Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hello, 30!

Well folks, it's official. I'm 30. And you know what? Not only am I ok with it, but I think my 30's are going to be really great! I was tempted to say that it's hard to believe that my 20's are already behind me, but that's not really true. I squeezed a lot of wonderful memories and adventures with really great people into my 20's. I was (and am) very blessed, and I feel like I have only enjoyed myself more as I get older. So when I say that it definitely feels like 10 years have passed since I turned 20, I mean that in the best way possible.

To celebrate, we really turned it into a birthday week, which is my favorite way to go! There was a Paris celebration with my family the weekend before my birthday. We had a nice dinner at Perry's Off the Square with custom table decorations courtesy of Mom. There were lovely flowers and old pictures featuring me over the years with each family member. My in-laws also sent a GORGEOUS bouquet to the house. Talk about making a girl feel special!
After dinner, there were more presents than a girl deserves followed by my favorite dessert, my great-grandmother's peach cobbler recipe!
The grand finale was a fireworks show out at Dad's farm!  On the first explosion, we sent the cows running for the back of the pasture. Mom and I sat in the back of the truck toe enjoy the show while my husband and dad were on pyrotechnics duty. It was such a blast (literally)!
Back in McKinney on my actual birthday, there were balloons, a sparkly banner, and the cutest itty-bitty pinata that you ever did see (named Li'l Sebastian after Parks and Recreation). I couldn't bring myself to bust it open with the broom handle, so eventually I cut it open to retrieve the candy inside.
After dinner at a new restaurant in downtown McKinney called Sugarbacon (where the Wild Arugula Salad really stole the show), there was a dreamy Lemon Raspberry cake courtesy of Nothing Bundt Cakes and even more presents.
Finally, last but not least, the weekend after my birthday brought visitors to us! My in-laws and my husband's aunt drove up to join in the fun.
Saturday night we went to dinner at Patina Green, also in downtown McKinney.  It was an absolutely fabulous experience.  The chef does a multi-course blind tasting menu where he cooks whatever he is inspired to make based on what he found at the market that week. Seven courses went by all too quickly, each as good as (or better) than the last! It's a casual environment where fine-dining worthy dishes are brought out in cardboard boats, which was fun. The food was delicious, and even we learned some new (to us) ingredients like Papalo and pullet eggs. The chef didn't lead us astray once.
The weekend was also filled with more presents (talk about spoiling a girl) and all kinds of projects around the house. They were kind enough to help us paint one of our guest bedrooms (finally removing all evidence of the most horrid stripes), AND my husband and father-in-law went to some pretty great lengths to hang a porch swing for us. Does it get any more southern than that? Despite how hot it has been, I'm absolutely loving evenings spent in the swing.
After a birthday week full of fun memories with family and friends, this new decade is off to a fine start. I look forward to seeing what is in store for us!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Quinoa Bowl with Kale and Chickpeas

August is here, and the dead of summer is upon us!  While it's definitely my favorite time of year, the heat can be a bit de-motivating when it comes to the kitchen.  It's even too hot to grill (yesterday, it was 107)!  So tonight, I turned to a quick salad that only required cooking a batch of quinoa on the stove.  Everything else is just tossed into a bowl as-is! I loved the heartiness of the greens, grains, and chickpeas along with the crunch from the pepitas, the sweetness from the golden raisins, and the vibrancy of the vinaigrette and feta.  Now it's time to put my feet up and enjoy the AC for the rest of the evening.  Stay cool, everyone!
Serves 4

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
3 Tb olive oil
1.5 Tb white balsamic vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced (roughly)
1 bunch lacinato kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup golden raisins (roughly)
1/2 cup pepitas (roughly)
2 oz feta, crumbled (roughly)
1 tsp salt

Add quinoa and water to a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let cook for 15 minutes, and then remove from the heat. The water should be absorbed, and the quinoa should be tender.

While the quinoa cooks, make your vinaigrette. Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, and salt until the salt is dissolved. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil until well combined. 

"Massage" the chopped kale a bit by squeezing it firmly with your fingers a few times, until you notice that the leaves are a bit more tender. Toss the kale, chickpeas, and golden raisins with the vinaigrette, and let sit until the quinoa is done. 

When the quinoa is finished, toss it immediately with the vinaigrette, kale, chickpeas, and golden raisins. Then toss in the feta cheese, and stir to combine. Taste, and add more salt or lemon juice if desired. 

Serve topped with a good handful of pepitas.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Texas July 4th

Well, I suppose now that it's officially one month past the 4th of July, it's fitting that I'm finally uploading a few photos of our celebration. July 4th is one of my favorite holidays as it combines many of my favorite things: summer, fireworks, watermelon, small town parades, and Sousa marches.  It was such a fun weekend that, belated or not, I hate to let it pass by without a little reminiscing.

We started the weekend in my hometown of Paris where we spent the 3rd of July with my family. That evening, after indulging in BBQ, beans, deviled eggs, and watermelon, we went to see the Paris Municipal Band concert (as a former member, I love going to their concerts) and the Paris Fireworks at Noyes Stadium. We doused ourselves in bug spray, lugged our lawn chairs out onto the football field, chatted with old friends, and then sat back to enjoy the show. This was my husband's first time at the Paris July 4th festivities (and the first time at my high school football stadium), so it was really special to be able to share it all with him.
Once the last march was played and the last firework exploded, we made the trek back to the truck with a few more mosquito bites on our legs and with a smile on our faces. It was such a fun evening, small town life at its best.

On the actual 4th, we bid Paris farewell and hit the road back to McKinney, but on the way, we made sure to stop at a country fireworks stand to load up on sparklers for later evening!
We were invited to celebrate that evening with our neighbors and some of their friends, so we figured we would bring along our backyard games (ladder golf and corn hole), some Roasted Jalapeno Lime Hummus, and a few packs of sparklers since they're hard to come by for city dwellers. So yeah, we were the people that showed up with no kids of our own but with plenty of flammable objects for other people's kids to play with!
After dinner and fun out in the backyard, dusk finally arrived. We dragged our lawn chairs to the corner of our street, one of the guests pulled up their truck and turned on the radio so we could hear the music to go along with the fireworks, and then we waited. The kids ran around squealing with excitement until it was finally dark enough for the first firework to go off, and then everyone settled in for the show. And what a show it was! We enjoyed the heck out of it. After a fantastic finale, it was time to call it a night. Little ones were exhausted and melt downs were occurring left and right. We bid everyone farewell, and the celebrations drew to a close.

I hope everyone else had a lovely 4th of July as well! And enjoy these wonderful long summer days that we have left!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Multi-Generational Baby Shower

Last month, I was lucky enough to be able to throw a baby shower for my sweet friend, Alison. She's expecting a little boy within the next couple of weeks, and we had a great time celebrating his eagerly anticipated arrival. What made this shower especially fun for me was that I got to play hostess alongside my mom and grandmother. You see, our moms have been best friends since childhood (Alison's mom actually hosted a shower for my mom when I was born -- check out that vintage photo below), and our grandmothers are friends as well! So we turned this into a shower that spanned three generations of family and friends, and it was just so much fun.
Our goal was to tie in elements of baby shower trends from over the years. For our current generation, we opted for mason jars, paper straws, and cutesy favors. Our punch was popular during Mom's generation, and we were sure to include butter mints and nuts in a nod to my Grandmother's era.
For our invitation, I turned to Freshly Squeezed Cards on Etsy. How cute is that little yellow bird? And it went perfectly with the colors we wanted to use: light blue, yellow, and grey,
We kept decorations pretty simple. I made a table centerpiece using antique blue mason jars filled with white hydrangeas and a wooden "S" monogram spray painted grey for the family's last name. We draped the serving areas with white tablecloths and hung a customizable banner. I like to use clear plastic plates and metallic plastic cutlery (that looks deceptively like real silverware) for food and mason jars with patterned paper straws for drinks. This time around we also used Susty Party's punch cups and cute patterned napkins.
Food we kept fairly simple as well. Since it was an afternoon shower, we wanted easy to eat finger foods. The final menu consisted of fruit skewers, Mini Zucchini Basil Quiche, Rosemary and Lemon White Bean Dip with pita chips, marinated mushrooms and mozzarella, spiced pecans, butter mints, frosted sugar cookies. A local girl made the cookies for us, and we were thrilled at how well they turned out. They were a big hit! For drinks, we served Cucumber Citrus Water (just fill a large beverage jar or pitcher with ice and lemon, lime, and cucumber slices, and top it off with water) and a Pineapple Punch (Ginger Ale and pineapple sherbet). I placed frozen blueberry skewers in each punch cup for a little extra color and fun.
Once everyone arrived, we had a wonderful time catching up. After snacks and sips, we moved into the living room for Alison to open presents. Thankfully, she had some expert help from a couple little girls in attendance! Along with gifts, we gave books in lieu of cards. I picked this darling book, How to Catch a Star, that tells the story of a boy who longs to befriend a star. It's so sweet, and the illustrations are beautiful.
Once the afternoon drew to a close and hugs were given all around, we sent folks home with lavendar bath salts tied up with colorful ribbon and twine in little paper sacks. Because who doesn't deserve to put their feet up in a hot bath, especially a mom-to-be? It was a lovely afternoon with lovely people. Now for the countdown to meet that little baby!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Kurt & Nina Come to Dallas

Guess who came to town a couple weeks ago? Kurt and Nina! After a fun visit to hang out with them in Tucson a few months ago, they decided to make the trek to Dallas. We had a great time catching up and showing them around town. Here are the highlights from the weekend (I doubt you'll be surprised to discover that most of them involve food)!

First up was one of our favorite downtown McKinney combos: Pie Night! To start things off, you get yourself a couple pizza pies at Cadillac Pizza. Then you follow that up with heavenly dessert pie at Emporium Pies (favorites this time around were the Cherry Bomb cherry pie and the Mellow Yellow lemon chiffon pie). And that's it, simple as that!
We spent a little time enjoying the warm summer air out on the back porch (and I finally got to light the mason jar lanterns that we made)!
There was TexMex to be eaten and margaritas to be sipped at La Hacienda Ranch in Frisco. Because you can't visit Texas without indulging in a little TexMex!
We made the trek into Dallas so we could poke around the Bishop Arts District. It's such a fun neighborhood, and we discover something new each time we visit. This time, we meandered around the neighborhood, sampled delicious (and sometimes delightfully weird) homemade chocolates and toffees at Dude Sweet Chocolate, cooled off with icy cold Topo Chico at The Wild Detectives (a cute coffee shop with a quirky book selection), sipped glasses of locally made cider at Bishop Cider, and we cozied up to a table at the wonderfully divey Ten Bells Tavern for local craft brews and bar snacks.
 Here we are out and about in Bishop Arts!
Finally after a long, arduous afternoon of food and was time for dinner at Stock and Barrel! Gosh I love this place. Favorite dishes of the evening were the avocado toast topped with chorizo (I don't care how trendy it is -- it's delicious), the goat cheese dumplings, the duck confit, and the ribeye.
One morning, we had a laid back breakfast around the kitchen table thanks to Rudy's and their brisket breakfast tacos (talk about killing two birds with one stone for out-of-state guests -- BBQ and breakfast tacos)! Another morning, we drove across town for breakfast at the oldest restaurant in McKinney: Bill Smith's Cafe! While it's hard to go wrong with anything on their menu, I love to get the chicken fried steak and eggs or the taco omelette. Or you can go my husband's route and get pancakes, eggs, and bacon...with a side of biscuits and gravy! So much food!
Kurt and Nina were also nice enough to go with us to the Local Yocal to participate in their Steak Class! A cattle rancher husband and wife team who believe in high quality meats that are raised properly (you know, eating grass and stuff like that without exposed to hormones or antibiotics) started their own meat market to butcher and sell locally raised meats along with some other locally made products.  The class involves a "lecture" from the owner himself about the meat industry, a tour of the butcher shop, a tutorial on all of the different cuts of steak along with where they come from on the cow, and finally (they save the best for last) they grill 17 (seventeen!) different cuts of steak for you to sample! I don't think I've ever had so much steak in my life. It was so fun to compare the different cuts, and they were all the best bites of steak I think I've ever had. It was a really fantastic experience. It was educational, fun, and delicious (also note that the class is BYOB, so feel free to bring your favorite beer or wine along)!
 That's a big side of beef (and I don't mean Kurt)!
After all of the steak was gone and the class drew to a close, we piled into the car and drove 45 minutes north to Sherman to hang out at 903 Brewers for their 2nd Anniversary Party! So far, they're our favorite brewery in the area, so it was fun to introduce them to Kurt and Nina, fellow craft brew enthusiasts. Throughout the party they were constantly tapping new beers brewed solely for the anniversary party. Some were amazing, some fell a little shy of expectations, but they were all fun to try!
 Hanging out at by the taps (these three are beer festival pros)!
For their last day in town, we went to Snug for their breakfast sandwiches. Snug is just the coziest, cutest little local coffee shop on the square in McKinney, and we always try to take guests there if we can!
Finally, we played a little golf at Top Golf (I came in last, as usual, but it's still surprisingly fun) followed by lunch at Freebirds before we had to make the trek back to the airport.
Such a fun weekend with sweet friends! Who wants to come visit us next??