Little Big Day

We had a fun but busy day today. When we woke up, David took the dogs to the big park. Since I was still groggy from my shingle medicine, I stayed home to do a little housework. Then we decided to have a lunch at Little Bigs. We've been wanting to try it for awhile, but we wanted to wait until the weather was right. It was finally hot enough to sit on a patio and drink frozen sangria and milkshakes today.

Little Bigs specializes in sliders, which are tiny burgers. It's located just outside of our neighborhood, and it's locally owned which we always try to support in Houston restaurants. It was fun, and just what we needed to start the weekend! You can read my food review here, on Yelp, in case you are interested.

Then we were off to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston for pick-your-price membership day. We waited in line for a little over an hour, but it was well worth it to get our family membership for only $10! We're really looking forward to seeing new exhibits this winter, when there's not much to do outside. I also cannot wait for the spring garden tours that are associated with the Museum. I've also heard that there's a holiday tour of a home that is decorated in traditional
American antique items. I need to look into that, because I'm sure it's something I will love.

In other news, our next door neighbors, the Sheehans, have put their house up for sale. We're really sad that they will be moving, but they put it on the market for a fantastic price and already have two offers. It's only been on the market for a week! That is good to hear in today's economy, and gives me comfort that we will be able to sell our house for a profit when we decide to move. They are still having an open house tomorrow, and I'm quite excited since I absolutely love seeing interiors homes in our neighborhood. I've seen their main rooms, but not the entire house.

We're planning on hosting a few friends for afternoon snacks and drinks tomorrow, and I have some fabulous recipes to share later this week!

Tweet, Tweet

Beautiful blog friends, I'm now on Twitter, which should help work pass a little faster. Please let me know if you also tweet, so I can follow you!

Really Great News & Really Bad News

Do you want the good or the bad first? I'll give you the good news first...

I passed the Regulation part of my CPA exam!!! I got a much higher score than I thought I would! I've hesitated to blog about it, because it was as horrible as I had imagined (and heard from CPA friends). It was 3.5 hours of pure torture. The 28 day wait to hear my score has been horrible. When I saw the email from the board this morning, I waited to open it because I did not want to ruin my day. Little did I know! Knowing that I did so well on a really difficult section will make me much more confident in studying for the remaining three parts. If all goes well and work does not pile on too much, I hope to have it all done by the end of this year.

Now the bad news...all of the stress I've been under with the exam and work caused me to get shingles. I thought that was an old-person disease and I can't believe I have it. Anyway, it's literally been a real pain in my butt (or at least my lower back) for the last week. I went to see the doctor today and he confirmed what my office nurse suspected.

I'm taking a sick day tomorrow to alternately wallow in happiness and sulk about my shingles.

Another horrible thing about the shingles: the doctor prescribed Valtrex for me. Ugh. So I had to drop off my prescription and try to smile like I don't have herpes. I will never make fun of another Valtrex commercial again. I have no doubt this is my karma for laughing at one this weekend.

Oh, another bad-good news. After the doctor appointment, I had dinner with a few friends, ran some errands and walk the dogs. They always misbehave a lot when David is out of town, and tonight was no exception. They started running around the Roller Derby girls who practice at our park. Oliver peed on their workout sheets. Such a bad dog. Anyway, as I was leashing the dogs to head back home, I discovered that my keychain had fallen out of my pocket. I was really upset since I we don't have a spare key outside, and my car alarm and house alarm controller things are on my keychain. And my purse and cell phone were locked inside.

The good news is that everyone in our neighborhood is so great, that about 8 people just let their dogs run around while they helped me look for my keys. After about 30 minutes one of the women went home to find a locksmith number. Fifteen minutes after that, we all just gave up. I walked to the woman's house to call the locksmith...lo and behold, my keys were right on the street caddy-corner from her house. Thank the Lord for that! I was about to cry.

Cheers to a better tomorrow!

Most Useless Purchase Ever

I recently bought a headband similar to the one above from J Crew. It is absolutely useless. It's so thin that I did not expect it to hold my hair back, but I did expect it to at least stay on my head for more than five minutes. Five minutes is the max that I've ever worn it. I put it on all the time before leaving the house, but before I even have my lipstick on and purse in my hand, it slides off. I once took it to work and kept re-putting it on my head all day long. Every five minutes... It's not that comfortable either.

Since my $16.50 has already been spent, does anyone have any tips for getting this darn thing to stay on? I really wanted to wear it out for afternoon drinks today, alas, my hair will be flat and totally un-accessorized. Maybe I need to try some Bumpits.

What are you doing this weekend?

We're relaxing in our hammock! We have talked about having a hammock for two years, and we finally bought one. David is setting it up in the back yard right now. We have planned a weekend of doing absolutely nothing. We have the hammock, some champagne and wine, artisan cheeses and breads, and tons of fresh fruit - and some books to read while we relax. I hope everyone has a very relaxing long weekend!

Just As We Were

When I first started writing this blog, I had planned on writing short reviews of all the books I read. I love reading and I love hearing about books I should try from others who I have a bit in common with & I thought blogging would be a natural venue for finding new books. I read about two or three books a month. I haven't added any book reviews to the blog because I discover, usually mid-way through the book, that I'm not enjoying the book so much that I would recommend it to others. I really should write about the books that I don't enjoy to keep others from wasting their money, but I try to keep my blogging pretty positive. You'll only get to hear about the books I really like.

I read about Prudence Mackintosh's articles quite some time ago. She was (and maybe she still is) a regular contributer to Texas Monthly magazine, and the articles were funny but very realistic depictions of Texas life. I finally got my hands on Just as We Were: A Narrow Slice of Texas Womanhood, which is a collection of articles she wrote throughout the late seventies and early eighties. I love the book! It's one that I won't be giving up via Half Price Books or Paperback Swap.

Mrs. Mackintosh grew up in Texarkana, which is where my roots are from also. She even mentions Olive Street, which is where my aunt lived as a newlywed and is a lot like the street where I live today. From the the very beginning article, I identified with Prudence because of our similar roots, even though she was born some thirty years before me. She mentions church hymns that I remember singing, as well as family "legends" and methods of storytelling which reminded me so much of my extended family.

After describing her roots, Prudence delves into a few articles about high(er) Texas society. Since I was not raised in Dallas or Houston, I did not attend boarding school and therefore did not relate to the stories regarding high-brow summer camps and Hockaday School for girls. However, it was very interesting to read about these lifestyles and know more about the roots of Houstonians that very well may be my (future) childrens' playmates. I'll also know what my daughters will be up against for sorority rush should they choose to become little Longhorns! An entire chapter is devoted to why you need to be one of the fortunate "PKT"s on UT's Greek Row. Hopefully legacies will still count for something in 20 years.

The section on domestic help was somewhat outdated, although the tidbits may be more realistic for those with live-in help. I found parts of it to be quite offensive, but I did try to keep in my mind that it was written almost thirty years ago and, fortunately, times have changed. The Junior League chapter was funny at times, and it helped me to realize even more how the hours I put in will benefit others in much less fortunate circumstances than my own. The last chapter was very poignant, but Mrs. Mackintosh kept it light and classy, even when approaching discussion about growing too old.

In short, this is a light but enlightening read that will make for interesting conversation on any Texas woman's bookshelf. Although I do not consider Texas to be part of the "real South", it serves as a fun primer for Southern life for any Midwestern housewife who finds herself wondering why some things (and women) came to be how they currently are.

Corn & Arugula Salad

If you've ever had the privilege of dining with me, you know I refuse to believe that salad is an actual meal. I wish I could "just" eat salad for lunch or dinner. Even when salad is laden with dried fruits, gourmet cheese, and flavorful meat, I still need a little something else to make me feel as if I'm eating a real meal.

However, yesterday was quite a strange day as I started to crave some sort of salad for dinner. Yes, dinner! Maybe this craving stemmed from pure laziness - I did not want to cook or clean up afterwards. I started flipping through some recipes and came up with a light meal for the two of us. Since there was no meat or cheese on the salad, we ate it with thin slices of extra sharp cheddar.

This recipe is spectacular (for a salad) and captures the fresh flavors of summer perfectly. The sharp flavor of arugula mixed with sweet corn is offset by the tangy dressing. The recipe can easily be served from a large serving bowl for a summer party - as I said, I was just lazy and made it in our individual bowls. I think this salad would be a perfect accompaniment to goat-cheese-topped burgers from the grill. It would also be fantastic for a Fish Fry (the Okie version of crawfish boils, for all of my Texas friends).

Apologies for the lack of photos...the sexy plastic Tupperware-style bowls we used as "dinner plates" weren't worth it. I told you I was being lazy!

Corn & Arugula Salad

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup Balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
1/8 cup basil, finely chopped (roll and slice with kitchen shears)
1 vine-ripened tomato (oh, how I wish I were home to have a home-grown tomato for this!)

5 oz. baby arugula (1 plastic container from organic section)
2 ears fresh corn, shucked with "hairs" removed
2 more vine-ripened tomatoes
sea salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste

To make the salad dressing, whisk first four ingredients in a small bowl (or your measuring cup). Cut the tomato into quarters, hold over the sink, and squeeze it just as if you were squeezing a slice of lemon into your tea. This will remove the seeds and gunk from the tomato while softening up the fruit. Dice the tomato and add the it to the dressing. Stir to coat. Refrigerate while you prepare the salad. It's important that the dressing has five minutes or so to flavor...the balsamic and garlic will really meld into the tomato.

Divide arugula between two plates. Working one at a time, hold the corn over a serving and cut the kernels into the salad. Keep going back over the cob until all bits of corn are in the salad...make sure to catch all of that sweet juice, too! Repeat with second ear of corn and salad plate. "Juice" the remaining two tomatoes and dice them if you wish - otherwise just quarter or slice them over your salads. Pour dressing evenly over salads.

Celebrate Cinco - Cilantro Salmon Burgers

These burgers taste fantastic and take less than 15 minutes to cook. I'm so glad they turned out to be as amazing as they are, now I can add them to our list of favorite fast recipes for summer. The sauce adds a lot of flavor, and icy cold cucumber slices are key - they add so much flavor and texture. Serve them with some baked sweet potato fries and a huge margarita and you have yourself a Cinco de Mayo meal!

You can use fresh or canned salmon, and these burgers are a great use for leftover cooked salmon. You can grill them outdoors, indoors on a grill pan, or saute them quickly in a non-stick pan like I did.

Cilantro Salmon Burgers (serves 4)

1/4 cup low-fat mayo (we used Miracle Whip, which added a nice sweet taste)
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
dash of salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lb. salmon, flaked
1/4 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 chopped green onion
1/2 jalapeno, diced
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
salt & pepper to taste

4 sesame seed hamburger buns
1 chilled cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 lime, cut into four wedges

Combine sauce ingredients in small bowl and chill until ready to serve.

Combine burger ingredients and mix well. Form into four equal-sized patties. Grill over medium heat until cooked through.

Divide sauce evenly among four hamburger buns. Top with burger, cucumber slices and lettuce. Serve with lime wedge for garnish.

Calories: 341
Fat: 11.5
Protein: 31.6
Carbs: 30.9
Fiber: 1.8

Weekly Menu

Here's what we're having this week. All new recipes and all healthy! I promise to post the recipes if they turn out to be something I'll make again. I think it's going to be a pretty well-rounded week.

Monday - Cashew Chicken
Tuesday - Cilantro Salmon Burgers
Wednesday - Sour Ginger & Hominy Soup
Thursday - Poached Eggs over Multigrain Toast
Friday - Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas (there's no way these can be better than my current recipe...which I need to post soon)

Getting Lucky for Half Price

David and I love Half Price Books. For those of you not in Texas, it is a used bookstore chain where you can sell your used books and find great deals on all sorts of books. We stop by on a Sunday afternoon and stock up about once a month. I usually find hardcovers for $7.95 and lower, and David buys paperbacks for less than a dollar.

I love buying used books because sometimes there is a little history inside the cover. Once I bought a book that had "Happy 5th Anniversary, Honey" written inside the front cover. I always wondered why the owner gave it to Half Price...maybe they needed the $2 more than they wanted the memoir?

There was a certain book I'd had on my list for quite some time, and Half Price happened to have it today. It took me and the clerk awhile to find it, but once we did I bought it without looking at it since I'd read reviews on Amazon and knew that I'd like it. Imagine my surprise when I got to the car and looked was signed and dated, with a note to a friend from the author!!! While David saves every book he reads, I usually list my books on Paperback Swap as soon as I read them. However, this fun find is going to be a keepsake on our bookshelf.

Do you keep special books or resell/swap them? Any books that I should add to my shopping list for my next Half Price trip?