Monday, January 31, 2011

I Still Remember When 30 Was Old

I shall never grow up. Make believe is much too fun.

We drove two and a half hours to Tyler on Friday night, to see one of my favorite bands perform a small show at an intimate venue. We've had several opportunities to do same over the past couple of years, but we've always wimped out. We're tired, it's the end of the week, it's a long way to drive for a couple of hours of music, we're old, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

But this time we finally did it. We did it the way we would have done it back in college, driving after work (it would have been class back then), with snacks packed into the car, great music blaring. Rocking out at the show and then driving back through the late night. East Texas country roads are pretty deserted after midnight it seems. Stopping at Whataburger in Corsicana for late-night breakfast tacos.

After all, my big 3-0 day is looming. Just about a week left. So it may be my last chance to do something so spontaneous, impulsive, and irresponsible.

Or not. Apparently there is some life in me yet.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Well Fed, Revisited

After our feast the other night, we ended up with an entire tray of leftover roasted veggies. So last night we cooked some whole wheat angel hair pasta, browned some turkey sausage, tossed the leftover veggies in the skillet with the browned sausage to heat them up, poured a little tomato sauce on top and enjoyed a delicious pasta dish with very little effort. I think we would both chalk this up as the best "cook once, eat twice" meal in history.

Warning: Thighs in picture may be smaller than they appear. One can only hope.
On another note: I bought my very first pair of leggings yesterday. I am wearing them today with my tall brown boots. They are so wonderful, I can't believe I waited this long to jump on the bandwagon. Yes, I am that girl who is always five years behind on the trends. I want to run around to everyone I know saying, "Do you know about leggings?" But they already do, I know they do. Of course they know about leggings!

By the way, do you know about Friday Night Lights? More on this later.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Well Fed

We went to the grocery store the other day. We grabbed a bunch of vegetables. Everything that looked fresh and wholesome and good. Whatever we saw. Whatever we wanted. We grabbed in twos and threes, tucked them into plastic bags and piled the cart high. Tiny juicy tomatoes, dark green broccoli, tender zucchini, earthy mushrooms, aromatic leeks, sweet basil.

We got home and chopped it all up. We filled two baking dishes with mounds of fresh vegetables, then drizzled olive oil over the top, shook on freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt, splashed on some French vinaigrette and tossed it all together. We roasted everything in the oven until the house was saturated with delicious smells, until the tomatoes burst and everything else was sizzling and tender-crisp. We pulled it out of the oven and added a light sprinkling of freshly ground Parmesan cheese.

We stacked piping hot vegetables onto our plates, then added generous slices of pot roast that had been in the slow cooker for hours. So tender and dripping with mushroom gravy.

I sat down to my meal and it was so simple. Just veggies and meat, a few spices. It was so wholesome. Natural, fresh. And it was so good! I felt nourished, right down to the tips of my toes. I felt filled up, not just my stomach but my whole being. Whatever that essence is, that makes us who we are, that makes us alive, that part of me was satiated, was fed. Lovely, lovely, lovely, lovely evening.

Monday, January 24, 2011

What's in a name?

We had a truly fantastic caterer for our wedding. She had all kinds of wonderful ideas and unique twists on conventional favorites. Her signature specialty dish was a craw-fish cheesecake. Craw-fish? Cheesecake? Yeah, it sounds totally weird, and indeed, Keith and I came to the conclusion that the name was not apt. While the appetizer was baked in the same shape and with the same overall texture and consistency of a cheesecake, all similarities end there. This is no dessert dish. It functioned as more a cheese spread. Baked and delicious and gooey and flavored with lots of green onion and savory spices and chock-full of rich, strong cheese and chopped craw-fish. So it was something like a cheesecake. And it was something like craw-fish. But it was nothing like the images that are conjured when you put those two together. Craw-fish cheesecake, it was not. We ate it on crackers, not drizzled with strawberry sauce.

We're having the same problem with a new dessert recipe I tried last night. The recipe is for Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Marscapone Icing (from Baked Explorations, a beautiful and delicious cookbook). And even though they're for a gathering tonight, Keith and I just had to taste-test them as soon as they came out of the oven. They are perfection. Without a doubt my favorite cupcakes I have ever tasted. And while it's true the 24-cupcake recipe calls for two full cans of condensed tomato soup, they do not taste overwhelmingly tomato-y, as healthy dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice create a delicate balance. They are both rich and light, with a buttery icing that's a perfect foil against the sugary-spicy cupcakes. The finished product is utterly superb.

And yet, we are dissatisfied with the name. Tomato Soup? Cupcakes? As Keith queried last night, does tomato soup really have any business having anything to do with cupcakes, ever? Meanwhile, I argue that the name is more intriguing than it is off-putting. But I'm interested to know what others think. Does the name really need to go? If so, what's a better, more appealing alternative?

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Today smells like....

 Sharp, sweet, tangy clementines, ripe and ready to be peeled

Rich, creamy, spicy white chipotle chicken chili, slow-cooking on the stove

Crisp, aromatic, zesty cilantro, freshly chopped.

Today sounds like these guys...

Nada Surf

Explosions in the Sky

And today feels like...

A lazy, wonderful, refreshing Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


From my vantage point, the idea that faith and meaning and all the other important things happen in your mind or your soul where no one can see them is one of the worst byproducts of modern Christianity. We are, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, physical beings. And physical isn't negative. If we didn't have bodies, we couldn't feel the sun on our faces, or smell the earthy, mushroom-y rich smell of the ground right after a rain. If we didn't have bodies, we couldn't wrap our arms around the people we love or taste a perfect tomato right at the height of summer. I'm so thankful to live in this physical, messy, blood-and-guts world. I don't want to live in a world that's all dry ideas and theorems.

-Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Exquisite Poise

Yesterday I flew to St. Louis, MO for an industry trade organization annual conference. Believe it or not, it is almost as exciting as it sounds. It's cold here, and snowing- a nice change from the pseudo-winter we've been having in Texas. I walked a few blocks yesterday from the hotel to the closest Starbucks with swirly flakes landing lightly on my hair and shoulders. I can see how the snow and the cold and the ice get old and become a pain to those who experience them several months out of the year, but for me it's pure magic. I love it!

This morning was the first big general session for the conference. I dressed carefully (I always obsess a little about what to wear at these things, you know?) and made it down to breakfast ahead of my group. Feeling a little lost, but loathe to look like it, I poured a cup of coffee, snagged a sausage biscuit and decided I would just perch at the end of one of the back rows to eat while I waited for familiar faces to appear. I was fighting the self- consciousness that always comes with being the only woman in sight in a room full of strange men in suits and ties, but determined to overcome it. I would project poise. I would project confidence. It would be clear that I was completely comfortable, that I was assured of my place, my belonging here.

So I blithely set my coffee mug and my breakfast plate on the table and proceeded to take my seat. Of course, as soon as I sat down, at the end seat of the long back row of tables, I bumped right into the rickety table leg, sloshing a cascade of coffee over the rim of my cup and across the tablecloth in all directions. I also sent several preset water bottles rolling to the floor in the process. And really, in that kind of situation what can you do but laugh? I glanced around, catching the eye of several gentlemen who were smirking (good-naturedly) in my direction, grinned, and deadpanned something about how I am clearly grace personified. They all chuckled, several introduced themselves, and one of them even got up to help me retrieve the still spinning water bottles. It turns out I made a few new friends through my impromptu collision.

And then I made another friend when I had to track down Nico, a burly hotel staffer, and ask him to change out the irreparably soiled tablecloth. I may even get a few extra pillow mints out of it. Brooke's exquisite poise (or lack thereof): connecting thousands since 1981.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Little Threadbare Gypsy Soul

In high school, and especially in college, I was pretty convinced that I had the gypsy wandering spirit. I was restless, I was bored easily, I liked to be always moving on. Relationships with boys were often tumultuous and short-lived. I wanted to take a road trip every weekend. I thought life should always be colorful, and exciting. I closely identified with this song.

And also this one:

And I always worried what it would be like when I had to go to work every single day. To do the same things at the same place. And then come home every single night. To the same place. And especially, to the same person. I worried I couldn't do it. That I couldn't settle and couldn't stay. That I would always need to wander.

Keith and I got to travel a lot over the holidays. And it was wonderful. We spent some incredibly rich time with family and dear friends. And we drove. A ton. We passed lots of windshield time reading favorite books aloud to each other, and singing along to awesome new music, and gazing at incredible vistas. We talked about the play of light on sweeping landscapes and the magic of color and words and familiar faces and new worlds. We planned and we dreamed and we schemed and we laughed as the world sped past our windows. We had grand adventures. But by the end of it, I really did feel a little threadbare.

And then, when we finally made it home, for good, after nearly three weeks of travelling, we just melted with relief. And we holed up in our snug little house and watched movies and made dinner and talked and read and planned and dreamed and schemed some more. And listened to some more music. And laughed. And the adventure continues.

So, maybe I'm getting older and boring and more settled and I just don't crave the wandering anymore. Or maybe I've snagged myself such a well-suited partner that just sitting on the couch and talking feels like an adventure to me. Or maybe it's both of those things and a whole lot of others. Maybe I've found the adventure I crave inside of myself, and in the person next to me, and the life that we're building together, and all the wonderful place that can take us both mentally and physically.

Oh geez, I feel like this all sounds so cheesy, but it's honestly true! As it turns out, I don't really mind going to work at the same place every day. I find that I rarely do the same things there. And I do, I really do, at the end of the day, revel in coming home. To the same familiar place. Every single night. And especially, especially, to the same wonderful person.

I'll be leaving again next week, for three days of meetings and conferences in St. Louis. And I'll enjoy the experience. But I haven't even left yet, and already, I can't wait to be home.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's About Everything Human

I came across this today (via Jonathan Rogers), and oh, how it speaks to me. It's from Flannery O’Connor's Mystery and Manners - a  piece entitled “The Nature and Aim of Fiction” (pp. 67-68). 
The nature of fiction is in large measure determined by our perceptive apparatus. The beginning of human knowledge is through the senses, and the fiction writer begins where human perception begins. He appeals through the senses, and you cannot appeal to the senses through abstractions. It is a good deal easier for most people to state an abstract idea than to describe and thus re-create some object that they actually see. But the world of the fiction writer is full of matter, and this is what beginning fiction writers are loath to create. They are concerned primarily with unfleshed ideas and emotions…
The Manicheans separated spirit and matter. To them, all material things were evil. They sought pure spirit and tried to approach the infinite directly without any mediation of matter. This is also pretty much the modern spirit, and for the sensibility infected with it, fiction is hard if not impossible to write because fiction is so very much an incarnational art.
One of the most common and saddest spectacles is that of a person of really fine sensibility and acute psychological perception trying to write fiction by using these qualities alone. This type of writer will put down one intensely emotional or keenly perceptive sentence after the other, and the result will be complete dullness. The fact is that the materials of the fiction writer are the humblest. Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn't try to write fiction. It’s not a grand enough job for you.
Meanwhile, over at his blog, Keith has been ruminating on the nature of fantasy and science fiction (and he needs to get on with unpacking that passage!). It strikes me that these two writers, from different times and different philosophies, in different ways, are both emphasizing the same basic truth (from opposite sides of the glass, perhaps). That as humans we are complexly dual-natured. We are both spirit and dust, we are rational and fantastical, we are utterly common and mundane and also uniquely miraculous and wonderful. We were created that way. To ignore one or elevate the other, we only ever end up with shattered and halved beings, living fragmented and disjointed lives. We must be both, we must embrace both, to be whole.

*ETA: See