Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Meals: I Learned Something This Weekend

There is a reason there are no honey mustard maple beef recipes out there. Yesterday, I felt like making something delicious, so naturally I went to a maple inspired dish. Though everyone everywhere has recipes for honey mustard maple chicken -- which I've made a few times -- I wanted to try it with beef. I feel like I've been eating chicken a lot lately and wanted to switch it up. It was a mediocre success that left me simply shrugging and putting most of it in the fridge for later consumption. Not that it wasn't fine (because with honey mustard and maple syrup how can it be bad?), it just didn't turn out as delicious as I wanted. The beef was tough and the sauce was kind of...weird with it. I'm not sure how else to describe it.

I based it off of this simple recipe for chicken with a delicious sauce that I found over at Witty in the City. Suffice it to say, I'll probably stick with chicken from now on when I want honey mustard maple goodness.

I thought it would look exactly like this, only beef. I was wrong.

Oh well. Live and learn, right?

Friday, September 26, 2014

{Five Things}

Yellow roses from a library fundraiser.
This week, I revisited some things from my youth. I began learning a new song on the piano, which I haven't played in months, I went to the library downtown to check out some books, and tomorrow, I'm going roller skating with a friend because it sounded like fun. It's amazing how random your life can be when you don't have a full time job. I'm kind of loving it.

Fun new sunglasses cases

Books on books on books.
Little Bit is letting us get so much closer to him than before. He is also so camouflaged in that mulch.

My grandmother's handwritten notes on one of her favorite pieces of music.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Favorite Time of the Year

Tuesday was the first day of Fall!! I love fall, you love fall, all white girls love fall. But for me, it's more than the scarves, the leaves turning colors, and comfort food. For me, it's all about the TV shows. The stories, the drama, the everything. It makes me giddy. This list is going to seem like I do nothing but watch TV, but I promise it's not true.**  I limit my TV time to only a couple hours per day, and only after dinner. Otherwise, I could pretty easily sit on the couch all day with a bag of Doritos and do nothing productive ever.

I wrote last week about lessons learned from medical dramas, but this year there are a whole slew of other shows that I'm super excited about.

1. Once Upon A Time (Sunday) -- I've tried to explain this one to people that haven't watched it and I feel like a total dork. Everyone loves fairy tales, but a show where all the fairy tale characters live together in the real world and don't remember who they are because of a curse doesn't really sound that appealing. But the same writers and creators from LOST always leave you wanting more, and I'm excited to see where this season goes. Also, I should probably watch Frozen so I have some semblance of what's going on:

2. The Blacklist (Monday) -- Only in its second season, The Blacklist struck me early on as a show different from any other. James Spader is the master of this dark FBI drama and commands your love and respect. He also knows how to straight up CUT someone iffin they get out of hand. It gets more intense every episode, and the twists and turns in the first season left me panting for breath and more wine. It's on Netflix now, so go catch up on the first season and watch the second one with me!

3. New Girl and the Mindy Project (Tuesday) -- These two go hand in hand for me because they are on the same night and both tickle my funny bone in similar fashions. Jess and Mindy are very lovable and I would like to be both of their best friends.

4. Modern Family (Wednesday) -- It's just great writing, pure and simple. Dry, amazing humor that doesn't quit. What a wonderful hump day treat.

5. How to Get Away With Murder (Thursday) -- I love being in Shondaland. Viola Davis pretty much kills it (no pun intended) in everything she does, so I'm intrigued by this show and am anticipating how good it will probably be.

6. Biggest Loser (Thursday) -- Not a new one, but the only reality show I watch. It gets very dramatic with all the competitions, but it's also all about learning to eat right and live a healthy life.

Bonus: Who is excited about the new True Detective??

Double Bonus: Downton Abbey and Parks and Rec both start in January, so I'll revisit this when the year is ending. Get ready.

What shows are you excited about this fall??

**As I finished this blog post, I was a little ashamed and embarrassed to realize how much TV I actually watch when my shows are back. But then I thought, "eh, what the hell, that is how many TV shows I watch," and decided I shouldn't pretend.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday Meals: Chicken and Mushroom Sauce

I love a good chicken and mushroom recipe. So when I saw this one on Pinterest (obvi), I wanted to try it right away. This slow weekend was the perfect opportunity. Though the recipe, found here, says to buy bone-in chicken and bake it, I bought boneless and kept it in the skillet. It was easier and still delicious. Win win. The whole thing, in fact, is fairly simple, and I can see this being a future staple for those busy week nights.

I'm using her picture because the ones I took were terrible.

3 or 4 boneless chicken breasts
Sliced mushrooms (I always use a lot because I love them)
Olive oil
Minced garlic
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup heavy cream or half & half
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
Salt and pepper to taste.

Heat chicken over medium to high heat until they are about halfway cooked through. Set aside. In another pan, heat olive oil and garlic over medium heat and add mushrooms, cooking until they are almost brown. Stir in chicken broth, thyme, oregano and basil. Add chicken to the mushrooms, cover and turn heat down to low-medium. Let cook for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken. Add cream, Parmesan and mustard to the mushrooms. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until it's slightly reduced and creamy. Et voila! Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

Friday, September 19, 2014

{Five Things}

Friday night football game last week. Brought back so many memories!
This week has been very low key. I know at some point, my life will get crazy again with travel or work, so I'm trying to enjoy these slower days and soak in the stillness. This weekend will be a quiet one, filled with coffee, some writing, a few new recipes from Pinterest, and a movie or two. Hope you have a relaxing weekend!

My bounty from the farmer's market.

We've been trying to get this little kitty to come to us all week. He was so scared at first, but now he knows to come closer when he wants food. Slowly earning Little Bit's trust.

The most incredible pizza at Thirteen Pies in Fort Worth. Brie, bacon, parsley and Granny Smith apple slices. I meant to take a picture before we started eating, but I couldn't help myself. #needmoreselfcontrol

Animal cookie jars at Anthropologie. Love the bulldog!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Moral of the Story: What I learned from Medical Dramas

I can't watch Grey's Anatomy or House with my dad anymore. I love him, but he insists on pointing out everything wrong with what's going on in the show. "No hospital is filled with doctors that good-looking." "He's holding that X-ray upside down." "The problem is with the patient's heart" (that one is usually about 10-minutes into an episode of House, where it takes House and his team 42 minutes to figure it out). Dangit, dad, it's television and I don't care.

Well, only part of me cares that it's not completely accurate, because the rest of me is busy being entertained and pulled into the drama. Not only do I love the medical parts, but let's be real, Meredith and Derek, Dr. House and Cuddy, no more drama has ever been seen in a hospital probably.  If you don't watch either of, it's probably too late now to catch up, but you can catch House reruns on Tuesday nights, so that's something. Here are five things I've learned in my almost-decade of watching Grey's Anatomy and House. Also, has it really been that long??

1. Friends are the actual best -- especially having that one "person."

Wilson is the rock in this relationship, but House wears the pants.

Eh, Meredith and Cristina are both kinda screwed up, but it works.

2. Office romances are awful until they're great until they're awful again. -- There are a lot of ups and downs in office/hospital relationships, like most regular relationships. But if you date someone that you work with, there are 1,000 more opportunities for awkward encounters, emotion-laden glances from a distance, and opportunities to make a statement and then walk away without waiting for a response.

Sure, everyone looks happy now, but just wait an episode or two... 

3. A group of coworkers needs a place to hang out and discuss the day's events/current dramas -- For Meredith and the gang, it's Joe's, for House's team, it's their locker room. Everyone needs a place to be able to talk about what's going on for their benefit and ours. Also, who doesn't want to go to a place like Joe's every Friday night?

4. A white board is the best way to DDX a problem (I also learned that DDX means "diagnose") -- House uses one, and he's a genius. He also uses his team as human white boards, so generally having something or someone to bounce ideas off of will help with many problems.

5. Take time to celebrate victories with a 30-second Dance Party.

Though House is over, Grey's is still going strong and starts back in a few weeks. It'll be interesting to see where this season goes, and what I'll learn from my favorite fake doctors.

Do/did you watch Grey's or House? Do you love them as much as I do? 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Meals: Sweet Potato Hash Browns (my version of them, anyway.)

After a trip to the farmer's market Sunday, the kitchen was overflowing with sweet potatoes, onions and squash. I decided to put some of these guys to use and make sweet potato hash browns Sunday morning. I made a version of this recipe, but I had leftover corn on the cob in the fridge, so I sliced the corn off and threw them in the skillet too. After frying a couple eggs, the final product was a delicious homemade brunch that made my quiet Sunday morning that much more enjoyable.

You'll need:
Olive oil
Minced or fresh garlic
3 large sweet potatoes
1 white onion
4 strips uncooked bacon
About 3/4 cup corn (I used the corn from one cob)
1/4 cup water

Dice sweet potatoes and onions. Add olive oil and garlic to skillet and place on medium to high heat. Add the potatoes and onions. While they cook, use kitchen scissors to cut bacon into small pieces, cook on high in separate pan. Once onions are translucent and potatoes are soft, add bacon and corn. Add water and stir for a minute or so. Eat with eggs in any form and feast.

Did you make any delicious dishes this weekend?

Friday, September 12, 2014

{Five Things}

I've lived a lot of life...or maybe I'm a hoarder. Hard to tell.

I'm currently going through a box of my stuff that my mom kept over the years, and goodness gracious it is entertaining. It feels like another lifetime when I went on an 8th grade trip to DC, or braved the East Coast winters at boarding school. It's also very cleansing to go through old photos and reach back into my past. I'm thinking about things I haven't thought of in years, and at this uncertain juncture in my life, it's nice to be reminded of where I've been.

This weekend, I'm going to enjoy the cool weather by going to a high school football game tonight (I've missed those Friday night lights) and then have people over since my parents are out of town. Hmm, maybe high school wasn't so long ago after all.

Gotta love pens that write well. Especially this one at my dad's office, where I've been a temp for a few days this week.

Cheesecake for dinner is usually the answer to life's problems.

Fall colored nails making an appearance these days (still practicing the at-home manis).

Gorgeous West Texas sunset. Never gets old. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday Meals: Aunt Jenn's Apple Pie

It's been a while since I've posted a meal, so I thought I'd start back with a classic and a favorite: my Aunt Jenn's Apple Pie. My brother was home all last week and requested this pie, so, with some help from my mother, I baked this beauty and we ate it heartily and with abandon.

Pie Crust:
1/2 cup cold water
2/3 cup shortening or butter
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt

Mix flour and salt together, then add water and shortening and mix. Flatten with rolling pin. Makes two 9 inch crusts.

Apple Pie:
Six cups of sliced Granny Smith apples (will be about 4 or 5 large apples)
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
A "smidge" of nutmeg
About a teaspoon of cinnamon
3/4 of a stick of butter, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice apples into small pieces. Add sugar, flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon and stir until the apples are well-coated with the mix. Pour into pie pan. Place slabs of butter on top of the apples before placing the top crust. Punch big hole in the top crust to vent and cover outer crust with foil. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 25 minutes.

Friday, September 5, 2014

{Five Things}

The menu at Bill's Burgers that seems plucked right out of the 1950s (complete with a lovely glare).

Abilene must've missed the memo that summer is over. But, though the temps have stayed in the 90s this week, I've been feeling a cooler breeze blow every now and then while I sit outside and drink coffee in the mornings. I'm starting to think about the prospect of maybe bringing my scarves and sweaters out of storage, and I hope my wishful thinking will bring some fall weather to West Texas. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the lingering summer this weekend by spending time outside, either reading my awesome book or spending time with friends and family. I hope you have a great first weekend of fall!

Spending time with my grandparent's dog, Jack the Jack Russell. 

Wine corks fixed to small tables outside Cypress Street, a favorite downtown restaurant.

A new Onyx necklace that hasn't left my neck since Wednesday.

I hit tennis balls with my dad on Monday night and it wore me the eff out. Getting my tennis swag back is
tougher than one would think.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Recent Reads

Despite my relatively slow pace through most novels and stories, I've managed to read a number of amazing books this summer. Call it a reading rampage if you wish, but I adore the ability to enter other worlds while sitting on my bed or in the big blue chair in the kitchen. I've decided a more rounded reading experience would involve switching back and forth between fiction and non-fiction. Here are some of the most recent books I've read.

At Night We Walk In Circles by Daniel Alarcon

I read this book while I was in Paris, and though it wasn't a page-turner for about the first third of the book, I stuck with it and am glad I did. It's the story of a theatre group in South America that gets back together after a couple decades and decides to put on an old play. The theatre group disbanded decades earlier after the lead actor and playwright was imprisoned for writing a politically scandalous play that criticizes the government. Now a young actor joins the rejuvenated theatre group (which is made up of only three people) on tour throughout the countryside, and he discovers another side of his homeland that he never knew existed. I love Alarcon's writing style, and the narrator, who has more to do with the story than initially thought, is detached and aloof, but you still get the sense that he is trying to persuade you to believe something about the main character. I recommend this book if you have a minute and a half to read a 500 pages.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Oh, how I loved this book. Not only does Krakauer write with beautiful details and crisp narrative, but the story is so compelling I couldn't put it down. I know I'm a bit behind the times with this (it came out almost 20 years ago) but there's a reason people are still talking about this incident, and why they're making a movie about it, again, that is scheduled to come out next year. In the book, Krakauer tells his version of the 1996 Everest disaster that killed almost a dozen people. It's truly amazing what they went through and I couldn't even begin to describe it, but I'd tell anyone looking for a good read to pick up this book.

Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever? by Dave Eggers


This was a really interesting book that I read on the flight from San Francisco to Dallas. The main character kidnaps six people that have had some impact on his life, and he has conversations with them in abandoned warehouses in Monterey Peninsula in California. It's all dialogue, which is actually refreshing. I was blown away with how successfully Eggers illustrates a rich and full story with only the characters' words. Very impressive.

The Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy

Not only was McCarthy at the travel writers' conference that I attended in San Fran, but he wrote a chapter on climbing Kilimanjaro, so obvi I wanted to read it. (He was also in Pretty in Pink, so there's that.) He is a good writer, but I had a little trouble getting into the story. The destinations were interesting and the descriptions very nice, but I had a hard time relating to a man who is struggling with the idea of settling down with his girlfriend of 7 years. Not that it isn't interesting and relatable to many people, but since I am nowhere near that point in my life, it was harder for me to stick with that common thread woven throughout the book. But it is a great travel book and a good educational read for someone who loves travel reading and writing.

The English Girl by Daniel Silva

This novel is part of a series about an Israeli spy who is tapped to help save an English girl who is kidnapped by a group of French mafia. Her kidnapping also makes waves for the Prime Minister of England. The main character goes all over Europe, and Silva's descriptions of London and Paris and Jerusalem brought me back to those cities. It's fun to relive them without paying for a plane ticket. This is a quick read with big text, and I enjoyed having a thrilling story to read in bed at the end of the day.

Next on the list: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I've read 8 pages and I'm hooked. If you haven't heard of this book, get your head out from under that rock. I know the general outline, but am excited to get into it and learn more about this man's incredible story.

Aren't books the best things ever?
I'd love to know, what are you reading right now that I should be reading?