Finger snapping, leg slapping, foot tapping Texan girl who works with numbers. I like blank pages, the written word and horses. This is my attempt to amuse you via books, food, travel and the assorted spice rack of life.
The equestrian events in the London 2012 Olympics are being held in Greenwich Park, which is one of the Royal Parks of London and was enclosed in 1433. The Park encompasses 183 acres and is one of the largest green spaces in south east London. The selection of this site for the equestrian and pentathlon events has been quite contentious as Greenwich Park is part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site and, due to the amount of traffic and the renovation required for the temporary arenas, holding these large scale events on the grounds will destroy some of the landscape of the park. According to some sources, parts of the park will not be restored until 2015 but The Royal Parks have shared plans that have the park being reinstated through 2013. To prevent ruining too much of the grass in the park, some of the paths and the barns that the horses are stalled in are elevated.
No doubt Greenwich Park is a breathtaking and historic site for the Olympics and I hope that it raises the popularity of equestrian events, which is one of only two Olympic events where men and women compete equally against each other (the other being sailing). Eventing has received more attention in Great Britain as Zara Philips, granddaughter to the queen, made her Olympic debut this year and won a silver medal. The US will be cheering on Beezie Madden, who is riding in her third Olympic games, and Reed Kessler, only 18 years old, in the jumping events. Take a few moments to watch these events if you're able to catch them on tv. The athleticism of the horses and their riders is truly something spectacular.
When my sister was in town last week, I cooked like a FIEND. On the left is the roasted chicken with dijon a la I Am A Food Blog and risotto with arugula. To the right are braised Asian short ribs, which I cooked in my Staub instead of a slow cooker. Both delicious and crowd pleasers. Couple that with a tub of Blue Bell Cookies and Cream and another tub of Christmas in July and I think I have to buy some new pants. Can you buy pants with a velcro waistband? Elastic just isn't cutting it anymore.
I've also been working on my bread baking skills with the help of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes. This is a no-knead recipe that allows you to store dough in your fridge for up to two weeks and bake fresh bread in five minutes every day! Sound too good to be true? Although mixing the ingredients and going through the baking process was not as touchy as I typically experience when baking bread, I still have a lot of work to do with regards to forming the boule. Like my knife slashes in the dough? I swear I didn't mean to make it look like a marijuana plant. The loaf came out a little more compressed in the middle than I typically like. I've baked a second loaf that's sitting on my kitchen counter; I'm afraid to break into it as I ate the first loaf in two days. Le sigh.
I'd like to proclaim a loud "Ahh Balls!" to this past weekend. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I woke up itching and scratching all over. My neck, back, ankles were crawling with the sensation and I felt like I had to scratch everywhere at once. I turned on the lights and found out I was covered in hives. ::Shudder:: I've been dosing myself with Benadryl for the past two days and at this point, they've subsided, only covering parts of my arms and lower back. I haven't eaten anything out of the ordinary in the past few days so I'm not quite sure to what it's a reaction. Meanwhile, I'll just try and distract myself with virtual house hunting.
The pale blue home below caught my eye because it looks like it came straight out of a movie set. Picture perfect landscaping complete with white picket fence. I mean, who actually cares what the inside of the house looks like when you've got a porch like this? And if you fancy a bit of gardening, check out the side yard. Or if grilling or cooking outside is your cup 'o tea, then feel free to gather near the outside kitchen complete with fireplace. When it gets too hot, relax with an iced tea in the shaded side porch or plop into the tiny wading pool with a frozen margarita. ::Stress fades:: PS - I must be in a blue period because the last home I posted about was a bright blue
To say that my mother is a little obsessed with coffee is probably the understatement of the year. It's her poison of choice and the only "vice" that she allows herself. And does the woman partake. When my parents went to Seattle last year, she went to the original Starbucks four times in one day. She might be where I get my caffeine addiction from. As I end up working from a lot of coffee shops, I'll check out their bean selection to bring her a bag. Is it just me or are the logos of coffee roasters not delightful? I've collected a smattering from around the US and Canada (affiliated roasters are below). Which is your favourite and are there any logos that make you want to buy the product?
Honestly, traveling abroad alone makes me anxious. Not speaking the language, fighting off the feeling of being jet lagged and wrestling with travel logistics on my lonesome makes me nervous, however I am willing to stretch my comfort zone. Plus no one with a "normal" job is able to take off as much time as I can. As I have some time this September to take a good long trip, I've been tossing around a few potential vacation options that I can go on alone safely and comfortably.
One of the ideas I've thrown into the mix is an equestrian vacation. The vacation would be more organized; the only thing I would have to book is flying into the country of choice, as all of the other logistics would be taken care of. Also, I believe all of the locations have English speakers as guides and instructors. The two factors that I'm weighing for a riding holiday are whether I should use this vacation to improve upon my horsemanship or as an opportunity to see and explore a different country.
The analytical beast in me has laid out a spreadsheet of different options, length of time and cost. The top three contenders in this category are in Italy, Ireland and France. Below I've listed the pros and cons of each.
Show jumping and cross country instruction in Italy
Pro: I haven't been to Italy yet. The location is an hour north of Rome, which means I could either spend time before or after the "horse" part of the trip exploring Rome! You can't skip out on an opportunity like that. The weather would be warm but not uncomfortably so. The stable I would stay at teaches cross country and/or jumping so I'd be able to work on my technique. As an added bonus, I could pick up some Italian as well.
Con: The most expensive of the options, especially if I tack on an exploration of Rome.
Cross country instruction in Ireland
Pro: I would be staying in a CASTLE named the Sunday Times 'Best Country House.' I've never been to Ireland and flights to Dublin are the cheapest out of the bunch. Ireland is also famous for its cross country courses. I've never participated in that type of discipline of riding, so it would be the opportunity to learn something new. Could I come back with a cute Irish accent as well?
Con: The weather is cold and rainy and my last two trips to Europe have been chilly, to say the least. The dining options in Ireland most likely won't be as fabulous as the ones in Italy and France.
Inn to Inn Beach Ride in France
Pro: This vacation would be a coastal ride from inn to inn and without a centralized base. Cantering or galloping on a beach has been one of my dreams ever since I can remember. The weather is supposed to still be warm enough to ride into the waves. Oh, and the beach - did I mention that? I foresee a lot of photo snapping with this particular option.
Con: I have already been to France this year, although not along the coast. I feel like my international trips, infrequent as they are, should be in a variety of different countries. Also, this trip does not offer lessons and opportunities to jump would be limited.
My horseback riding trainer includes among her menagerie 18 rescue dogs, 30-something horses, an attack goose named Lucy, two ducks, two chickens, one insanely angry rooster and three guinea fowl. I would have never guessed that the birds would be the territorial and mean ones out of that bunch.
I pulled up to the barn on Sunday morning and parked my car in a patch of green grass. On returning a few hours later to dump my equipment in the trunk, I heard a faint rustling coming from the other side of my car.
One of the guinea fowl popped its skinny head around my bumper. It slowly and carefully started picking its way through the grass toward me. I ignored it, dropped off my gear and went to go chat up my trainer about her upcoming nuptials.
After saying my goodbyes, jumping in the car and pulling out of my "parking spot", I noticed three grey globs in my rearview and side mirrors. All three guinea fowl were stalking my car very closely. I slowed to a crawl to avoid accidentally running one of them over but they stuck close, surrounding the vehicle. One on each side and one in the back, prancing alongside. When I hit the gravel road, I accelerated to shake them off, more afraid than anything of guinea roadkill. That is, until I noticed they were sprinting flat out beside me and squawking bloody murder. During the time I left my car unattended, they had either become really good friends or mortal enemies with it. They chased me a quarter of a mile all the way to the gate.
Come to find out, guinea fowl are better to keep around your property than attack dogs. They will squawk and bawk their heads off if a stranger or unfamiliar animal comes on to the property. Guineas will also kill snakes. There are coyotes near my trainer's farm and you can count on the guinea fowl to sound the alarm without fail. They can also run at a pretty good clip and escape becoming dinner, or roadkill in my case, quite easily. If you've ever run away from a bird, you know how silly it feels. To try and escape one by car is downright embarrassing.
And now I need to go on a diet. The shaved ice with condensed milk and grass jelly, a Chinese dessert, really hit the spot on a hot and muggy summer day. Are you drooling over those Tex-Cajun fries from BB's Cafe? Yep, those are shoestring fries, smothered with queso, gravy and roast beef. And then I housed a poboy, also dripping with queso, after eating half of that platter. It was Friday, I get a pass. This weekend, I made monster pancakes for breakfast with Pioneer Pancake Mix, which is really quite stellar. In a previous life, I actually did a tour of the processing plant in San Antonio that makes the mix and visited their onsite restaurant, where they whip up all sorts of baked goodies. Unfortunately for my breakfast diners, I didn't let the pancakes cook all the way through so they were still goopy with batter in the middle. Oh well, live and learn. And finally, the piece de resistance - truffle oil, arugula and ground turkey pizza from scratch! I made the crust and everything! My pizza ended up being so simple and quick that I think I'm going to do this every time now instead of ordering out for pizza. What type of pizza should I bake next?
Quick and easy pizza dough recipe Adapted from All Recipes
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 package active dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 cup warm water
Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast in large bowl and mix in oil and warm water. Roll out as thin as desired and place on pizza pan. Top with whatever you'd like (I left the arugula off until after the pizza was cooked).
Would you not feel like an American Girl, living in this old Victorian house? Specifically, Samantha Parkington, the orphan who lives with her grandmother. Do you guys remember those American Girl books with Samantha, Molly, Kirsten and Felicity? Anyway, originally built in 1906 and located in Galveston, this big bustling beauty of a Victorian home retains a lot of its old charm, including a tin ceiling in the kitchen, vintage farm sink, claw foot tub, original light fixtures and plenty of porches to catch the sea breeze. I wouldn't say a home like this is necessarily decorated in my style but it's really fun to jump into a throw back every once in awhile. Plus, vintage or not, I think the tall, broad windows throughout the home are something that transcends the ages.
Happy Friday all! You made it through the week - that deserves celebration with your cold alcoholic beverage of choice and a big bowl of ice cream. Right now, mine would be a frozen margarita and a half gallon of cookies and cream. I'm crossing my fingers that my sister will visit this weekend and that the rain holds off long enough for me to get a ride in on Sunday.
Besides a continuation of the Armistead Maupin and Spellman series, which I am still enjoying, I've wormed my way through three other books. Anne Bishop's big fat Black Jewels Trilogy is for the fantasy lovers that don't mind and maybe even enjoy witches, demons, a High Lord of Hell and talking animals. I will warn you - it is on the mature side and does not shy away from sex or sexual abuse. I don't believe those themes to be critical to the stories, which regardless are entertaining and present several strong female characters, good and evil. As with most trilogies, I enjoyed the first book the best. Why is that, by the way? The first Harry Potter, first Lord of the Rings, first Game of Thrones - maybe because it's when I first meet the main characters and the magical settings that they live in.
Skippy Dies and This Is Where I Leave You are books you have to be in "that" mood to read. The fictional novels address very real, complicated and ugly problems that normal people face, albeit compounded into a small period of time. The tragic heroes, and they are tragic, each have to confront and slay the dragons in their lives. The solutions seem easy enough to an objective third party reader but, funny enough, that's the way it is in real life as well. Expect what you would in real life - unrequited love, sex, babies, marriage, infidelity - and you'll be in the appropriate mood to read these books.
Jared Fanning, designer and illustrator, created an infographic (above) of the Top 10 Most Read Books in the World. Jared, please add this print to your shop. Bibliophiles would love it, I know I do. Which books out of this set have you read?
Best headline this week: Hundreds of Turtles Run Away from Georgia Farm. Apparently, last week "hundreds of turtles successfully dashed out of a Georgia turtle farm and escaped into nearby undergrowth." Can't you see those turtles dashing away now? Seriously, can it get any better than that? Oh NPR, I find more reasons to love you every day.
Documentation of The Struggle by Ben Horowitz, cofounder of the venture capital firm Andreesen Horowitz (the general partners have all pledged to give half of their lifetime VC income to charity). To quote Ben, The Struggle is when people ask you why you don't quit and you don't know the answer. The Struggle is when food loses its taste. It's a great post addressing the challenges that start up entrepreneurs come up against and processing potential successes and failures. A noble cause it is, facing up to The Struggle and one worth fighting for, in my opinion.
Tattly has released its newest tattoo designs. I still haven't ordered any but have you? I doubt covering my arms and legs with tattoos will help me focus but at least it would be entertaining? I have also just discovered Tattly creator Tina Roth Eisenberg's blog SwissMiss. If you're looking for just plain cool stuff, you have to check it out.
Have trouble slicing tomatoes? Do they end up looking like a mushed mess, seeds and innards a pulpy pile all over the cutting board, because you can't find a knife that's sharp enough? The tomato knife by Pure Komachi is worth the $7.50 if you're a tomato fiend. I know it's kind of silly to buy kitchen utensils as specific as this but it's really worth it.
And now, finally, is how the entire family ties together. You've met this kids of the summer, now meet the adults (I'm using the term "adults" very lightly)...
Bert*'s new home is the frat house in which the entire gang is camped. His younger brother Ernie* is visiting for the summer from San Francisco. The brothers and I go way back. I first met Bert in an advanced math class when I was in middle school, even though he is a few years older than me (I know, I know, super dork). Ernie and I are the same age, and the three of us went to high school and college together, becoming close friends during our years in Austin.
Bert, Ernie, Marie, DeDe and Bobby are all cousins, related through Bert & Ernie's parents (I loved typing that). Bert and Ernie are the acting parents of this particular household. Bert plays the role of the stern yet goofy dad and, instead of being the mom, Ernie has embraced the role of the slightly crazed, tipsy uncle that would always slip you some cash or sneak you a beer or ice cream bar.
Bert's house is also my non-home office or where I can work when I'm tired of sitting around my apartment by my lonesome. The past few weeks, I've been making the family lunch and sometimes dinner, tidying up around the place and shuttling them around to different shopping centers - earning me the title of Auntie Rooth. They treat me like part of their family, tagging me on Facebook and texting me randomly to ask when I'm going to come over and hang out on the weekends.
It has been hilarious, crowded and crazy but always an adventure at the frat house this summer and I feel lucky and blessed to be a part of this "family."
*Names have been changed. To prevent embarrassment to others. Plus they don't know that I'm blogging about them. Shh!
Except for the occasional thunk of free weights from upstairs, Bobby* is so quiet you would hardly know that he's there. I wonder if he meant for the tattoos inked all over to speak for him instead. Bobby keeps to himself and doesn't get involved in the girls' shopping and gossiping. In the morning, he mixes up a protein shake, works on math with Marie and then the three of them, Bobby, DeDe and Marie, plop down on the couch to watch 21 Jump Street for the 50th time in a row. When asked to share his playlist poolside, he hesitates and tells us that doesn't typically share it for fear that people might not like it.
Post summer break, Bobby will be the only one who will be staying in Houston. He moved to Texas for a new start and to be close to extended family, who can keep an eye on him. Bobby has had a disruptive family life, essentially without a mother. Details are vague but he became involved with the wrong crowd of people at his old college. In a stilted conversation filled with many breaks and pauses, he explained to me how his frat brothers were not positive influences in his life. When he graduates, Bobby wants to be a speech therapist and really enjoys working with children. He'll be looking for an internship when the school year starts so he can get more exposure to teaching as well.
It's easily apparent that, despite the tats and the hard exterior, Bobby is a sensitive young man. With a little coaxing and support, I really hope that he finds a good niche at school and here in Texas. There are bad influences everywhere and it's foolish to think that you can outrun them. But I am confident in the family he has here and that they will set a good example for him. *Names have been changed. To prevent embarrassment to others. Plus they don't know that I'm blogging about them. Shh!
I ran away from the rain this weekend, only to have it catch up with me at my parents' home across the state. But without it, I wouldn't have been able to capture this. Yeah, that's right. DOUBLE RAINBOW ALL THE WAY. But what does it mean?
I got a long-awaited haircut this weekend as well - first one in more than a year (yes, mom gave her permission). I won't load pictures of it to show off because, frankly, no one can tell the difference between the before and after. It remains long, black and wavy. At least it feels healthier and lighter? I'm also catching up on the tag I received from the ever-so-lovely Sarah at Le Brouillon De Vie. So without further ado:
1. What is your current beauty obsession? I don't actually wear makeup on a daily basis, only for special occasions. My current beauty obsession is the coconut oil that I just got in this weekend. I've been smearing that creamy stuff all over my skin and so far, I'm really loving how I smell like a hint of summer.
2. What is the one beauty item you wished you owned? Hmm, is there an item that makes you look refreshed, energized, skinny, ageless and changes your entire face to look prettier? Because that's the one I want.
3. What kind of posts are your favourite to write and read? My absolute favourite posts to write are the "mini" stories that I do. Those typically strike me in the mornings and I just bang them out and hit publish as quickly as I can. I'm going to try and be more methodical about it but it's funny when inspiration strikes. My favourite posts to read are probably ones where bloggers describe a challenge they've encountered and how they've worked around it. The blogosphere has been a source of inspiration for me from the very beginning and I appreciate that people share their experiences so we can learn from them.
4. What inspired you to become a blogger? Believe it or not, I actually started blogging in college on Xanga. Whoa, throw back. I've been a lifelong diarist so blogging was a natural extension. Plus, it was a way of amusing both myself and the people who cared to follow my life. I hoped my blog back then made people laugh or kept them entertained - that's one of my goals for this blog as well.
5. What colour nail polish are you wearing right now? On my fingers, Baby's Breath by Essie. On my toes, Coral by RGB. I don't know why I'm wearing a pale pink on my fingers in the summer. I know it's a bride or bridesmaid's colour. I'm weird like that.
The sun was peeking out from behind the skies, giving us all a brief reprieve. Which is going to be all we will be able to cling on to for the next week, as it's forecasted to continue raining for the next week.
I'd like to be enjoying the pitter-pattering of rain from this French-styled home, with its comfortably cushy furnishings and soothing colour palette. The colour scheme is bright yet muted, although not muted enough to be in that pastel range. I'm particularly favouring the yellow and white plaid rug in the family room. I know how much you all love wooden beams and there are plenty of those throughout the home - above doorways and the stove in the kitchen. Also, can I say enough about the floor in the kitchen?
There's a droplet of a teeny tiny pool outside, really only enough to dip your feet into and sit along the sides with your friends and a glass of wine. But that's all you really need, right?