Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My, she was yar.

The squirrels thoughtfully packed my Christmas present in my aloe plant before I left Austin. That's right, 7 weeks after leaving, I found a little tree growing from a buried nut in the pot. Thanks you little f'ers.

Work is useless for me today. All I can think about is this:

Yipee skippee! Xmas morning I land in Brussels for a nice long visit with mom, plus my brother and his family, who are also flying in for the holiday. Am very much looking forward to seeing Belgium, which, according to Eddie Izzard, God created on the first day. Oh how I adore you, Eddie.

I plan to take countless pictures of my nieces and nephew, who are arguably the cutest kids on earth. Might take some of Belgium too. And frites. Gotta buy some chocolate for all who requested it. I'm not a big chocolate freak to be honest. Not unless it's in a brownie or something. But the frites and waffles, I will fall prey to immediately.

And I'll have Liz in tow. Meet Liz!

She's my Christmas present to myself this year. Donations are being accepted to pay off my credit card. Clearly I don't have funds to buy a digital SLR right now, but I'd decided long ago that I wanted to get one soon. And when the Belgium trip got booked, I knew I needed it before I left. So I researched and watched the sales and pondered and polled. In the end, lowest price trumped all other factors and I got the Nikon D40. I'm looking forward to learning what all its buttons do (there are a lot more than are on my old Pani). Speaking of my Panisonic, it's not retiring forever. It is a good, sweet, if slightly temperamental camera and has served me unbelievably well. Most important, it is with it that I discovered how much I love photography, and through it that I documented New York. Yes dear, we'll always have New York.

As for Liz, she's a good bit heavier, and makes me feel very fancy and professional. And not named for who you probably think she's named for (ahem Liz Lemon). I do love Lemon, but the Nikon is actually named for Liz Imbrie from The Philadelphia Story, one of my favorite movies. She was the photographer and straight gal to Jimmy Stewart's reporter.

Here she is meeting Tracy (Katherine Hepburn). God I love that movie. It's genius. I've got this odd habit of naming electronics for characters from old movies. I've already used Bailey and Devlin for computers. And the iPods have an exclusive contract with To Kill A Mockingbird (hello Atticus, Scout and Scout 2).

Anyway, turns out a Christmas tree is a perfect thing to have around when experimenting with an SLR for the first time. All those bits and baubles to practice zooming and focusing on.

Cats too, it seems.

Office is closing early today - hooray! Better scurry so I can get everything done. Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday, and I'll see you in '09!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dining out is fun

Some of you might be familiar with this magazine (which shall remain unnamed because I used to work there). Their December issue had a huge round-up on small town cafes that I was fortunate enough to contribute to. I use fortunate loosely. It might sound like great fun to eat at 17 cafes in 3 days, but trust me when I say it gets old very quickly. Plus there's a lot of bad food out there.

I brought along my friend E, who grew up in a small town eating good, traditional cafe-style food. She had an astoundingly accurate radar for fake mashed potatoes and high standards for her chicken fried steak, and great skills at chatting up strangers, which was a huge help while I was feverishly snapping pictures or taking notes in a corner.

Our zone was south east Texas. Specifically from just north of Beaumont up to highway 21 and from the Louisiana border west to highway 59. It was hot and we were in a rented Suzuki that was of such poor quality of workmanship that we repeatedly checked the model year and mileage in disbelief that it was not much older or more well-traveled. My apologies if you own one.

E took that one of me. Since logistically it's near impossible to "eat in" at all these cafes in that amount of time, we would almost always order the food to go, jump in the car, and drive off to the next town while I would take a few bites and snap a few photos in the backseat, then carefully pass fork-fulls up to E. Again, this eating on the fly really takes away from the charm of the whole adventure.

Our first night we stayed in a roach coach, which was highly unpleasant. So on night two, we treated ourselves to a B&B in San Augustine. It was called The Columns - if you're ever in that neck of the woods, I'd recommend it.

Atmosphere was just as important as food, so finding that combination was a lot tougher than you'd expect. The answer to "Would I send one of our readers here?" was most commonly "no." A couple made the cut, though.

One in particular had that most sought-after pie case. We had such a hard time finding pies, and an even harder time finding good pies, and even harder still finding good pies that weren't purchased at Sam's (truly - we had to ask everyone if they made their own pies, and they usually didn't). And since the pie case place was also one of two to serve real mashed potatoes, and was obscenely cute to boot, it won our vote.

I was never really a fan of onion rings until this trip. Now I know I'd just never had good onion rings. If you're ever near Moss Hill, Texas, I'd recommend stopping into Simply Country Cafe. The weekends give you better odds of a wider variety of pies. The lemon meringue is heavenly. And if you're ever near Colmesneil, Texas, stop by the Burger House. I hear their onion rings are to die for.

This place was lovely and served good food, but they buy their pies. We considered this a deal breaker.

Not our hotel. Sour Lake was cute though. Anywho, it was a fun trip - quite an adventure I'd say.

Preparation is under way for last-minute holiday gatherings, cleaning and doing laundry, baking up a storm, and packing (soon) for my trip to Belgium. I leave on the 24th and am beyond excited. If only there weren't so much to be done before I go--ahh holiday stress attacks! Got Courtney's holiday mix CD in the mail yesterday and popped it straight into the car stereo. Oooh, that's better.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Pie, me oh my

I don't mean to brag or nothing, but I make a pretty good pecan pie. It's a Thanksgiving standard in my family, and it's become my responsibility to make it. Every year I hope to have enough time to experiment with home-made pie crust, but it never comes together. It's always a rush and therefore the pie always ends up in a Pillsbury crust from the grocery store, which I think works fine. Plus who wants to experiment when you've got company to feed? Go with what works. Maybe someday I'll get around to finding that favorite pie crust recipe.

I think a very, very important part is having good pecans. Obvs I've made it in the past with regular ones from the store, but getting some fresh ones always helps. I can taste the difference when pecans are crap. You just know. My mom always used to order them from a place down south called Fry's. This year I picked up some from the Dallas Farmers Market and saved some money on shipping. I was told that these came from a farm somewhere near San Saba.

Anywho, chop 'em up nice and even. I like when you see all those pieces on top all perfect and pretty.

Creaming the butter, sugar, etc. is really important too. I have a handheld mixer and I keep after it for longer than one would think you need to. Basically I do it til I think it's done, then do it a little longer. Get it as smooth as you can. Then mix in the rest and lastly, swirl in those pretty pecans. Pour it in the shell and pop it in the oven. Watch it closely, and if it starts to get too dark, throw a piece of foil on top. I've got a new oven this year and it runs hot, so the pie just nearly burned. But turned out okay I think.

Be sure to get you a piece quick. These go fast. This recipe hails from my mom's side of the family - warm with a glass of milk is our pie-eating M.O. Folks at my dad's place this year started putting ice cream on it. WTF? Don't do that.

Maw Maw's Pecan Pie

In mixer (or with the hand-held joint), combine:
3 tablespoons of softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Beat until creamed on high.

Turn mixer to low and add:
1 cup of white syrup (karo)
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla (I like Mexican if you've got it)
1 cup of pecan pieces

Mix well. Pour into uncooked pie shell. Cook at 425 for 10 minutes, then at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes. Make sure the center isn't too wobbly - keep it cookin' if it is. Yummy yum - enjoy!

The goal is to get the Christmas cards in the mail, plus packages going overseas, by Saturday. Lots of stuff to do before then - eek. Got the cards made, just need to fill em in, gather those addresses, etc. They look damn cute, if I do say so myself. And so much easier than last year's Moo card debacle.

That was a lot of work. Turn on the Christmas music and just power through it. NPR's got this lovely collection of tunes streaming online right now called Jingle Jams. I wish they'd make a CD of this. I'd buy it. KUT is one of the stations that contributed songs. Ah KUT. I miss it. Almost as much as I miss WNYC. Sam is cool in the mornings but I miss Soterius. P.S. What kind of dork ranks Morning Edition hosts?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Flashback Fridays

These days, it's all washcloths, all the time. My sister-in-law is getting a stack from me as a joint Christmas/birthday present. My knitting skills are improving!

I got the pattern here - my SIL grew up in Louisiana. I've also made one with an "A" on it (for her name) and one with an apple, and plan to make one with hearts on it, and also one with an elephant, since she's currently living in Africa. Gotta hurry tho, Christmas is coming!

I used to love this movie as a kid. Seventies Disney at its best:

I think CJ needs a collar like that, don't you? Jake the cat from The Cat From Outer Space was such a badass.

Have a spiffy weekend kids. I'm off to buy a camera - merry Christmas to meeee!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Deck the bed (no holly pls)

I think it's cool when people have "holiday bedding." You always see it in the catalogs -- the holiday-perfect guest room. But what's the point of that bedding if you're only going to use it one month out of the year? Must have money to burn. If I did, this would be mine:

It'd be a nice break from my simple white with blue ticking stripe quilt that's on my bed year round. In the winter I could bust out a down comforter and toss this on the bed. And the good news is all my sheets would still work with it since they're all white and blue.

Don't forget the euro sham. That's an essential. Plus it's not covered with holly berries and snow flakes and such, so it's cool if it stays on until March.

I dig the quilt too. The whole thing is the perfect mix of my color scheme but a little heavier on the red. Nothing wrong with that. I'd probably tame it down a bit with a white bedskirt and a few pastel blue throw pillows. Yeah. Oh, and all of this is John Robshaw for HSN (spotted on Elements of Style). HSN?? Um, yeah! Go figure.

Is everyone already all decorated for the holidays? I'm not there yet but I'll get there soon. I've been out of town a lot lately, and the apartment is super messy, but I'll get there. I heart the holidays. Except this is the only time of year I miss having a roommate. Decorating a tree alone is a bit of a drag.

My last roommate, ML, had a kitty who loved sleeping on my tree skirt. That's her cat Patton above. In fact all cats love sleeping on my tree skirt. I spend the holidays terrified that CJ might barf on it. I love that tree skirt. It's all knitted and has shaggy yarn trees on it. What's your favorite Christmas decoration?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ask and ye shall receive

That's right, my grand scheme is working. All this harping on polar bears has scored me some goods. Kind people are sending things my way because I have so brainwashed them that if they see anything with a polar bear on it, they think "Amanda!" Yes, yes. It is working.

Exhibit number 1: This t-shirt that Susan, one of my dear friends I left in New York, sent to me. She bought it in Union Square (where she got her "Baby Seals for Obama" shirt), and intended to have it to me by election day, but I messed everything up and moved.

It did make it to me eventually, and I continue to wear it with pride. It is the perfect souvenir of my anti-Palin rabble-rousing days during the election, all of which was done, of course, on behalf of polar bears everywhere. Thanks Soozi!

Then.. Exhibit number 2: Tonight I get home and there's a little box waiting for me, with this inside.

Oh, how I squealed. A little polar bear ornament for my tree (going up as soon as I get back from T-day with the fam) from Julia of Dozen Flours. And just earlier today I was admiring a polar bear Christmas ornament online and trying to convince myself not to buy it immediately. Now I got my wish. Thank you Julia! I suspect Miss Julia is a person who is full of so much thoughtfulness that it comes out her ears, and manifests itself in such ways as buying a gift for someone she's never met, spending days perfecting cupcakes for a baby shower, and baking endlessly for everyone she knows. What a sweetie.

The cool weather has definitely swept into Dallas these days. I'm ready for pie and green bean casserole and football. And for bundling up in hats and scarves and cozy coats and boots. Speaking of boots, you know you're scraping the barrel financially (or just really busy?) when you're using a paper clip to zip up your boots. WTF? I need to get it together.

Anyone got a recommendation for a good shoe guy here in Dallas? I don't mess around when it comes to shoe repair - I need someone who knows their stuff. Like my beloved Hector in the West Village. I miss him so much. This boot needs its zipper repaired, and my gold sandals need the tip of the heel replaced. Plus I'm sure I could rustle up some other pairs that need to be attended to.

Meanwhile, I'm really all about the gloves these days. Love the gloves. This photo from the pretty, pretty, pretty Cherry Blossom Girl blog made me desire a long pair of gray knit ones..

Luckily I found a pair just like them at Target a couple weeks ago. Now just need a furry collar and a plane ticket to Paris and I, too, could be that French and chic.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Channeling Sasha Fierce

Is there any way to listen to this song without dancing to it? No really, I'm being serious. Please share your tips. Because when people walk by the cubicle and I'm doing the hand wag, it gets a little awkward.

What would the world be like without Beyonce? Really awful I think. I listen to her music and then think, "Yeah, I'm single!" and am, like, happy about it.

Dear Beyonce aka Sasha,

I heart u 4-eva.

A Single Lady

Meanwhile, as I was googling around for an image for this post (since I can't embed the video, WTF), I came across this image and felt it needed to be on my blog just for the sake of being awesome.

Happy Thursday!

Monday, November 17, 2008

One-word-answer meme

A shortcut entry. Because I've got to get to bed asap, and because it gives me an opportunity to plug Alicia's book.

So, hey everyone! I saw this on Alicia's blog and decided I'd fill it in instead of a proper post because, gee wiz, having a job takes up a lot of time. What a drag. Fill it out also, if you like, and I promise a post with more substance later in the week. Oh, speaking of Alicia, did you know that her book went on sale on Tuesday? Hooray!

Where is your mobile phone? Bed
Where is your significant other? None
Your hair colour? Brown
Your mother? Overseas
Your father? Funny
Your favourite thing? Kitty
Your dream last night? Blank
Your dream goal? Unknown
The room you're in? Kitchen
Your hobby? Yarn
Your fear? Unemployment
Where do you want to be in 6 years? House
Where were you last night? Bar
What you're not? Carefree
One of your wish-list items? Camera!!
Where you grew up? Burbs
The last thing you did? Dishes
What are you wearing? Flannel
Your TV? Recording
Your pets? Eating
Your computer? Mac
Your mood? Sleepy
Missing someone? Many
Your car? Dirty
Something you're not wearing? Denim
Favourite shop? Target
Your summer? Weird
Love someone? Waiting
Your favourite colour? Blue
When is the last time you laughed? Phone
When is the last time you cried? GossipGirl

Yeah that's right. There were a lot of sweet/sad moments in this week's episode. You know, Thanksgiving and families and all that jazz.

And because I don't like to post without a photo...

Tomorrow's a busy day - later gators!

P.S. - Are you watching the puppies?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


So I was (discreetly) catching up on some blogs today at work and got such a pleasant surprise, if a bit late. A photo of CJ won an honorable mention spot in Erika's dog photo contest! Yeah, I know, CJ's a cat, but cats were allowed to enter too. And CJ was the only cat to make the cut. He rocks!! I was so proud.

There were soooo many cute entrants. She put together a slide show of all of them - it went on forever, just one adorable dog and puppy photo after another, with a kitty thrown in here and there. I really am excited that my boy was in that top tier. What a bad ass. He's being very modest about it, of course. He gets some Greenies tonight fo sho.

Oh, and here's the picture. I didn't have to think twice of which one to send. I love this photo of him.

So one thing I'll say about Erika, other than that I love her blog, is that she's a huge proponent of adopting rescue/shelter animals, as am I. In fact, I recently bought this stamp to just put on the back of whatever's going into the mail these days.

It's from my new favorite etsy stamp store. You know me and the stamps. RubberHedgehog's area of expertise is animals. (They've also got a non-etsy store.) So of course you know what kind of stamp I was looking for that brought me to their shop. Uh huh, hello Christmas cards!!

I'd been trying to find a polar bear stamp and knew this one was it. Also purchased, for my sweet 7-year-old niece, is this adorable bookplate stamp.

It's going into her Christmas present, along with some Ramona books. I hope she loves them as much as I did. I also bought a hot pink ink pad for her. Nothing but the best for my pretty girl.

One last tidbit here before I go - what can you say about this photo? What can you not say? Just look at them.

1. I love the dress. Poor Laura's there in this frumpy brown thing and there's Michelle, a vision in perfectly tailored red. FYI it was made by her go-to girl, Chicago designer Maria Pinto.
2. This image says volumes about the years to come, doesn't it? The Obamas are just so young and modern and elegant and fresh and everything that the weary Bushes are not. Change is good. Change is so good.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More from Maker Faire

I still don't have internet. What happened is my DSL provider, after a week of thinking about it, decided they wouldn't be able to provide me with internet access at my new abode. AT&T, you done me wrong. On that note, does anyone need an AT&T DSL box? I can give you a good deal on one - it's less than a year old.

So I had to start from scratch with another company and am waiting for the box, etc., blah. I have found a few spots throughout the apartment which, at certain times of the day, get a somewhat consistent, if faint, signal. So I'm trying to squeeze this in.

Meanwhile, editing photos from Maker Faire doesn't require any webs (though uploading them did - I got lucky). So here are some of those.

A bunch of hula hoopers hulaing. Is that a verb?

A gnome on one of the art cars - the Chia Car. Who doesn't love a gnome?

Another art car, this one known as the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir. It's covered in Big Mouth Billy Bass and lobsters. True story: in college I had a Big Mouth Billy Bass. It was mounted in the entry hallway of my junior-year dorm room and sometimes we would turn it on when people were coming over so that it would serenade them as they walked in. Luckily my decorating tastes have evolved since then (somewhat - see obsession with polar bears).

I wanted one of these necklaces but was good and didn't buy it. After all, I'd been unemployed for two months and was facing a move in the coming weeks. They had a lot of fun stuff, including the popular typewriter key jewelry, which I am always charmed by.

That photo is from their website - The Weekend Store. If I thought my brother wore cuff links, I'd love to get him a set of initial typewriter key cuff links. I think they're the coolest, and plus he's the only person I know who wears a suit and tie to work everyday. He's fancy like that.

Speaking of what we wear to work, I have the rather agonizing task today of figuring out what I'm going to wear to work tomorrow. It'll be my first day. So one wants to be dressed nice, but not too nice. Casual, but not too casual. And it needs to be all ready to go so in the morning I can just throw it on because I'm going to have to get up at like 6:30 am and I haven't had to do that in a really long time and I doubt I'll have many wits about me at that hour.

Also to do today: finish unpacking my clothes (so can tackle above task), unpack the bathroom (so can make myself pretty), set up espresso machine (so can be coherent), and make stuffed peppers for dinner and banana nut bread for breakfast tomorrow (that's right, I got the Maw Maw recipe). Yup, I better get to work.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

45-degree angle

Yes I am here! Moved in to my place in Dallas on Sunday. Things are obviously in great state of upheaval still--I want to get the kitchen unpacked first but I'm having to scrub down fridge, freezer, and all cabinets and drawers and shelves before I'll put stuff in there because I'm anal like that. So it's going very slow in there, and everything else waits.

The cable was set up today, so then of course the day was ruined for productivity (though I did make it out to Target). Also interwebs don't arrive until Wednesday, so I'm picking up little snippets of random wireless signals that go away completely every 10-15 seconds. So hopefully I'll get this updated in one of those connected snippets.

On Wednesday my friend Natalie is coming to visit along with her husband (who will be here on business) and her baby (who will be cute). This is her baby.

Yeah, woot for babies.

Lots to share but I'm just going to go on and get to bed and will wait until I can work at my desk versus on the couch with laptop held at 45-degree angle so as to best connect with aforementioned signal.

PS - Don't forget to vote. (Right, maybe if you lived in a cave.)
PPS - Oprah + 30 Rock in t-minus 3 days.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Yesterday I went and got my hair cut, and as I was leaving the salon, saw Leslie just up ahead on the sidewalk, trundling down South Congress in a chic black dress. I'll miss him and all the other kooky folks in this town.

The living room is slowly but surely emptying out these days. Stuff getting crammed into boxes. Plus a last minute cooking bonanza/clearing out of the freezer is in order. Don't you hate it when that happens? You gotta cook all that stuff. One lb of frozen shrimp, check. One bag of frozen peaches, check. One frozen pizza, check. One sheet of puff pastry, check. Who's going to eat all this food? It's out of control.

Meanwhile, what thinks you of my new hat? I'm totally and completely smitten with it. It's just like the ones Angelina Jolie wears in all those ads for her new movie. Set in the 20s. In Los Angeles. I'm cool with channeling that look. Just FYI, I bought it at The Limited and it is wool and was only $25. I love that store.

Adding to the "change is in the air" theme, it is finally starting to look and feel like fall down here. Which of course makes me want to bake. I made this banana bread after a spate of banana bread sightings on the blogs. Speaking of clearing out the freezer, that's where I stash all my over-ripe bananas.

Yeah, I threw some chocolate chunks and nuts in there. Too much probably. Next time, I need to go for more simplicity. I used a recipe from Cook's Illustrated, but what I really need to do is hunt down my grandmother's recipe. That's what I grew up on. So of course that's what I end up comparing everything to.

My aunt arrived today to help me pack. My dad joins the party on Friday. On Sunday my uncle gets involved via unloading efforts. This here is a family affair. It's nice to have folks nearby to help with that stuff. And due to some recent developments, I have one less day to pack than originally planned, which sucks. But soon it'll be over and I'll be exploring my new town. With my new hair. In my new hat. Living in my new apartment. Yeah, and going to my new job. It's my own personal do-over. I'm going to miss Austin something awful, but sometimes fresh is good.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Looking for an apartment in Austin?

You are? How fantastic! I've got one to rent. Please help me get out of my lease so I don't get bled dry paying two rents because the mean-ass management company isn't letting me off the hook for having to break my lease. (HELLO? I got laid off!! How rude.)

Oh, and that stuff about the management company being mean-ass? Not true. They're a dream. Really. Come! Rent!

As you can see, the apartment is really cute. It's in a condo building in a beautiful historic neighborhood close to downtown. All your windows look out at trees and lawns and houses, etc. Look to the north and you can see the UT Tower. To the west and you can watch the sunset.

Like this one. I took this photo from the balcony. Beautiful, right? Everything was renovated just a few short years ago, so the appliances, carpet, tiles, bathroom fixtures, etc. are all new. Look at this cute color scheme in the kitchen.

Nice, right? Stacked washer/dryer is also included in the unit - it's new as well. And there's two - count 'em two - balconies. One off the bedroom and this big one in the back. Do you like plants? You could put a lot out here!

There's the door to the other one in the bedroom. Lots of closet space in here too.

So what do you think? Well, yeah, the square footage is small (588 square feet) but you wouldn't know it from the really neat, open layout. Did I mention the vaulted ceilings? And all those windows? Yes, the space feels really airy and bright. Of course, you should think about it. It is pretty expensive. But it's close to everything. Walk to the Capitol, walk to campus and all the fun stuff on the Drag, you know. And the neighbors are super-quiet. I just hear birds pretty much all day.

Okay, thanks for coming by! What's that? Oh, yes, as a matter of fact, I did just vote!

Early voting is key I think this year. You don't want to be stuck in monster lines on election day. So I got it done early. Wise move I think. You should do it too. Okay, bye! Have a good one!