Friday, January 30, 2015

this weekend in food

A weekend recap-type post on a Friday? I do what I want. Actually, I do what I want when I finally feel like getting pictures on the computer.

Saturday was a little insane, food-wise, at least when I put it down on paper. I didn't end the day feeling like I ate all that much, though. On Sunday we were pretty lazy, but we did take a family walk with the camera so I could take pictures of things besides the cat. Those pictures will be mixed in with our day Saturday.

 It was sunny and in the 70s, so we went to a nearby lake.

We got up early and went to check out the brand new Weights and Measures. It's a restaurant/bar/bakery/coffee shop... basically everything I love in one place. Slow Dough Bakery is already a well-known concept in Houston and they supply buns and other things for many restaurants, but this was their first full-on retail bakery operation, and it opened on Saturday inside Weights and Measures. We grabbed a glazed donut, a cinnamon twist, and a bismark (a donut filled with cream and topped with chocolate) as well as coffee. Unfortunately, on day one, the pastries all left something to be desired. The donut was fine, but there was an overwhelming amount of orange zest in it that I just didn't expect. It was also denser than I would have liked. However, its density was nothing compared to that of the cinnamon twist. That was thick and chewy and not good at all. Between the two of us, we barely made it through half. The bismark had good cream, but too much, and good chocolate. The donut was thicker than I would have liked (maybe to hold in all that cream?) and overall, I didn't care for it, either. I will definitely give this place another shot or two - the scones and muffins looked great - but it wasn't amazing, which is what I was hoping for.

Some kids drew all along the path we walked on.

After breakfast, we made our way down to another Houston suburb to have lunch at Killen's BBQ. We got there early, grabbed a number to secure our place in line, and then wandered around a nearby Walmart to kill time. We got back before the doors opened and got through the line really fast. I got some of my favorite creamed corn, but the corn was overcooked and the turkey wasn't as perfect as it normally is. The brisket was good, though, and the burnt ends special that Andrew ordered was fantastic. Maybe it was just an off day. For the record, I took about half of my meat home.


After lunch, we made the long drive to our old suburb because I really like the mall out there (it has a lot of outlets). I found lots of casual stuff, but none of the work stuff I was looking for. We made a quick drive past our old house, then went to my beloved Costco. Our membership ends next month and since there isn't one nearby, we aren't going to renew. This kills me! Apparently if someone buys you a gift card, you can shop without a membership, so I'll likely try that when I need a fix. I was way too excited to leave with 30 rolls of toilet paper.

I love this short trail that runs through our neighborhood.

We had to go to the drive-thru of our favorite bakery while we were in the area to grab a snack for later (cupcake for me, cookie for Andrew). Andrew was in search of a beer and he thought this empanada place we used to love might have it. They didn't, but by this time we were ready for a snack, so we had an empanada. We headed toward our house, then decided to stop at Half Price Books to look for records (total bust) and then ended up making a long detour to get back to our part of town. A place near our house was supposed to have the beer he wanted, so we stopped in. They didn't, so he settled for another beer and I got a glass of wine. As a plus, the place was pretty cute so we'll likely be back.

He realized he wasn't the star of the photos so he jumped up to make sure I was paying attention.

After a stop at one more store (for more wine), we finally went home to have our lunch leftovers for dinner. It was a good day. Maybe now people will believe me when I say I'm willing to travel for food...

Friday, January 23, 2015

because shine theory is just something you should know

So yesterday I posted about my new love, the Call Your Girlfriend podcast. In listening to the podcast, they kept talking about Shine Theory and I was thinking, what is that? I wanted to fake cultural literacy and tell myself I knew what that was, but I had to be real and consult google.

Basically, Ann (one of the podcast hosts) wrote an article about an idea that Amina (her bff/other podcast host) had. It's so simple.

I don't shine if you don't shine.

You should really just read the article but basically, the idea is that I can't be my best if I'm not helping you be your best. And who is the "you" here? It's other ladies, my peers, my colleagues. The women I'm surrounded by who I should be learning from but I'm busy nitpicking and disliking and bitch eating crackers-ing.

Ann (we're on a first name basis I guess because we're besties in my head) basically says that when we're calling out other women and comparing ourselves to them, we're just shining a light on our own insecurities. Why not surround ourselves with awesome women who can teach us so much, broaden our network of awesomeness, and improve our own worth? We have to get away from the "there's only room at the top for a few" mentality and stop seeing life as a competition and think more about how every woman at the top helps women everywhere. And shouldn't the goal be to surround ourselves with strong, amazing women with long lists of achievements?

Maybe it's me, but this idea and this article really struck me. I see women tearing one another down all the time in real life (and I know I'm guilty of doing it myself). When I reframe it and see the reasons why it's done - that it could be masking an insecurity or done in fear of losing one's status - it just seems so stupid, so futile, and like such a waste. I'm not promising I'll change. There are women in power or who I perceive as higher status who I will continue to nitpick because I may truly not like them. But it really makes me think. I want to surround myself with people who shine, because I want to shine, too.

"Foregoing the internal ranking system in favor of being your best self and helping your girlfriends do the same was a revelation to me." - Ann Friedman, Shine Theory: Why Powerful Women Make the Greatest Friends

Thursday, January 22, 2015

if we had a lady date, part two

If we had a lady date, I think we would have a lot to catch up on.

If we had a lady date, I would be grateful. I think the holidays and new year add a different element of busy-ness to everyone's lives and that taking extra time for someone else gets really hard. I would understand that things are happening in your life and just be happy we found time to connect.

I would tell you about my new love, the Call Your Girlfriend podcast. It's two smart women who are "long distance besties" who talk about everything from current events to the Kardashians to their bodies. They're feminists without being man-haters and they use awesome words like "garbage person" and "apreesh" (short for appreciate. It works, I promise). I have a new appreciation for faking cultural literacy and a renewed outlook on our patriarchal society and all kinds of things I never considered before. I'm listening to all of the back episodes and I'm excited to be caught up in real time.

Talking about that would make me want to talk about friends. Yours, specifically. I am still so fascinated by the intricacies of female friendship and it hasn't stopped. If nothing else, some of the things I've gone through lately has made me want to study women in their friend groups like animals at the zoo. The dominant one, the nurturer, the pair that are there for one another unconditionally. Like siblings, adult best friends are things I have yet to experience for myself.

If we had a lady date, I would tell you about Andrew's super fun bout with the flu and how I'm not the greatest nurse there ever was. I tried, but by day three I forced him to the doctor more for my sake than his. I've stayed at arm's length so as not to catch his plague and I miss him feeling well.

I would want to tell you that I am doing pretty well with my new year's resolutions. I even walked in circles for 40 minutes in an empty conference room, Hart of Dixie playing on my iPad, at lunch the other day just to get my steps in. The Project 365 was a failure - I kind of assumed it would be the day I began - but I am playing with the new camera a little. Finding something instagram-worthy every day was too much pressure.

Whoa Wait Walmart would have to come up. I love Target as much as the next girl, but looking at this site, it looks like Walmart has totally stepped up their game. I love following their instagram though I've yet to pick up anything in store. It almost makes me excited for my next grocery trip.

Mostly, if we went on a lady date, I would hope that we could just let things flow. I would hope to have one of those evenings where two and a half hours pass and it feels like fifteen minutes. Before we parted, I would want to set up plans for the next time, just like you do at the dentist. That's the mark of a good lady date.

You can read about our first potential lady date here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

read this, not that.

When I get extended time off work, I tend to pick up books. It's as simple as that. I think Andrew was watching football or something so I just started to read.

Over Thanksgiving Break I read Defending Jacob. Andrew really liked it and wanted me to give it a try. I thought the narrative was told in an interesting way, but I thought the father (the narrator) was a naive idiot and I predicted the end about halfway through. When I find characters unlikeable, it pretty much ruins my enjoyment of the book so I complained about this one the whole time and only finished it to see if my prediction was right.

I've seen the book Me Before You all over blogland, but not wanting to be fooled again (like Flat Out Love) by what's popular, I was smart and downloaded a chapter first. I was intrigued, so I spent a whopping $2.99 (actually, I had swagbucks credit) and got the whole book. I think I read it in two days? It's an easy read with a mostly likable (though kind of dense) narrator and I cried. It would be a good plane book (minus the crying part) and it really did make me think about what I would do if I was in either of the main character's situations.

I love to know the behind-the-scenes info about most anything, so I was excited to see Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live at the library. I got the newly updated version and it was almost 800 pages, so it was full of info. It was told like you were watching an I Love the ___ on VH1- from the perspectives of writers, cast members, and hosts of SNL over the years, often just a paragraph at a time. Seeing how the show came together from then to now was interesting and so was learning about the dynamic of working on the show and the firsthand accounts of working with legendary actors, especially those who died. I found the end to drag, mostly because everyone speaking is still employed there so there wasn't much dirt. The chapter on Lorne Michaels was pretty much all covered in the rest of the book so I found it unnecessary. It was interesting but I'm glad it was free.

I love books of funny essays, so I was expecting to love I Was Told There'd Be Cake. I don't know what it was, but I never connected to the writer and her stories at all. Her stories didn't appeal to me really and I never found her relatable. I kept waiting for something hilarious or something that struck me and it never happened. Glad this one was a free ebook from the library.

On the other hand, Amy Poehler's Yes Please was one of those books I purposely put away for a week to stretch out my enjoyment (I caught up on Parks and Rec that week which made her chapter about the show that much more enjoyable). It was a memoir of course, but I felt like she tried really hard to talk to her fans about the lessons she learned. It wasn't just "this happened, isn't that funny?" and was more "here's how I got to where I am and the lessons I learned and why my experiences mattered to me." I just thought it was really well done and like most others who have read her book, I just want to be BFFs with Amy and Tina but to be fair, I've wanted that since before reading her book.

I'm in the middle of Jen Lancaster's My Fair Lazy and I find it boring and the stories irrelevant. I loved her other book I read, so what's happening with this one? Did all her good material go on her blog? I'm not sure if I'll make it through. Let's be friends on Goodreads so I can stalk what you're reading.

Life According to Steph

Monday, January 12, 2015

best bites 2014

A 2014 recap halfway through January? Let's just say I wanted to get through the end of the year before picking my favorites.

I posted my best bites of 2013 last year if you want to check that out. My rules are that it's something I ate this year (not necessarily for the first time) and something I both remember well and crave often.

I was stuck on which dish at multiple places so I listed my second favorites, too. In no particular order...

1) Almond Croissant at Common Bond - Anytime I hear someone is going to Common Bond, I insist they try the almond croissant first. As a confirmed chocolate person, this is a huge endorsement. The perfect amount of almond paste, huge in size, flaky, sugary, and a perfect crunch on top. A close second: the chocolate chip cookie. You can tell the chocolate is good quality and the texture is always chewy without being mush.

2) Jalapeño Cheese Grits at Mickelthwaite in Austin - The texture and cheesiness of these grits are my favorite part. They have the perfect hint of jalapeño flavor and are just as amazing leftover. I would know, because on my second trip I got enough to feed five people. At least. A close second: their from-scratch moonpies. I was heartbroken they weren't available on my last trip.

3) Spaghetti, black pepper, parmigiano, and olive oil at Coltivare - So simple but I'm not kidding when I say I could eat this weekly at least. Perfect pasta, enough cheese to taste and bind it together, and even perfectly-sized pepper grounds. Nearly everything I've had at Coltivare has been amazing, so it's hard not to just get this every time. A close second: the cauliflower. It's roasted with pine nuts and raisins. I hate cauliflower but not this.

 1, Mickelthwaite Trailer, 3

4) "Everything" Kolache from the Fluff Bake Bar Pop-Up - I probably wouldn't have tried this if I was left to order, but my awesome friend Tig got one of everything at this event and then came to my house to share. This is basically your traditional kolache dough, and instead of there being fruit in the middle, there was a dollop of cream cheese surrounded by the garlic and onion tastes of an Everything bagel. It was soft and creamy and savory and I immediately wanted another.

5) The Honeycake dessert at Oxheart - I just love the surprises at Oxheart, and the hardest thing about going there is that every dish is pretty much a once in a lifetime experience. They rarely repeat menu items for more than a season at a time, and as the menu is such that you order the entire meal (not just a dish at a time), it isn't cheap and is therefore a treat each time we go. On one visit, we were treated to a dessert of honeycake with cooked carrots and cream cheese with candied pecans that I couldn't stop raving about. Again, for this chocolate lover, that's saying a lot. A close second: the onions cooked in goat's milk. Rich and warm and a little sweet with fantastic textures.

6) Creamed corn from Killen's BBQ - I eat more barbecue than the average person, and I don't like beef or meat on the bone all that much. My barbecue restaurant loyalty lies with the side offerings and Killen's creamed corn is the best. I once told someone I would bathe in it (but that would be gross). It's a little sweet and has a little spice and the cream is so thick, you want to lick it from the plate. A close second: the mac and cheese is pretty delicious, too.

4 (top left), 5, 6 (also top left)

7) Chicken Biryani at Great W'Kana - Rice and chicken cooked with spices and served in a porcelain dish beneath a hot, flaky bread dome with a side of raita to cool it down. The chicken is juicy, it smells fantastic, and I want to drink the raita. I hate that this place is so hard to get to from our new side of town.

8) Cafe Sua Da ice cream from Cloud 10 Creamery - The only repeat from last year! I went to Cloud 10 on my birthday and again more recently for a blogger event where I got to chat with the chef and ask him ridiculous questions (and he told me about making arugula ice cream for a client that was a total mess) so now I love this place even more. I love so many things but I have a hard time not getting the cafe sua da (Vietnamese coffee) ice cream in a waffle cone each and every time.

9) Brussels Sprouts from The Modular - I dare someone who doesn't like Brussels sprouts to try these and not change their mind. They're flash fried so the leaves are crispy and then tossed with golden raisins so there's a hint of sweetness. Every other sprout I eat gets automatically compared to these since they're the best.

10) Tom Kha Soup from almost anywhere - When I eat Thai, I tend to be boring and only get Panang curry because I just love it. Last year, my step-mom ordered this soup when we were out for Thai. I tried it and didn't want anything else. It's great at Vieng Thai, my favorite place, but it's also solid at our nearby, average-to-decent spot, which leads me to think this chicken and coconut soup is just something like mac and cheese that I'll like in nearly any iteration. It's warm and comforting without being heavy and, fun fact, part of my last meal of 2014.

7, 8, 9 (sorry, no Tom Kha pics)

And now, the fun part - starting on my list for 2015...

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015 goals

I've never been one for setting goals. It's just never appealed to me. But for some reason (drinking the new year kool-aid?), this year I want to write out a few things and see how I do.

- Read more. I set my Goodreads goal at 20 which is about 16 more than last year and still seems pretty attainable. We'll see, though.

- Take Duncan out for at least a 20 minute walk every day, barring bad weather or working past dark. It's good for both of us and helps with my whole fitbit 10K steps thing.

- Take more pictures. If you follow me on instagram, then you know I just got a DSLR and I want to learn how to use it. Any good resources to send my way? I'm going to attempt a project 365 but we'll see how that goes...

- Do something with said pictures. I got really into the idea of a smashbook last year and never used it after the newness wore off. I should change that.

- Acquire a taste for red wine. We're going to Napa in the fall (!!!) and I think only drinking white wine will lessen my enjoyment of the whole experience.

- Cook more. I hate it, but it's time I tried a teensy bit harder. Baby steps.

- Organize my work stuff better. I always have scratch paper and multiple notebooks going with all kinds of notes about projects but I got a new planner and a matching moleskine professional notebook with a cool set-up that I'm hoping will help me stay organized. And if not, at least they're pretty, right?

Planner is Sugar Paper for Target and the layout is exactly what I needed... They came out late October and are only sold in stores so I might have gone to three to find this. The Moleskine was purchased with a Container Store gift card. I'll let you know if it was worth the cash.

I'm excited. These are all things I want to do, so I hope I can stick with them. Any tips?

Monday, January 5, 2015

christmas break

One of the perks of working for a nonprofit law school is that the school closes for nearly two weeks at Christmas so I get to be off work without taking vacation. It's amazing.

Graduation actually fell on my first day of "break." It's stressful when stupid things happen like an escalator not being turned on until the last minute and podiums not having reading lights on them but seeing how excited all the students are reminds me of why the major pain that all the planning can be is worth it. I often forget to see the bigger picture and realize how big of a day it is for them and get caught up in how irritating it can be for me.

My father-in-law and sister-in-law came to town and we had a pretty relaxed visit. We found time to eat at Coltivare (Tiffani Amber Thiessen went there last week!) and Common Bond. Andrew and I went to favorite places on our old side of town and drove past our old house, too. For Christmas dinner, I set the table with china and linen napkins and Andrew made a pork shoulder since his dad wanted a Puerto Rican Christmas. We all got new PJs on Christmas eve and played Johnny Mathis records on Christmas morning. Hosting Christmas in your own house definitely has its perks - I stayed in lounge clothes all day.

PJs, stocking remnants on the couch, and a Christmas movie = Christmas 2014 | Bauer pic for no reason other than he matches his blanket and I love his paws | Pecan Creek Grill, a former favorite. Last year we said that eating there on Christmas Eve morning would be our new tradition but now it's too far (but at least it's on the way to my mom's!). We need a new breakfast place!

I finally caught up on Parks and Rec and it's fantastic. I went to the library for the first time in years and discovered the magic that is free ebooks. I forgot how much I liked reading and finally joined Goodreads (you can be my friend). I also got a Fitbit so that has been fun. The thrill of my wrist vibrating when I hit 10,000 steps in a day is way more exciting than it should be (we can be friends there, too). I spent a day with my nieces and we played Uno and Head's Up as a family and made oven s'mores since it rained all day and it was fun and made me wish Oklahoma was closer. My dad and step-mom brought my grandma and aunt over and I made lunch the week after Christmas. Someone told me recently that you finally start to feel like an adult, and be seen as an adult, when you become the host, and that really hit me over the holiday season. Being the one who made the beds and picked the menu and refilled drinks was different, but I liked it. I spent way more time being lazy than I probably should have, but I did what needed to be done, too. Like always, the holiday season was over before I knew it and I was sad to see it go. Next year, I'll try to be better.

So that's the past two weeks in a nutshell. I'll be busy at work trying to remember that it's now 2015. Happy New Year!