, tomato, tomato paste, chicken bouillon, spices and garlic until veggies are softened. Then add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a non-stick skillet, heat oil and cook raw rice in oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Once the broth/veggie mixture is boiling, add rice, cover, reduce heat to low and cook 20-25 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

And what is Mexican food without a frosty, cold Corona with lime?! Nothing, I say, nothing!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Last night...

Let me just tell you how my night went...

10:30 pm: Baby P went to sleep and I followed
11:30 pm: I'm still trying to go to sleep, thinking too much about
                 The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet's Nest
11:45'ish: finally sleeping
2:30 am: Baby P is hungry, I get up to feed him and read a little bit of
               TGWKAHN, which turned out to be a bad idea, because I just
               started thinking about it again.
3:00-3:30 am: finally back to sleep, debating on how TGWKAHN
                       is going to end
4:50 am: Baby P is hungry again, I feed him and finish TGWKAHN,
               now maybe I can sleep...
5:15 am: Zzzzzzzzz...
6:30 am: Baby P awake, I try to get him back to sleep, it works until...
7:00 am: Baby P is hungry, I feed him and try to keep my eyes halfway
               closed so that I won't ruin my chances of going back to sleep
8:00 am: Baby P is fussing and definately not wanting to sleep anymore,
               I get up, make a big pot of coffee and start the day...

And just when I start getting frustrated about the torturous sleep deprivation, I see this...

and this...

and this...

And it will start all over again tonight (minus The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet's Nest because I finished it at 5:15 this morning), but that's OK because I may get a nap later this afternoon...and the coffee right now is certainly a plus.


A fun, whimsical name for a fun, whimsical place! I heard about Doodles from a friend a couple of months ago, so W and I went for an anniversary breakfast back in July and loved it! Doodles is relatively new to our area and serves breakfast and lunch. The kitchen is open to the dining area, so it's a little noisy, but fun and laid back. There's also a patio so you can eat outside if it's nice. The menu is great, with everything from a typical eggs, toast and bacon breakfast to 'shrimp and grits' to quesadillas to beignets to sandwhiches, soup and salad--many made with local ingredients. The folks at Doodles think outside the box. Instead of gravy, eggs and the 'shrimp and grits' are served with their housemade 'tomato gravy.' It's a yummy slow, simmered sauce of tomatoes, onions, green peppers and garlic-packed with flavor! There are free refills of coffee while you're there (always a plus in my book) and big pitchers of milk and half & half. If you go to Doodles, you have to order Beignets, these amazing fluffy, fried dough creations dipped in powdered sugar (apparently native to New Orleans, where we'll be heading in a year). They're made to order and come to your table all crispy and warm...don't get me started...

Last week, I went to Doodles with my friend Brittany. Yummy food and Brittany got to hold baby P for the first time, we were both teary-eyed. I should have taken more pics of our food, etc... but I forgot about blogging, it's still so new! Next time!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


"You cannot bring prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further brotherhood of men by inciting class hatred.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."
-Rev. William Boetcker (1945)

I heard this quote last night at a fun gathering of a few friends...people friends and wine friends. It was attributed to President Lincoln, but after a quick 'google,' turns out that that was just an 'e-rumor' (anybody know that was a thing?). It was part of a pamphlet called Lincoln on Limitations written by Boetcker, a Presbyterian minister, in 1945. It examines some of Lincoln's words and then Boetcker apparently deduced from them this pithy commentary on socalism. So the author is Boetcker, but it was inspired by Lincoln. I haven't read the pamphlet and don't know if it's available, but I do like this quote.

These phrases really stuck out to me:
    *"You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
       You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich."
                 i.e. Don't be a communist. Distribution of wealth doesn't help the poor,
                 but when you take away the reward for hard work you may not have
                 any hard workers left.
    *"You cannot build character and courage by taking away
      man's initiative and independence. You cannot help men permanently
      by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."
                Giving people things (not including educational opportunities)
                without exchange of goods or services cannot build the type of
                character and work ethic that we need to produce a strong and  
                independent young generation or a successful country. Luxury is
                not a human right, it's something you work for.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have an unhealthy obsession with Gilmore Girls. I own all 7 seasons and rarely does a week go by without me pulling out a random DVD to watch a few episodes or catching a re-run on ABC order, out of order, early years, Rory's college days, you name it! I feel a kinship with those two Lorelais that is a bit on the weird side. Lately, I've felt an added kinship with both Lorelai Sr. and Jr., because I have also developed an unhealthy obsession with coffee. It all began when I started drinking plain coffee at Panera (with my friends Sarah, Caris and Ashley) because it was so much cheaper than the 'froo-froo' drinks that I had hitherto referred to as coffee. Sugary concoctions laced with froths, whips, syrups and spices, which I now recognize as vile substitutes for the real thing. Admittedly, I still enjoy a latte every once in a while: milk and cream don't interfere with the integrity of good coffee and espresso. Coffee in the morning, iced coffee in the afternoon, maybe coffee after dinner--"coffee, coffee, coffee" to quote Lorelai. THEN, last October, I found out that I was pregnant and was shocked to discover that one small cup a day was all that was recommended for pregnant women! I mean small, like 8 oz! That's less than most small cups when you order it somewhere. Shock, shock, shock. Sad, sad, sad. Denial, denial, denial. Surely this baby needed coffee as much as me, how much harm can a little caffeine do? Grudgingly, very grudgingly, I took the recommendation and cherished my one cup in the morning, but I went through withdrawal, started forgetting words, losing my balance...I know some people think that's related to pregnancy hormones and changing center of gravity during pregnancy, but I'm telling you it was the coffee. Like Lorelai, "I can't stop drinking the coffee!! I stop drinking the coffee, I stop doing the standing and the walking and the words putting into sentence doing." I can totally sympathize! I'm thrilled to know now that my self-destructive coffee habit no longer stunts the growth of my child and so I'm back to my old ways and loving it. Currently nursing my second cup of precious liquid, spiked with part real half and half and part 'fat free half and half' and a bit of sugar. Coffee ain't coffee without the cream. I don't know how they make 'fat free half and half,' since half is milk (could be skim, ok) and half is cream (cream=fat, go figure) but that stuff is pretty darn good. Go get yourself a cup of coffee and love, love, love it!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cupcake Wine...

I've recently discovered this amazing, California wine and cannot get enough! I keep a few bottles in my fridge at all times and love that it has a screw top so that I don't feel bad about opening a bottle just for myself (plus the bottle is lovely, looks very French to me). This wine has great ratings and the Sauvignon Blanc is my absolute favorite! It has been my good friend all summer, I'm going to be looking into the reds when the weather gets cooler! Yay for Cupcake Vineyard!

Not for the faint of heart...

I was in Hilton Head last week. In between walking on the beach, swimming in the sea, riding bikes and taking care of a 3 month old baby, I read several books. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson was one. From the first paragraph, the author had me hooked. The suspense and sense of mystery that begin at page one and build in intensity all the way to page six hundred forty-four kept me awake at night speculating on the identity of a fictional criminal, while I should have been snatching a few hours of much-needed rest. Without giving anything away, investigator Mickael Blomqvist navigates a maze of theories, suspects, crimes and love affairs as he attempts to solve the 40 year old murder of young Harriet Vanger. The plot and characters are dark and complicated, at times disturbing. Now we arrive at the 'not for the faint of heart' aspect of the book. There are recurring themes of sexual abuse concerning the main character as well as side characters throughout the story. Some of this is described in detail and is horrifying in its cruelty. If you are prone to nightmares after reading, this might not be the book for you.  As far as the writing goes, it is obvious in places that this book has been translated from its original language. Some phrases are translated in a literal way that probably does not exactly capture original meaning--"the back of beyond" is used to indicate a Swedish town distant from the civilization and bustle of Stockholm. I am not a scholar of the Swedish language, but the sense is probably something more like "outback" or "frontier." This doesn't create a problem in reading, but phrases often sound clumsy.

Overall, this was a book that captured my attention in every way until I finished it. I have already purchased the sequel. It is a New York Times Bestseller for a reason!