Thursday, December 22, 2011

Packing Up


Mr. Higgins and I are packing up and getting ready to head out of town. We'll stop at my parents' for a few nights and then head to Tennessee for a week. It's always a challenge packing at Christmas - the car ends up overflowing with presents!

Along with holiday festivities, my best friend is now planning a March wedding. I'm trying to help in any way that I can so I went dress shopping with her yesterday. That was quite an adventure! She ended up with a lovely dress and I couldn't be happier for her.

The next few days will be hectic so when I next talk with you, I'll probably be in another state!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cookies and Kittehs


Because Christmas trees are fun and kittehs are cute, I offer you the photo above for your morning amusement. (That's Dooku under the treeskirt.)

Over the weekend, I went out my parents' house for some baking with my mom. I always love baking with her; we inevitably have tons of fun.....and make yummy cookies. Every year we make gingerbread and sugar cookies. I love gingerbread - especially our gingerbread (which is actually Betty Crocker's gingerbread). We found out early on that the key to these cookies is the molasses. It can't be full flavor or else all the ginger-y goodness is covered up by the taste of molasses. So, we use Brer Rabbit Mild Molasses. The cookies come out great - better than any I've found in stores.

Less than a week until Christmas! I can't believe it!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gift Giving

I'm finally feeling caught up with the holidays. Time - and the month of December - has just flown by.

Together with Christmas, we have two family birthdays in December, which always makes gift giving more difficult. I love giving gifts but this year I felt very uninspired for many people on my list. I love coming up with little things but big gifts....well, my inspiration was lacking. My progress has been good and I hope to be done - or close to done - by the end of the weekend. Yay!

It's a busy time of year but I hope to have more for you tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies

I had a busy and productive weekend. The best part of it was hanging out with great friends. The second best part was eating really good food!

These Chicken and Cheese Ta
quitos were on the menu on Saturday and....oh, boy. They were incredible! Mr. Higgins inhaled most of them....so I really want to make some more and soon!

On the baking side of things, I made Victorian Tea Cakes, which my mom and I have been making for the past five Christmases. They're not Mr. Higgins' favorite but I like the soft spiciness and lightness of them - a change from other Christmas cookies. They've taken the place of sugar cookies for me - being a step up from those.

As if I needed more sweets, I made my mom's fudge. So good, so easy, and so delicious!

On Sunday, I headed over to a friend's house to make a German cookie that my dad likes - and hasn't had in years. They're not exactly widespread in US bakeries; they're called springerle. We didn't use hers (we used a German one), but it looks as if Martha Stewart actually has this recipe. It's got more ingredients than our "authentic" German ones, but it's the same idea - an anise flavored, stale cookie. I have no idea why my dad likes them - though he does like licorice.

It was a productive weekend! I love Christmas!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Tree Kittehs


I promised pictures of the kittehs under the tree....and here it is. There are more pictures but I'll save some for other holiday posts.

Thankfully, the kittehs have not climbed the tree lately. Let's home they keep up this trend!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Project Life

I love to scrapbook. My sister first got me into it when she sold Creative Memories. This is when I was in college. To this day, I still only use Creative Memories products to scrapbook, finding the selection of products in other stores and on other sites completely overwhelming.

Soon after I got the scrapbooking bug, I realized I had a problem. My OCD-self wanted all my pictures in a scrapbook. I had no problem scrapbooking trips but what about the other stuff? I did a Christmas album and a first-year graduate school album... But there are tons of pics in any given year that are not from trips or theme-related. Mr. Higgins has also been insistent that we take more pictures of settling into the house together....doing normal things like cleaning or hanging pictures. This is a great idea but, again, not having these pictures organized drives me crazy.

Recently I stumbled upon a solution to my OCD problem: Project Life by Becky Higgins. The concept is simple: an easy approach to scrapbooking day-to-day activities. The products are simple but great: sheet protectors that are designed specifically for pictures and journaling cards and that fit in a three-ring binder. The Core Kit gives you journaling cards, stickers, title cards....everything you need to complete a year-long album. A lot of people try to take a picture a day and then do a two-page layout for a week.... But there are many ways to do Project Life that will fit any of your needs.

I'm going to do it! I wish I had known about PL during the busiest year of my life - this year! - but I'm still excited to get started on January 1. I can't wait to combine all my day-to-day interests in one place - reading, knitting, crafts, work, pleasure. Now, instead of having all of my info spread between my journal, knitting journal, and reading journal, it will all be gathered into one place - my PL album. How cool is that?!

To see some PL layouts, click on Mish Mash and Ali Edwards on the sidebar. These ladies and their designs really inspire me!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chocolate Gingerbread

This past weekend was cold and dreary. We got tons of rain, which we desperately needed, and I stayed mostly inside. I made 30 Christmas cards....and about 30 cookies...

I saw this recipe last week f
or Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies and was immediately tempted. It sounded SO good! I'm happy to report that they taste as good as they sound! They even got Mr. Higgins' seal of approval!

There were a few substitutions I made... There was not an orange to be found in the house so I substituted a teaspoon of orange juice for the orange zest. The cocoa I used was Hershey's Unsweetened. And the finely chopped chocolate.... Well, I have nightmares of finally chopping chocolate, so I used mini chocolate chips (semi-sweet)...and the cookies are delectable!

I highly recommend this recipe, especially if you're not the biggest fan of traditional gingerbread! And if you love traditional gingerbread - like me! - you'll enjoy this different version of the yummy cookie!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Cookies

I made my first batch of Christmas cookies this week: Martha Stewart's Chocolate-Espresso Snowcaps. I adore these little cookies!

I have a lot of baking to do this year. Since we're going to see Mr. Higgins' family in Tennessee for the week of Christmas, all my baking needs to be done and eaten before we leave. Eek!

Other cookies on the baking agenda:
1. Victorian Tea Cakes
2. Gingerbread Men
3. Chocolate Gingerbread Men (new recipe!)
4. Triple Chocolate Cookies
5. Gingersnaps.....perhaps

All this baking must be done while I try to lose the few pounds I gained at Thanksgiving...so I can gain them back at Christmas! Ha!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Crimea

I read a somewhat interesting book recently: The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon. It kept my attention but I wasn't wild about the stories or characters, as evidenced by my lackluster Goodreads review:

This is a somewhat interesting story of two women, cousins united by love and friendship. One yearns to be a nurse while the other prepares for certain marriage. The Crimean War, however, changes both of their fates and propels them into a dangerous world of war and death.

On the positive, I learned about a chapter of British and Russian history that I knew nothing about: The Crimean War. It's always good to learn new things, so my time on this book was not wasted.

I guess my primary gripe is the characters. I couldn't relate to any of them. In a way this is good - it's impossible for me to understand a nineteenth-century woman who only wants to sit around and embroider all day. But the author's job is to make me relate to her...and I don't think this was ever successfully done.

Next up on my reading list: Nefertiti by Michelle Moran.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cats, Trees, and Skirts

Did everyone have a safe and happy Thanksgiving? Mine was very good. I got to see lots of family and eat tons of great food.

Mr. Higgins and I got to decorate our house for Christmas for the first time, which was very cool. It was not without a bit of stress, however. One of our cats had never seen a Christmas tree before...and he enjoyed exploring it....on many levels. Seeing a cat's head poke out of a Christmas tree, halfway up the Christmas tree, is not nearly so cute as the pictures on the web would have you believe.

Once we got the tree skirt under the tree, Dooku, thankfully, decided he would much rather curl up under the skirt than play in the tree. Thank goodness! I'm sure the times we got on to him for being rowdy around the tree also helped. So, as of this morning, only one ornament has been knocked off by the cats...and the tree skirt is in constant disarray. But I'd rather have that than a cat climbing the tree!

So I'm sure I'll have pictures of Dooku curled up under the tree eventually. It is surely one of the cutest sights I've ever seen!

Happy decorating!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Almost....

Almost turkey time!!

I can't wait for Thanksgiving - so much good food and nice family time! Then, Mr. Higgins and I are so excited to decorate for our first Christmas together. Last Christmas was a very stressful time for us so this year we want to make up for it with lots of fun and joy. It's been a challenge to not listen to Christmas music yet but I've succeeded.

Now, a half day of work and then the holiday begins!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Baby Socks


I love these adorable socks! They were so much fun to knit up - and quick! My only grief came with the Kitchener Stitch toes. The first sock went flawlessly. The second one, not so much. I re-did it three times and every time the stitch looked inside out. Finally, I frogged the sock back to the beginning of the toe decreases and started over. That Kitchener Stitch was better, though not perfect. I have no idea what I'm doing wrong.

Otherwise, these were a lot of fun. I love quick, cute projects!

Pattern: Baby Socks by Joelle Hoverson
Yarn: M & K Eco Baby Bomull (cotton!)
Needles: US 3 dpns
Made for: someone
Time to completion: 6 days

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Recipes!

I've been a little obsessed with baking lately. Specifically, baking with pumpkin.

Over the weekend, I tried these Pumpkin Scones...and they were delicious. Very moist and just a little sweet. I even substituted some Splenda for the sugar! The powdered sugar in both the glaze and icing really put me off. After the glaze, I tried a scone and found it to be quite perfect...so I left off the icing. Saving calories is always good, in my opinion.

I had pumpkin leftover after the scones....and a party at work.... So I made these Pumpkin Cookies for my co-workers to enjoy. They were pretty tasty! I left off the icing on some of the cookies and they're good, too! Actually, the icing combined with the spices in the cookies made me crave gingerbread cookies. So good!

There's sure to be more baking with the holidays coming up and I can't wait!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pretzel Rolls


I was intrigued by this recipe for Pretzel Rolls that I found while looking at food blogs (which has become quite an obsession of mine). I mentioned them to Mr. Higgins and he immediately started talking about these pretzel rolls he had on a trip which were fantastic.

So, I read through the recipe instructions....and got nervous. So many steps! Rising dough! Poaching! Eek! But they sounded so good! I decided to try it. And, wow, was it worth it! These rolls are amazing! Just like a pretzel! Here's the batch, right out of the oven...


I can't wait to make them again. The second time will be easier, I'm sure. And my tummy is already craving them again! Ha!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Practice Baby Socks

Link
In preparation for knitting (real adult) socks, I decided I should tackle something smaller first. The Secret Knitter had done these socks so I decided to try them myself. They ended up being a great refresher on all things socks. Plus, I finally tackled Kitchner Stitch to finish the toes. My first attempt was a disaster but the second sock was pretty good, if not a bit too loose.

So, these were great practice socks! Here are the specifics:

Pattern: Super Quick Baby Socks by Dilys Sutherland
Yarn: Patons Canadiana Worsted, color 052285 (green)
Needle: US 7 dpns
Made for: practice
Time to completion: 12 days

Friday, November 11, 2011

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

For my birthday, I received a baking stone, which was on my Amazon Wish List. I was so excited that I went online and ordered Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Oh, boy. I think this is going to lead to a bread addiction....

The premise of Artisan is this.... You make a big batch of dough and let it rise for two hours. Then you put it in the refrigerator. Any time you want a fresh loaf of bread over the course of two weeks, you cut off a grapefruit-sized ball of dough and let it rise at room temperature for forty minutes. Then you bake it for thirty minutes. And voila! Fresh bread!

And let me tell you, the first recipe, the basic one they recommend you begin with, is better than any bread I've ever had in the store or a bakery. In fact, I was at Panera last night....and Mr. Higgins joked that he'd have better bread at home. It was no joke.

I can't wait to try more of the recipes in this book! My only hesitation with recommending it (and I do recommend it) is that the process of baking the bread is made a lot easier with some specialized things that most people don't have in their kitchens: baking stone, pizza peel, and dough bucket. I only had the baking stone and everything worked fine...though a pizza peel is next on my list of things to buy, followed relatively soon by a dough bucket.

(A cookie sheet with no edge will work instead of a pizza peel. You just need something that you can slide sticky dough off of fairly quickly. For the dough bucket, a big plastic Rubbermaid bucket would work just as well... Wal-Mart has a set of plastic canister and the large one would be perfect.)

I'm excited. Bread that requires no kneading and that's this easy... Awesome!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Babies!

I have two Knit Nights scheduled this week. Very exciting!!

They come at a good time since I now have a baby to knit for! No, not my own. Never my own! A friend of mine is pregnant and I can't wait to make baby socks! And, maybe, finally finish the baby cardigan I started long ago.

In celebration of this - and all my Knit Nights - I may go to my LYS for some baby sock yarn. I actually haven't been there in quite some time. To me, this is a minor victory - my stash is already overflowing - of self control. But now I need to go....so I should go. Right? Right.

In all honesty, I don't have any yarn suitable for baby socks in my stash. At least that's what I'm telling myself!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The other day, I finished Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I'd rank it among my top five favorite books of all time. Yes, it's that good.

Ayaan's story is so profound but what amazes me is how determined she was to make her life better. She grew up in a strict Muslim household that moved from Somalia to Saudi Arabia to Kenya. Ayaan endured strict beatings, genital mutilation, and violent political unrest. Her father championed for a new Somalian government and that put her family in a lot of danger, forcing them to move around.

Despite her strict Muslim upbringing, Ayaan could not help but wonder why Allah - such a peaceful God - would make women subordinate to men. She tries to worship according to her religious laws but she has serious questions.

When her father forces her to marry, she flees to the Netherlands where the government gives her sanctuary. There, she asks even more questions - why doesn't Africa have clean streets, clean water, buses, roads... Ayaan hates being dependent upon the state so she begins working as a translator and puts herself through college. In her work, she champions free speech and women's rights and is eventually voted to the Dutch Parliament.

Her story is absolutely amazing. It's one that makes me ask, "what have I made of my life?" And it opens a Westerner's eyes to the state of Africa and Islam. In my opinion, this is a must-read. It will leave you captivated.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lorna's Laces


This is why I must get more comfortable with socks: I love Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock!

Last night, I met with a woman from work to knit for a few hours! She's much more advanced than I am....so maybe she can help me get past some mental hurdles! Yay!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

An Addiction

On our trip to Tahoe and Yosemite, we flew into Reno and rented a car. Our first stop off the plane was not at a restaurant, a national forest, or a casino....it was a yarn store. Jimmy Beans Wool!

I was there in 2008 and had to go again, mainly for sock yarn. Yes, I'm addicted. I am not, unfortunately, addicted to making socks...yet. I'm trying to remedy this situation by doing some baby socks. The Secret Knitter had done a pair of these socks so I decided to try them as well. Mr. Higgins was amazed at how fast they knitted up. I finished one sock last night and started the second....so I should have pics of completed baby socks soon!

I have to get obsessed with knitting socks....since I'm obsessed with sock yarn. At Jimmy Beans, I bought two more skeins of Lorna's Laces sock yarn. Sigh. And then they sent me a coupon for free shipping on a future purchase. Sigh again.

But there's nothing like the feeling of accomplishment after finishing a sock...even a baby sock!! I'm totally motivated for more - and more! - knitting!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lake Tahoe, West


After Yosemite, we headed back to Tahoe, but to the west side of the lake. There, we rented a cabin for three quiet nights. We spent a lot of time on the pier above, sitting and enjoying the lake.


On my birthday, we did some hiking around Emerald Bay, pictured above.


We hiked down to Vikingsholm, a house built by a wealthy woman in the early 1900s. She wanted it to resemble a French chateau and it is adorable. Though the house was closed for the season, it was still cool to see.


From there, we hiked up to Eagle Falls - so pretty!


On our drives, we were happy to see aspens in all shades of yellow. We didn't know these trees would be around Tahoe (we'd seen them in Colorado last year) so they were a nice surprise.

That wraps up the trip! It was so nice to get away, especially for my birthday!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Yosemite


After three nights in Tahoe, we left for Yosemite. We took a very scenic route...which meant a very windy, crazy road that left me white-knuckled for most of the drive. But when we arrived in Yosemite and I saw the famous "tunnel view" for the first time, it was all worth it!


We stayed in Yosemite Valley and our first meal there was a yummy pizza - and strawberry margaritas!


About two weeks prior to our arrival, they had snow, which meant the previously dried up waterfalls came to life with melting snow! Above is Yosemite Falls.


My crazy drives were not over yet. On our full day in Yosemite, we drove up to Glacier Point. The hairpin turns were definitely worth this view of Half Dome!


This meadow was across from where we stayed. We came here one night to stargaze and it was amazing. The Milky Way was spread out above us with more stars than we'd ever seen!


When we left Yosemite, we took a different scenic route out of the park (which meant more white-knuckled driving fun!). We stopped (still in the park) at Olmsted Point and did some hiking. The views were stunning!

It was a great trip and there's still more to come! After the hectic days in South Lake Tahoe and the time exploring Yosemite, we headed to the west shore of Lake Tahoe for some peace and quiet before heading home. I'll show you those pics next week!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lake Tahoe in October


Our destination last week: Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park! Talk about seeing some spectacular sights!! We flew into Reno and headed southwest to Lake Tahoe, taking the scenic route through the mountains and Mt. Rose. Above, our first stop on the eastern shore.



Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in the United States. It is host to all kinds of outdoor sports from canoeing to skiing!


We stayed in South Lake Tahoe for three days. (Some of you may remember that I spent a Christmas here about three years ago.) This is the commercial, bustling side of the lake. However, on our first morning there, we went for a walk along the lake and were able to find some peace and quiet.


This was our first view of the lake from the north shore near Alpine Village. Gorgeous!!

More pictures to come!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Back Home


I'm back from vacation, which was absolutely wonderful! I'll have more pictures and details soon, but for now, here's a teaser photo!

Friday, October 14, 2011

See you next week!

The time has finally - FINALLY! - come for vacation!

It was with great perplexity that Mr. Higgins and I realized yesterday that we hadn't been on a trip since our honeymoon - 5.5 months ago!! That is too long to have to sit at work without a break, especially when we had to endure the hottest Texas summer on record.

And so we're off on Saturday for a much-needed break and diversion from normalcy. I'm really looking forward to exploring new places and re-visiting old ones. It promises to be a great trip. I'll let you know where we're going once we get back - and I'll have pictures, as always!!

On a reading note, I'm 1/4 of the way into a memoir, Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In my opinion, this should be required reading for everyone. Yes, everyone!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Revolutionary Mistress

I finished a great book the other day: Mistress of the Revolution by Catherine Delors. I couldn't put this one down! Here's what I wrote on Goodreads....

This book is the definition of great historical fiction. A fictional character lives through historic events and meets historic figures. Delors deftly navigated the intricacies of the French Revolution all the while telling us the story of an extremely brave young woman.

I could not put this book down. Gabrielle's story made me laugh and cry; it angered me beyond words but touched me very deeply. She survived terrorizing times to the best of her ability...and she did it all with grace. I was horrified by the way she was treated - at times like a harlot but always like a mindless child. She as abused and disrespected by every man in her life...yet she still managed to love most of them.


Gabrielle is sold into a marriage against her will, though the man she loves - a commoner - has asked for her hand. Her husband is dreadful and before long she finds herself a penniless widow. She goes to Paris and there, tries to survive during one of the most turbulent times in history - the French Revolution.

I loved this book!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall Yarn Wreath


A few months ago, I ran across yarn wreaths on Etsy. I thought they were adorable! I sent the idea to my very crafty mother-in-law. She made a few that turned out really well....which inspired me even more.

Last week, I decided to do my own. It was so much fun!! I found some little pumpkins and berries at Joann's and, together with the felt rosettes, I think it turned out really well. Mr. Higgins had never heard of a yarn wreath and was skeptical but I think it's growing on him.

My only advice, should you try to make own on your own, is to use bulky yarn. It's a bit more expensive than the Red Heart but it makes wrapping the yarn go so much quicker.

I want to make many, many more - one (or two!) for each season!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Do ALL the Crafts!

Stay tuned for some crafty stuff (and pictures!) on Monday...

Meanwhile, I'm itching to do all things crafty: cards, scrapbooking, knitting, and more! I have no idea where this enthusiasm came from...except maybe Etsy. That is one dangerous place to browse!

In a week, Mr. Higgins and I leave for my birthday trip, to a place with cooler temperatures in a higher altitude. I'll get to visit one of my favorite yarn stores where I'll inevitably buy more sock yarn. (I've also been itching to knit more socks.) Amazingly, Mr. Higgins asked me to knit him a pair of socks! That just about made my jaw drop! He's never asked for anything and has turned down my offers for a scarf or hat ("I don't wear those," he says). I may have to knit another basic pair before I feel confident enough to start a pair of manly socks. We'll see.

Sunday morning will see our house guests depart. We'll then have a week to prepare the house for vacation.

Oh, and did I mention I'm turning 30 in two weeks? EEK!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

R.I.P. Steve Jobs

Like so many around the world, I'm extremely saddened by the death of Steve Jobs. Despite knowing he was sick, his death came as a shock. It seemed unbelievable that such a genius and visionary could die so soon.

Driving into work this morning, I passed our local Apple store. I glanced over as I often do. Instead of a line of people outside, waiting to get the latest gadget, there were bouquets of flowers on the sidewalk.

Thousands - MILLIONS - of people were affected by Steve Jobs' inventions. For me, the iPod was the most influential. iTunes became the way I organized and kept up with music. The iPod was the way I stored and listened to that music in many different locations. My MacBook Pro is the best computer I've ever owned. One day, I'll probably own an iPad.... Mr. Higgins' iPhone wakes us up every morning...with an MP3.

It is tragic when such a brilliant mind is lost forever. Apple will never be the same but hopefully Jobs' spirit and idea will live on...


Monday, October 3, 2011

Family Fun

The weekend was crazy busy with family - and more family - coming to the house.

I made the yummy pulled BBQ pork again, along with corn muffins and other sides. It was a very tasty Saturday. Combined with my dad's delicious birthday cake, I consumed way too many calories! But, most importantly, I think my dad had a very good birthday. It was a big one for him and we were able to surprise him a bit and surround him with family and good food. What more could he want?!

The cats have been a big hit with the family. Everyone loves little Dooku. Sidious is more reserved, preferring the exclusive affection of Mr. Higgins, but manages to be cute while untouchable.

With all the excitement going on, I was exhausted by yesterday afternoon. But it was a good weekend!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Cats

It's about time I introduced you to Mr. Higgins' - our - cats.


His "real" cat - the one he adopted and intended to be an only cat - is Sidious. The other cat he found outside his home - a terrified kitten who he took in.


Sidious is named after Darth Sidious in STAR WARS. (Not many un-geeks know who Sidious is.) Sidious, despite her name, is a girl with the shiniest black coat I've ever seen. She's about three years old now, but still has some kitten-ish moments at times....like when she plays in bags. She's sweet but has still never forgiven me for stealing away her daddy. We're not best buds but she tolerates me.


Dooku is named after Count Dooku in STAR WARS. We recently found out he's a Maine Coon...and so cute! He's like a little shadow, following us around from room to room. At only two years old, he's still very playful...almost too playful! I wish he were more of a lap cat but he's a genuine Maine Coon in that he much prefers to be near you, not on you.


Here they are, helping me unpack books in my study. So helpful are these little kittehs! We're one big, happy, furry family!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Prepping for Visitors

The weekend was spent doing stuff around the house - cleaning, hanging pictures, planting plants, more cleaning - all in preparation for our guests who arrive on Saturday.

By the time Monday came around, I was exhausted. Sleep hasn't come easily of late, and I'm beginning to drag. All week I'll have chores to do once I get home, so I'm really hoping I can keep my energy level up. Just looking at my "to-do" list wears me out!

But I'm looking forward to having Mr. Higgins' parents here. They're very nice people. And after a long, hot, quiet summer, I'm ready for some excitement around the house! Yay!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

More Baking!

I had another successful baking weekend, which was very exciting! If I keep this up, it'll be hard not to bake ALL the time!

-I made these Perfect Blueberry Muffins for breakfast on Saturday. They were very tasty and moist. It was amazing to taste the blueberries instead of sugar, like you do with muffin mixes from a box. I used plain yogurt and frozen blueberries. Very good!

-After all these non-chocolaty sweets, I needed chocolate. After looking online, I decided on a mint chocolate brownie recipe (whose link currently eludes me). These were very tasty!! You basically substituted mint extract for the vanilla. I like them a lot!

Next week will be a busy one as we prep the house for Mr. Higgins' parents. This probably means less cooking and baking. Once our guests arrive, I'll make them so old and good recipes - nothing new for fear of screwing something up! Ha!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Knit Night #1

Knit Night was last night and it was nice to get the needles out again.

However, some of my yarn was really tangled so I spent half the time working out knots. Fun. This is where I get frustrated with knitting: when I can't knit because I have to fix things. I just want to knit!

I also picked up my beginner's crochet scarf and was amazed that I remembered how to crochet! Awesome!

Now that it's no longer 100+ degrees everyday, I can envision myself knitting more. I'm itching to try my hand at socks again.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Update

Some updates...

-Scrapbooking... I'm hard at work on the wedding scrapbooks (yes, that's a plural). I've finished the first one which included the pre-wedding festivities: engagement party, bridal shower, bridal portraits... Now, I'm working on the one with all the wedding weekend events. I'm doing all these books in my wedding colors - black, white, and yellow - and I must say that it's very nice not having to stress about colors.

-My BFF and I are re-instituting Knit Night on a bi-monthly basis. We started this last year but it only lasted a month or so. Here's hoping we have better success this time around since my knitting has fallen to the extreme wayside with so much scrapbooking to be done.

-The same BFF started a reading group focused on young adult fiction. No vampires here, I assure you; more classic young adult material is on the list. Our first book is A Wrinkle in Time. Since I wasn't a big reader until high school, I feel like I missed out on a lot of these books. It'll be good to finally read them! (Though I did read this month's selection as a kid!)

-Cooking/Baking... After the pork success last weekend, I'm not cooking much - new - this weekend. Instead, I'm baking! Blueberry Muffins from scratch and Mint Chocolate Brownies. I'll let you know how they turn out!

-I'm off to IKEA this weekend with my mom and a friend. I rarely make this trip across the Metroplex but I need some stuff and I'm overdue for girl time. It should be fun!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Brighton Rock

I finally finished Graham Greene's Brighton Rock on Monday. One of the professors at school studies Greene and has been telling me which books to read. A new film version of Brighton Rock is coming out soon (or may already be out where you live) so I wanted to finish the book in hopes of seeing the movie.

Here's my review of the book, as posted on Goodreads:

"You can’t conceive, my child, nor can I or anyone the ... appalling ... strangeness of the mercy of God." - Priest in BRIGHTON ROCK. This was the hardest of Greene's "Catholic novels" to get through. Pinkie is psychotic and there is little to like in him. There is no hero in Brighton Rock, a city that is as dank and soiled as its criminals. The only thing that seems to bind Pinkie and Rose, outside of their secret, is their pride in being "Roman." This was not my favorite Greene novel, but I'm glad to have read it.

If you happen to be a "West Wing" fan, Bartlet uses the above quote in his famous rant at God at the end of season two.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pork, Corn, and Cookies!

I had a very successful cooking and baking weekend. This is a rare occurrence, so I thought I'd share the recipes I tried...

-Slow-Cooker Pulled Pork. Mr. Higgins likes southeastern BBQ - pork - not the beef we do in Texas. I had my first pulled pork sandwich on our honeymoon and it was really tasty. So, while browsing cooking blogs, I started saving the pulled pork recipes I found. I settled on this one for one reason: you discard the liquid the pork is cooked in, getting rid of a bit of fat in the process. Then you cook it for 30-60 minutes in BBQ sauce. SO good!! Just a warning: for the eight or so hours that the pork is cooking in the crock-pot, the smell is not that great. But after you pull the meat and coat it in sauce, it smells just the way it should! Mr. Higgins said this was the best BBQ he'd had in a very long time! Success!

-Dorie Greenspan's Corniest Corn Muffins. Like all Southerners, we're picky about our cornbread. Well, not really. I like the sweet kind and the not-so-sweet kind. This recipe has just the barest hint of sweetness and the corn kernels add something very appealing to it. This is my new favorite, from scratch, cornbread recipe!! And now I really need to get some of Dorie's cookbooks!

I finished off my successful weekend with some cookies that are a staple for Mr. Higgins' mom. They are quite tasty!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Bad Oven!

I'm now 99% sure that my oven runs way too hot. Despite cooking food for the minimum amount of time suggested, breads keep coming out too well done - too dry. This has never happened to me before and even Mr. Higgins has commented on it while eating my baked goods..

Then, earlier this week, I tried baking these Black Bottom Coconut Bars. You have to cook the bottom (brownie part) first. I cooked it for two minutes less than the minimum amount of time suggested and it was too done....which meant the coconut part of the bar doesn't stick to the brownie part. Sigh. They're still good but I was disappointed in my oven.

If you like coconut, this is a good recipe. And, interestingly, they taste much better the day after you bake them.

As for the oven... I'll try to pick up an oven thermometer while running errands this weekend. I don't know if all new ovens run hot but this is becoming highly frustrating. Baking should be fun! Not disappointing.

I'm really excited about a recipe I'm going to try this weekend. It's far out of my comfort zone in the cooking department so it should be interesting. I'll let you know next week!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Reprieve

We got a brief reprieve from the heat last weekend and it was such a blessing! The temperatures got down to 60 degrees at night, meaning the house could actually cool off for once! Our lows have been in the 80s for three months! By early next week, we'll have triple digits again, so I'm trying to enjoy this while it lasts. Despite the cooler temps, the winds picked up, which was not good....

Last weekend, when Mr. Higgins and I went out to East Texas for Labor Day, we passed a wildfire about twenty miles from my parents' house. East Texas is the greenest, lushest part of the state, but they've been experiencing the same drought that has suffocated the entire state. Thousands have lost their homes....and there's no rain in sight.

This has been a crazy weather year and my heart goes out to anyone who has suffered as a result. Here's hoping the fall and winter are better.

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's About Trust

I'm an introvert, as most of you know. Being sociable is hard for me and takes an enormous amount of effort. Relationships, in general, are work for me. And they're very often a letdown. Allow me to explain...

If I'm going to do something, I'm going to put the appropriate amount of effort into the task. The same goes for relationships. If I'm going to be your friend, I expect you to be my friend. The same effort I put in, I expect to get in return. Reciprocity, if you will.

When Mr. Higgins and I were dating we had a huge bonding moment when we realized that we felt the same way about this. We both felt it came down to trust. I'm going to trust the other person in the relationship to give as much as they get. We will always be 'on the same page', so to speak. It blew my mind that someone else understood this and was often letdown since other people don't function this way.

And so, for me, relationships are very frustrating because I put a lot into them. I have few friends but those I have, I put a great deal of trust in. When someone loses my trust, they lose my friendship....or they become merely an acquaintance - someone who is not worth my effort but whose efforts, when so rarely made, I will reciprocate on a limited basis.

Friendships come into peril when one person cannot find the time, nor do they want to find the time, for the effort it takes to have the friendship. Sometimes, this is done unconsciously when life becomes hectic. But sometimes it's intentional.

Relationships are hard; friendships are hard. When entering into them you agree to put in the effort and, thereby, earn each other's trust. It's a delicate balance. I wish more people would realize this.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Curtain Hell

Mr. Higgins and I live in a house with no curtains. I'm perfectly fine with this. The task of finding curtains for every room overwhelms me.

But Mr. Higgins kept saying he wanted curtains in the bedroom to block the sunlight on the one morning a month we sleep past sunrise. Great. I dragged my feet as long as I could on this task....and then I had to face it head-on. Oh, goody.

We looked. And looked. Mr. Higgins had more preferences than my one requirement: simple! Very few things fit with both our preferences and were available in the right colors. We finally stopped looking - after looking at TONS of curtains in store and online - and ordered some last week. They came in this week and they were all wrong; the colors didn't match. Exasperated to be back to square one, we ordered the much more expensive panels that matched our bedspread. They're on the way and we're 95% positive they will match. They have to match if they're sold with our bedspread!

Now that we had the panels ordered, we looked for a valance. And looked. All we needed was a red valance. Not rust, not burgundy - red. This valance existed nowhere - in a shape that fit our requirements. We looked online for hours. I went and picked some up at the store....only they didn't match once I got them home. We were extremely frustrated and were getting snippy with one another.

In desperation, I started looking at stores online that I'd never, in a million years, turn to except in times of crisis - Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe's.... And I saw something on Wal-Mart's site that looked to be the right red. We rushed out to look....and it was the right red in the right design.

We were relieved....and annoyed. How is it that Wal-Mart is the only store with the right red valance?! Stupid, evil Wal-Mart. I think they have some sort of sorcery going on.

But, at the moment, I'm just glad to have found the bloody curtains. Now it'll just take us five years to find and hang curtains for the whole rest of the house. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rejected!

Good news this morning...

The Texas sonogram law - or most of it - has been rejected by a judge. Awesome. And doubly awesome that it's a blow to Rick Perry and his religious-based agenda.

Yay!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Perry-Gramm Scam

I don't like Rick Perry. I didn't really pay attention to him at first. I was in Michigan for a few of those years, doing graduate work.

My utter disdain for him began when he made national news with his secession talk. It was embarrassing. On TV, the guy looked like an oily used car salesman. He did not speak intelligently and reminded me too much of George W.

My disdain gained fuel when Perry chose to put abortion and sonograms on the Texas legislative agenda before the state education budget. Perry, you'll learn, hates teachers and cares little about education at any level. (Perhaps because he could barely pass at Texas A&M.)

Now this. A scam to sell retired teachers' life insurance policies to big businesses, meaning the retirees' beneficiaries get nothing.


Whoa. Really? Could anyone be that sleazy? Apparently so. Who benefits? Wall Street and the state....and Phil Gramm.

This is why I hate politics. This is why I hate Rick Perry. This guy is as oily as his hair gel. I can only pray he doesn't get the nomination. There are much better candidates.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Making an End

I've finally finished what's been written of The Song of Fire and Ice series. 5000 pages, a month and twenty-one days later.....and I still have no idea where Martin is taking us.

Here's what I wrote about Dance with Dragons on Goodreads:

This book was a marked improvement from the previous one but I still have a few problems with it. The introduction by Martin of one particular character that significantly undermines the importance of Dany was disappointing. Another story line came into being and ended, making it completely irrelevant. Sometimes it seems like Martin is writing on a whim, with direction but absolutely no discipline. This is slightly frustrating after reading 5000 pages of his work, but seeing no end - still! - to his "epic." The story is epic, sure, but it also seems like Martin is trying too hard to make it epic. That being said, I enjoy the twist and turns involved. They make for great surprises and this book did not disappoint in that regard. It's a fun read if you can manage to suppress any impatience with the manner of storytelling.

Now, the question is "how long do we have to wait for the sixth book?" I'm guessing a long while since Martin is now putting a lot of his energies toward the HBO series. We'll see.

This summer will forever be known as the Game of Thrones Summer. Ha!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

DMV Hell

I don't mind changing my name. It's a bit of a pain and causes more than a few identity issues, but I'm fine with it.

I'm not fine with the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Yesterday, I went to get a new license with my new name. The minute I walked through the door, I thought of turning around. The room was filled with a mass of people. The temperature was about 90 degrees (inside) and it smelled of sweat. Isn't there a form I can fill out? No, the rude lady said at the desk. Then she handed me a number.

Every chair in the room was filled. All the walls had people leaning against them. I stood. For two hours. Finally, I was able to grab a chair. It was great...but I couldn't get up or someone else would grab it. I watched as kids - who got there after me - got called to take their driving tests. I watched as older people went up to take vision tests. All the while, I also watched the numbers appear on the TV screen as they were called. There was no order to the numbers so you had no idea when you'd be called.

Three hours after arriving, I got to talk to someone. Three minutes of conversation later, I walked out of there with my new name. Then I got into a 150-degree car. Oy.

I was so exhausted. When Mr. Higgins texted (two hours into it all) to ask if I was alright, I replied, "I'm in hell." The DMV is hell. Just so you know.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Brownies!

I've been doing some baking, despite the crazy heat. I now have the perfect kitchen; heat is not going to stop me from using it!

I tried these Mississippi Mud Brownies and really liked them. However, despite baking them for less than the minimum amount of time, the brownies seem more like cake. Perhaps the recipe calls for cake-y brownies instead of gooey brownies. But I definitely prefer gooey over cake-y. I may pair the topping with a different brownie or substantially reduce the baking time.

But, these definitely satisfied my recent chocolate craving. So I'm happy!

Monday, August 8, 2011

One Chapter Closed

My time of house sitting is now at an end. My friends get back from Germany tomorrow and my responsibilities will end there.

For the entire time I had that house, my life was crazy. Mr. Higgins and I got serious, we started talking about marriage, we got engaged, and then the wedding planning started. I can't believe we did all of that in the time I was in that house!

The first twelve months went by really fast. With the heat, the last three months have dragged by. Keeping things alive at any house has been near impossible. My friends had a garden that didn't really survive the heat. I've been able to keep the main plants alive but even the grass is dying. This heat is relentless!

So, it'll be good to have one less house to deal with. And it'll be especially good to have my friends back from Germany!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Excessive Heat Warning

In case you're not in Texas, here's the deal with the heat.... Yesterday was the 33rd day of 100+ temperatures and the 40th day at or above 100 this year. The official highs have looked like this: 107 on Monday, 110 on Tuesday, 109 yesterday.

To say it's hot is an understatement. We're all getting very used to our own sweat. We're setting records for energy consumption while authorities tell us to turn up the thermostat and, instead, sit in a bathtub filled with ice cubes. You have to use ice cubes since the water coming out of the faucet is hot, no matter where the dial points. But we're also supposed to conserve water since we're in an extreme drought. We haven't had rain at our house since May.

The worst summer I remember was 1998 when I was still in high school but working downtown to make some money while school was out. It was a scorcher that year. But this year is worse. All the grass is brown and it's a struggle to keep the trees green.

I keep hoping for a tropical storm or small hurricane.... But Tropical Storm Don evaporated once it hit the high pressure system over Texas. It seems there is no relief in sight. August looms long and hot. All we can do is buckle down indoors and wait it out.

Summer in Texas is SO much fun. Not.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Feast for Crows

If you are on Goodreads, you'll find my review posted for Feast for Crows, the fourth book in Martin's epic fantasy tale....

Martin's epic fantasy continues in this fourth book, which is actually only the first half of book four, with Dance with Dragons being the second half. This book was the hardest for me to get through. There was very little plot movement, at least of the exciting variety. Martin instead uses this book to set up many things to come. The complexity of the story continues to amaze me; Martin is, indeed, a gifted storyteller.


So, now it's on to book five, Dance with Dragons. I'm hoping the action is reminiscent of the first and third books. Otherwise, another 1000 pages is going to be slow going.

I apologize for being MIA again. Nothing, really, has been happening. The heat is really taking a toll on everyone and everything.

Oh, and Mr. Higgins and I celebrated our three month wedding anniversary on Monday. Yay!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Re-Shelved

This weekend brought about an exciting thing - books!

I left most of my books at my parents' house when I moved back to the city and it's been a slow process bringing them back with me after visits to the country. I now have 3/4 of them in my new study, which is now, finally, looking like a study. Awesome!

Books make a space so much warmer and personal, I think. You can tell a lot about a person from the books they read. And from how they organize them! Ha!

I love organizing books! I love finding the most efficient way to put them on shelves. And, most of all, I love organizing my history books chronologically. Each book - and the memories associated with it - is re-discovered when a book is re-shelved. It's a fun, nostalgic, engrossing process for me.

And yes, I'm now on to the fourth book in Martin's series, A Feast for Crows. The title does not bring about good images. We'll see!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Storm of Swords

I've finished the third book - Storm of Swords - in the Song of Fire and Ice series. I don't want to say too much about it for those of you who are reading the series or plan on watching the HBO series. However, I will say that it's good and definitely better than the second book.

Storm of Swords was over 1000 pages long and I read it in a week. I'm thinking I'll take the weekend off from reading, though it will be hard. I want to know what's going to happen! But Martin still has two more books to write....so we won't know what's going on for many more years. I better get used to this feeling.

The series is completely engrossing and addicting. If you need a way to escape the summer heat, just turn to these books. "Winter is coming," after all.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Rant About the Theater

I went to see Harry Potter on Saturday with Mr. Higgins and a friend. There have been few interesting movies of late, so I've not seen much.

So it's always a shock when I go see a movie and observe how little respect and common courtesy are observed by my fellow citizens.

-A man sat down right next to me, though half the theater was empty.

-The same man answered his cell phone when the previews were ending and the movie was beginning - and talked a few minutes into the move!

-The kids behind us narrated the film for us.

-The same kids kicked my chair and then looked accusingly at me when I turned around.

-The same kids made disgusting noises every time they took a swig from their drinks.

-The man beside me checked his phone in the middle of the movie, effectively turning on a flashlight in a darkened theater.

And, as Mr. Higgins always says, what disturbances did we cause? None. To no one. We're always respectful and courteous of other people....both of which are rarely, if ever, returned.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Salad Recipe

Mr. Higgins and I had some friends over for dinner and a movie the other night. We all pitched in to cook a fabulous meal together.

One new recipe that I thought was wonderful was the Corn, Edamame, and Black Bean Salad. Very tasty! I'm already thinking this would be perfect for a work pot-luck dish, for which I'm always stumped. Give it a try and you won't be disappointed!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Clash of Kings

I've been neck deep in Clash of Kings, George R. R. Martin's second book in The Song of Fire and Ice series. The books are so dense and long that it takes a while to get through them. That being said, I've read non-stop and finished this book in a week.

Clash of Kings was much darker than the first book. Mr. Higgins and I joked several times, "something good has to happen at some point, right?" But, as I try to remember, it's a long series and fiction is based on conflict, trials, and tribulations.

I'm taking the day off before I start Storm of Swords. A breather is always good.

Tonight, we're having friends over to watch HARRY POTTER, in anticipation of the new movie. As I've said before, Harry Potter annoys me. But at least the story is original, which can't be said for the Twilight series. And the HP movies are entertaining.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Update

Sorry for my absence last week. I've been lacking in motivation lately.

Clash of Kings is taking up every free minute of my days. It's that good! And since the highs are at or above one hundred degrees everyday, I've not wanted to do much outside.

Indeed, there is something extremely depressing about such an oppressive heat. One day last week, while driving home on the highway, I saw the beginnings of a grass fire on the side of the road. The flames were literally licking the concrete of the road. Smoke billowed across all lanes of traffic. It was pretty scary. And to think it was probably all because of a cigarette, tossed out of a car. Have I mentioned how much I despise smokers?

It's only the beginning of July and all the grass is brown. I'm hoping for some tropical systems to move up from the gulf - nothing devastating, just something to give us some much-needed rain. We're pretty desperate here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thrones

Game of Thrones, the book, was great! There are subtle differences from the thrilling TV show, but if you love the show you'll adore the book.

As always, books give you more information. When reading about another world in another time with strange creatures and even stranger men, more information is good! But I'm surprised and greatly relieved by how much the show follows the book. It's rare to see that
these days, especially on HBO (True Blood is an abomination).

I love some of these characters but Arya is perhaps my favorite. She's got more will and courage than most men. Tyrion is a constant amusement to me. It's good to have seen the show first; otherwise, there are so many characters that none of them would have stayed straight in my head. So, contrary to my usual preferences, I'd suggest watching the show first.

I'm on to the second book, A Clash of Kings.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Eccentric Writers

Have you ever noticed that a lot of writers are just a little....odd?

I first started reading the blog of a bestselling novelist a few years ago. Then I saw pictures of her.... Wow. Lots of black leather, Gothic style corsets, and none of it was attractive. I guess I should have expected some of it, given her subject matter: vampires, zombies, and witches. But it was still strange to see...and completely unrelatable for me.

A professor once asked me: what does it matter if you like the author, shouldn't their work transcend them, personally? I don't know. I'll never read C S Lewis after learning about him in a Historical Methods class. He's not my cup of tea. Ironically, I've never read another book by the black leather lady since seeing her online website and blog.

I guess I want writers to be more like....me. I want to know that a normal person can publish good quality fiction without needing to be eccentric or strange to do so.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Song of Fire and Ice

I'm anxiously awaiting George R. R. Martin's 4-book boxed set of A Song of Fire and Ice. The first book is A Game of Thrones...and is the basis of the HBO series of the same name.

The first season is now over and it was amazing. Had I never seen HBO's Rome or AMC's The Walking Dead, I would not have been ready for Game of Thrones. The violence and sex is extremely graphic. But, most importantly, the story is crazy (ahem, fantasy), mind-blowing, and completely unpredictable. Where else do dragons and zombies mingle but in Martin's fantastic mind....er, novels?

So, after being on tenterhooks throughout season one, Mr. Higgins and I resolved to read the books this summer. No more crazy surprises for us!

We'll see how it goes!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Bummed

The weekend passed with very few kitchen happenings, unfortunately.

I tried to bake some blueberry cookies with white chocolate chips...and they were not good. It's the first bad recipe I've tried in some time and I was really bummed. I know it's bound to happen but that doesn't keep me from being disappointed.

There's a pasta salad recipe I may try tonight...if I'm feeling up to it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What's Going On

A few things but nothing terribly exciting...

-I'm trying to decide what exciting goodies I want to cook/bake this weekend! I have several ideas and a pint of unused fresh blueberries in the fridge. Hm....

-A few weekends ago, I started my first wedding scrapbook. It's the pre-wedding book that will include the engagement party, bridal shower, and bridal portraits. Fun!

-Mr. Higgins and I are going to start the Game of Thrones books. Yes, the show had us hooked and, since the books are always better, we're wanting to learn more! That should be a fun summer reading task!

-The overwhelming task of changing my name just got more complicated... My check and request for certified copies of the marriage certificate were lost in the mail. Ugh. Did you know it costs $27 at my bank to stop the payment of a check? It seems pretty ridiculous since the check was written for $20. I think I'll wait and ask for a refund if the probate court ever receives it and cashes it.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Forgotten Garden

I finally finished Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden and, though it took me forever to get through, I really enjoyed it!

If you're like me, your family has very few secrets. We're boring. We know where we came from, who begat whom and when. But for Morton's Nell...she has no idea who her parents are. Both her and her granddaughter start on soul-searching adventures to discover their pasts. There are many surprises and Morton moves between decades to tell the stories family.

It's a fascinating read and one that will keep you guessing until the end. I correctly guessed where it was headed but it was a fun adventure nonetheless.

I recommend this book for a good summer read!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chicken Salad

The chicken salad I made for lunch yesterday passed and exceeded all my expectations. I'm ecstatic! I've been searching for a good recipe for years and now I've finally come up with one, consulting multiple recipes online.

The best thing about it: Greek yogurt instead of mayo! I was a bit hesitant about using Greek yogurt; I'd tried it and thought it pretty nasty. But it's a great and healthy base for chicken salad! Who would have thought?! Gone is the gross mayo and sour cream! In it's place: something that is listed as a super food by many dietitians! That's what I call awesome!!

You should give it a whirl!

Chicken Salad (2 servings)

1 chicken breast, seasoned with salt, pepper and a pinch of dill, grilled and then shredded

1/4 cup Greek yogurt, plain
1 tsp Dijon mustard (mustard makes everything better!)
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp dill weed, dried
1/2 tsp salt
pinch of pepper
1 tsp brown sugar
pinch of cayenne if you want a kick to it!

About 3/4 cup of your favorite veggies/nuts: celery, onion (I used a scallion), apple, almonds, grapes...

Now this is making me hungry!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Brownies, From Scratch!

I went on a bit of a cooking and baking frenzy this weekend. Here's what I made....

-Kahlua Brownies with Browned Butter Kahlua Icing
-my standard breakfast cookies
-my favorite Chewy Granola Bars
-a new chicken salad recipe

The brownies were for my dad's visit for Father's Day. I can't say they made much of an impact on him (he's on yet another diet) but Mr. Higgins and I loved them. They were a bit labor-intensive and the cooking time was too short for my oven....but they were delicious.

This brings up a curious question, though: Who do you bake for? After all the work of these brownies, I was hurt and insulted when my dad left the icing on his plate and grumbled ("Doniamarie, I'm on a diet!") his way through the brownie. I wanted to throw something at him. He's always been completely unappreciative of the cooking/baking my mom and I do for him. After thirty years of this, I'm tempted to stop, altogether, doing nice things for him; he's never happy.

But. Do you cook/bake for yourself or for others? I enjoy the process and usually savor the results...but it's no fun eating the results all by myself. Hm...

I think I may have finally found a good base for chicken salad. I'll know for sure after lunch today! Here's a hint to it's contents: Greek yogurt.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dishcloths!

Mr. Higgins and I were given a batch of lovely wedding gifts from his aunt: knitted dishcloths! Considering everything I knit is given away, it was nice to finally receive something handknit! And something useful! Wow!

Our kitchen is black, white, and red. Our wedding colors were black, white, and yellow. We were given about 5 white and 5 yellow dishcloths....and 2 black. I pre-washed the black ones, hoping to limit color bleeding.... And it didn't work.

I tried to use a black dishcloth this week.....and soon found myself washing dishes with dark gray water. These will obviously have to be used for drier purposes only.

But I love handknit dishcloths! They are so much nicer than store bought ones! Just beware black yarn!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Green Chilis and Soup

I've been eager to cook and bake lately. Maybe it's having a nice, big kitchen that's all my own... Maybe it's being bored with my routine foods.... I don't know but I like being motivated to try new things.

Lunch is always a dilemma for me. Staying healthy isn't hard but staying healthy at work presents challenges. For something different, I thought I'd make a batch of soup for this week.

I ran across a Green Chili Chicken and Lime Soup and thought I'd give it a whirl.

Of course, I did a few things differently... I put the can of green chilis in the blender to make more of a chili liquid. And though I halved the recipe, I still used the full can of chilis. Instead of pre-cooking the rice, I added the rice to the chicken broth (onions and garlic) to cook for 20 minutes. I did without the cheese and avocado to cut down on fat. The lime juice was definitely tart....so I added a bit of water and more spices. Here in Texas, we're used to things being hot! The soup turned out really good and I'll definitely add it to my recipe box.

And though it's already 100 degrees outside, my office stays at 60 and soup is a welcome lunch-time delight!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rick Perry

At a time when the national budget is in crisis, do you really think this guy should be president? He can't even keep his own state in the black, despite warning flags being thrust in his face years ago.

Rick Perry wants to be the new W. Unfortunately for him, Perry inherited W's ridiculous management of the state budget. He rode on W's success for years but now it's becoming clear just how inept he really is. This is a guy who, instead of talking about the massive budget shortfall in the state legislature, fast-tracked issues such as sonograms before abortions. Because that's the more important thing - unborn children versus the ones in our schools right now.

Yeah, this guy should be in charge of the national budget. Ugh.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Victory!

Given what happened Sunday night, I'm sure you all were surprised by my silence yesterday.

I still can't believe it. The MAVS WON THE NBA CHAMPIONSHIP!!! It's a great time for Dallas and the Metroplex. I couldn't be happier for the humblest NBA super star, Dirk Nowitzki.

I've never watched a more exciting game than Sunday's. Dirk was a bit off but he made shots at the end when they mattered most. It was awesome seeing his supporting cast come through in a big way - namely Jason Terry. What a game!

It was difficult watching the game on ABC with the ESPN crew. They've never shown Dallas any respect. I've never seen a more biased crew! At one point, when the game was wrapped up with seconds to go, one of the commentators said, "Dirk has held his own against two super stars." And, later, "these Mavs are a group of castaways." As the Mavs posted a victory, the cameras followed LeBron's immediate walk to the locker room, instead of focusing on the winners. (Good article here.) They extolled the Big Three, saying how they were super stars who just couldn't get it done when it mattered most. Dallas, somehow, pulled off some magic.

Magic, eh? You call it magic, I call it hard work. It would be nice if the ESPN guys would acknowledge that. But they obviously have no idea what hard work is. Everyone can learn from these Mavs.... You can only win with hard work and perseverance. There is no magic. Miami tried to create it's own magic by taking the easy route with the Big Three. They expected a championship in one year. That doesn't happen. They didn't fail; they haven't had time to become a real team yet.

Amazingly, LeBron and the Big Three are still the big stories. The Mavs are not. Despite the Heat's cockiness, disrespect, and rudeness, the media is still fawning over them. These guys don't deserve the attention.

But let's return to Dallas. Here, Mark Cuban, bad boy owner of the NBA, is paying for the Mavs' victory parade. No taxpayers will foot the bill (are you listening Jerry Jones?). He's a class act. Perhaps the Big Three should take lessons from him.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Two Views

In preparation for tonight's game, here is a bit of reading for you.

And, yes, that curly, blonde-haired giant is the only thing that stands in the way of pure, domineering evil. But is one man enough? One against three? Only three games will tell. As a Mavs fan, I'm prepared to be disappointed....though a small ray of hope persists in these dark times.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Zucchini Bread

I was all excited last night to try my hand at zucchini bread for the second time. The first time, years ago, was disaster. I followed a low-fat recipe that was utterly horrid.

This time, I followed the first recipe here. It was good. Not great, but a good, solid recipe. It definitely satisfies my zucchini bread cravings.

It was also fun playing with the food processor for the first time. Cooking and baking is so much fun when you like the result and gain a sense of satisfaction.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Baking Inspiration!

First off, a happy, happy birthday to my husband today! He's brought so much joy to my life and I'm so blessed to have found him!

Mr. Higgins' mother is a fabulous cook/baker. I've been looking forward to another Christmas at her house since Jan. 2 of this year! She's inspired me to think outside of my limited baking box which is a lot of fun.

Recently, she forwarded me a link to a baking blog. Oh my goodness! That opened a can of worms! Now I'm obsessed with cooking/baking blogs!! And I really want to do more cooking/baking!! Trying to narrow it down to just one thing to bake is difficult....but not really.

There was a restaurant - a girlie lunch place - that my mom and I frequented in East Texas when I lived there. They had the best zucchini muffins! I'd look forward to that more than anything there! I tried a zucchini bread at the time, trying to replicate the goodness....and it was a failure. The recipe was low-fat....and awful.

Now, armed with a new food processor (wedding gifts are wonderful!), I'm ready to try again. A normal, fatty zucchini bread recipe, that is! I'll let you know how it goes tonight.

I'll probably spend every free moment today browsing food blogs. And, like yesterday, I'll be starving all day long!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Game 2, Finals

In case you haven't heard, the Mavs beat the Heat last night, tying the series 1-1.

It hasn't been a pretty two games for Mavs fans. The shots aren't falling, rebounding and turnovers have killed the Mavs. Dirk injured a finger and, though he said it wasn't hurting, his shots were not falling last night.....until it mattered. He went on a shooting spree at the end to tie up the game and then make the game-winning shot.

Go Dirk!

LeBron and Wade had no idea what happened. They were still celebrating their 15-point lead when the buzzer sounded and the Mavs walked away with a victory. Awesome.

Now on home turf, the Mavs are going to have to re-group. Terry really needs to step it up - and make some baskets - and Kidd needs to hold on to the ball a bit better. And GET IN LeBRON'S FACE!! Defense, guys! Don't let your fans - and all the Heat-haters - down. You've got the majority of the country on your side, guys. Make us proud!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Flowers


A few pictures from the wedding.

As you may recall, I was having serious problems with the florist that was included in our wedding package. So, I went and found my own florist. It was a bit difficult doing this long distance - all by phone and email - but they flowers turned out great!


Yellow calla lillies, white hydrangeas, and white ranunculuses. I loved them!

Really, everything with the wedding went so smoothly and perfectly....like a dream!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dieting....Or Not

Mr. Higgins and I had a full three-day weekend! And it got us thinking....three-day weekends really should be the norm! Ha!

One of Mr. Higgins' best friends is moving in mid-June. It's got us all really down. We're trying to make the most of the time we have left with him, though, by visiting all his favorite restaurants and doing all his favorite things around town. Add Mr. Higgin's birthday into the mix next week and we're eating out a lot - and having a lot of desserts.
As a result, my post-wedding diet is suffering. Ah, well. You only live once, right?

Perhaps in July I'll finally get to settle down and work on that wedding scrapbook. And knit. And make cards. And catch up on movies and such.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Deja Vu

The Mavs have won the Western Conference. I can hardly believe it! But I'm super happy!

The Finals match-up brings a hiccup to every Mavs' fan, however: the Heat will most likely win the East. Every Mavs fan is scarred by the finals in 2006 when the Mavs collapsed in Miami and lost the series, the championship that was within their grasp. Now they're headed back to Miami, to a Heat team with new players: LeBron and Chis Bosh.

This does not make me happy; it's terrifying! This Mavs team beat Kobe, though, and if they can beat LeBron's stuck-up arse, then I will be ecstatic. It will serve LeBron right.

Only time will tell if these Mavs can stand up to the Heat.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Hail!

We've had two days of crazy weather here in north Texas.

-On Monday, around 10am, the skies darkened and, if one hadn't known better, it looked like it was 8:30pm! Soon, dime-size hail rained down for a good ten minutes. I was, of course, at work, and feared for my car in the open parking lot. There was no big damage, but I know of at least one dent on the roof of my car.

-Last night, as Oklahoma City was dealing with mega tornadoes, we had our own scare. Around 7:45, after only a few rain drops, hail the size of ping-pong balls fell for a good ten minutes, hitting the windows with such force that I was sure they would shatter. Finally, it stopped and we went outside. The wind was crazy! For the next hour, we watched, transfixed on the back porch, as two storms went by, skirting our house....with swirling clouds. I've never seen anything like it. The clouds in the upper atmosphere were billowing upward while the ones below swirled closer to the ground. We didn't see any funnels but I've never seen anything closer to a funnel.

We lost power and had no internet for the duration of the storms. It was pretty scary.

An hour after the hail, when the creepy clouds had passed by, the tornado sirens finally went off for the first time. We had clear skies. This doesn't give me any confidence in our local emergency personnel.