Sunday, November 04, 2012

A Birthday Song for Steve: We Have Been Changed For Good

"Good done anywhere is eventually good done everywhere."
~ Maya Angelou

Steve & Katie, June 2007

Last night Dylan and I had a rare night out to watch the San Antonio Symphony perform with Katie Rose Clark and Nicole Parker who have played respectively Glinda the Good Witch of the North and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West on Broadway in the spectacular Wicked.  It was a wonderful show; both ladies are SO talented and belted out number after number from past Broadway shows.  The theme of the evening was "Wicked Divas," a clever description for a collection of songs by strong, amazing divas from the stage and screen.  We loved it.

For their final number, they performed For Good, from the final scene between Glinda and Elphaba in Wicked (for those who haven't seen it). For some reason, as they sang, the song made me think of my friend Steve Damm who would have turned 44 years old today.  He was taken from us far too soon when he died of brain cancer in 2009.  He's been on my mind lately because his wife and my best friend Tyra invited everyone for the second year in a row to do an act of kindness in honor of his birthday.  Last year her goal was 43 acts of kindness (for 43 years); 200+ acts were recorded on her family's blog about Steve

These lines from the song reminded me of Steve: 
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

As I write this, Tyra continues to update the blog with dozens of random acts of kindness performed around the world because of Steve.  It's amazing.  We miss him so, and his passing left a hole in our lives that still feels strange, but he also left an amazing legacy in his family and everything he did during his short life that, in big and small ways, continues to make the world a better place.  So here's a song for you, Steve, on your birthday: Because we knew you, we have been changed for good.

For Good
I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

Like a comet pulled from orbit

As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend...

Like a ship blown from its mooring

By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you


Because I knew you

I have been changed for good


Happy Birthday, Steve!

Sunday, January 29, 2012


My pink rose, five days later and still lovely.

On Monday, the dreariest and wettest day of this past week, I was forced to leave the warm cocoon of my home and drive myself to my mammogram appointment with my orders for my yearly screening (sort of like an early birthday present from my doctor--ha!). I had not visited this particular imaging center before; there are dozens of them all over town and I usually choose one that I'll be near on that particular day.

I dragged myself into the imaging center. It was surprising. Tasteful decor and comfy reception room furnishings and coffee and donuts too. It even smelled pretty in there. I was tempted to take a donut while filling out my paperwork, but I fought the temptation. After I was whisked into the changing room, which was also quite nice, I was given a pink gown to wear and told to wait in an anteroom with other ladies. There were lots of magazines, TV airing 'The View' (of course) and several space heaters to keep everyone comfy-cozy while waiting. You could even text or check messages because everyone was allowed to keep their phones and purses with them.

The procedure itself is pretty quick and painless, with just a little bit of squishing-squashing to get the correct images. Honestly, I dread the idea of the mammogram more than the event itself.

After getting dressed again, I followed the exit signs back to the reception area and passed a table filled with snacks (granola bars, candy, etc.) which I thought was a nice touch, but passed on a snack to go. As I left the office, I was handed a single pink rose and thanked by the receptionist for coming.

I put the rose to my nose and inhaled deeply. Roses rarely fail to deliver their sweet scent. I was truly surprised and completely delighted by my perfect pink rose and this amazing boutique imaging center for women. I know I smiled all the way out the door of the office and into my car. I drove away under an increasingly-ominous sky with my perfect pink rose in the seat next to me, a tiny bit of joy unexpected.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Are You There Blog? It's Me, Melissa

My Lunar New Year Resolution: Blog More

I'm baaaaack! Have not blogged since last summer, and just once in memory of sweet Steve. I was too ashamed to blog, really, since my spectacularly short-lived 'Year of Living Creatively' experiment crashed and burned after 2 short weeks. (I actually started a Week 3 post, but never finished it. So much for living creatively.)

My "business" blogs suffered too. I did post several cakes last year on my Sweet Spot blog, but the Paper Dolls site was basically dormant, without a single post in 2011! Sorry!

But as always, I have been online night and day, even if I haven't updated my blog(s). I discovered that Twitter is waaay more fun than the new Facebook and the even newer Facebook Timeline. So I've logged in 268 tweets in about a year. My love-hate relationship with Facebook continued throughout. I teetered between obsessively checking it multiple times a day and not just caring about the 20, and only 20, friends that Facebook thinks I need to know about.

I read voraciously online. Anything. Everything. The Internet is the single most amazing invention in my lifetime and I honestly cannot remember what I did in my free time before it took over the world. I love that anything and everything are at my fingertips, literally. I think my screen time increases exponentially each year, frightening thought. All last year I had a smart phone, bought at Thanksgiving 2010 for our Christmas trip to Disney World because I wanted to use the Disney parks apps! I was slow to get started, but once I figured out everything you can do with the tiny computer masquerading as a phone, I was online "via phone" all the time. By Christmas 2011, I had to request an increase in my data plan allowance due to consistently going over my plan!

But I have missed blogging and sharing news, photos and stories with the few lovely souls who used to read them. So my Lunar New Year resolution (too late for the official one!) is to try to blog again! I said "try" because I'm not Yoda. I may not be able to post on all four of my blogs all the time (been there, done that, too much work!) but I hope to be here more than I was last year. Don't give up on me yet!

Saturday, July 02, 2011


Today would have been my dear friends Tyra and Steve's 17th anniversary; I was their Maid of Honor at their wedding, which seems like both yesterday and ages ago.

I have two favorite pictures of Tyra and Steve together. My first favorite is this one, from their wedding day, a few hours after the ceremony.

My second favorite is this one, from sometime in the 1990s. I snapped this pic at their home in Carrollton, where they lived as a young married couple and then as a family with newborn Cooper. I don't know the exact date of this pic, or if they even knew I was in the room while they cuddled by their fireplace. I just know that I love this photo and the memories of weekend visits with them that it evokes.

i carry your heart with me
(i carry it in
my heart)
i am never without it
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
i fear no fate
(for you are my fate, my sweet)
i want
no world
(for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

e e cummings

I wish so much that we were all celebrating 17 years of marriage with them today. Instead, I will celebrate the memories of being with Tyra-and-Steve, the couple, and the privilege of having witnessed so many fun and wonderful moments, like the one captured in this photo, during their 15 years together.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Year of Living Creatively: Week 2

So Mondays are hard . . . for just about anything. This is true when you're trying to be creative. Day 7, March 14 2011: I introduced my kids to the joys of scrapbook stickers. Don't laugh. This was truly a creative and spontaneous thing. I wanted to do something with my 10 year stash of stickers (yes, I started collecting acid-free stickers in 2001) and pulled out two binders full of them so I could *do something* with them. My younger child became very interested in what I was doing; she'd never seen my full collection, neither had my older daughter. We went through the whole collection, mostly Carys and I, and thought off all kinds of projects we could do with them! Carys seems to love them as much as I do.

I have adored stickers since I was a child. I have albums full of them from the 80s (sadly, not acid-free, but full of memories of cool designs and allowance money spent.) I also decided, sort of spontaneously as well, to bequeath half (or more) of my collection to my girls, so they too can start their own collections and projects. We divvied them up and they took theirs away in acid-free plastic boxes, new treasures for them to dive into if they need inspiration for their next craft project. And I was okay with that.

Day 8, March 15, 2011: Oh we were so creative today! Funny how an expiring Groupon can spur you to such creative heights. I bought a Groupon to a local paint-your-own pottery place months ago, and we had to use it. We had decided beforehand that the girls should paint something for my Dad's upcoming birthday, and they did. But while browsing the selection of ready-to-paint pieces, I discovered the perfect metal frame with hooks to hang in my house. In fact, I'd been thinking for the past week or so that we need some hooks on the wall to get stuff off the floor. Stuff like backpacks, etc. The metal frame holds 4 large tiles, to be painted by me (with some help from the girls). So 2 1/2 hours later, the girls had painted tiles decorated with their handprints and I had designed a monogram tile for each of them. I even free-handed the designs! A huge leap for me. I usually don't trust myself to do something like that because I might mess it up and still have to pay for it! I can't wait until the pieces are fired and assembled.

Days 9-10, March 16-17, 2011: Okay, it's also hard to be purposely creative when you're traveling. We did quick road trip up to Austin, packed with visiting friends and relatives, eating our favorite Austin food and shopping. Too busy to be creative, seriously. Then when we arrived home, we had out-of-town guests join us about an hour later! So I'm amending my 'year of living creatively' rule to excuse traveling days (and days when we have company) when necessary. (Although I did attempt to be creative when we were in Houston last week.)

Day 11, March 18, 2011: This was the day our lovely visitors departed for home in the midwest. I had big plans to try some new cake techniques today, but really just spent the day watching shows I'd recorded on the DVR, playing on the computer and napping! So, no excuses at all for the lack of creativity. But everyone needs a "catch-up" day, where doing nothing at all is the order of the day. Am I right?

Day 12, March 19, 2011: I put on my Super-Creative Mom Cape and walked my younger child through the steps of creating her own board game for a school project. Choices of projects were: report, poster, PowerPoint presentation or "other creative idea." Obviously we chose "other." I casually suggested that she create a board game about her assigned research topic: Kangaroo Rat. I love creating board games. The first time I made one was in 5th grade for a Civil War project and my teacher absolutely loved it, asked if she could keep it, and had it laminated for future classes to play with. Laminated. Immortalized forever at the tender age of 11. Carys loved the game idea too so we ran with it.

We made a list of what supplies might be required (the list she created was pretty amusing, by the way, and highlights the unique logic of a 1st grader). Then we went to Target and walked up and down aisles looking for things that could be used as other things. *Super Creative Juices at Work Here.* For example, small drawer knobs became game board pieces, with some tweaking of course. Electrical tape to make decorative hinges for the board. Super-proud that everything we bought was my idea, but then again, I was shopping with a 1st grader. Carys designed the board game path ("No shorcuts like in Candyland, Mommy.") and I cut out the squares for the game spaces. We didn't finish the game; attention spans were waning. But it was an awesome start and I loved the feeling of creating something totally new out of lots of other things.

Day 13, March 20, 2011: This was Day 2 of the Kangaroo Rat Game project. I was really getting into it. I went online, as my daughter is not allowed to Google yet, and found cool pics of super-adorable kangaroo rats from various educational websites. We had all these ideas about how the game should be played and therefore what needed to be created for it (too many ideas really). This kept us busy for a while, as did some non-creative but very necessary research about the kangaroo rat. Super-Creative Mom's work is never done!

Photo from Google Images

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Year of Living Creatively: Week 1

I kicked off my Year of Living Creatively on my birthday, and have attempted to be "creative" each day. The first day was actually the hardest, as it was jam-packed with mostly non-creative things to do. But I tried. It was sometimes fun, sometimes surprising. As I go along, I am sort of defining what counts as creative, at least to me.

Image from

Day 1, March 8, 2011: I read a story aloud to my Daisy Girl Scout troop about the founding of Girl Scouts on March 12. 1912, in celebration of Girl Scout Birthday Week. I had to think of an activity for them to do that would be meaningful and fun at the same time, so at the very last minute (as in 30 seconds before I introduced the activity), I asked them to create a birthday cake on paper for Girl Scouts (99 years old this year!) that incorporated different elements of the story I had just told them. I almost always plan something for the girls to do ahead of time, so I really went out on a limb during the meeting when I spontaneously made up an activity for them to do that would also help them earn their Girl Scout Birthday patch! The girls were a little confused by my instructions at first, but they took off with it and I was so pleased and surprised by the results. They managed to incorporate different things from the story, each girl remembering something that made an impression on her. Some of the "decorations" on their cakes included: 1912, the year of the 1st Girl Scout meeting; 18, the number of girls who attended; Savannah, Georgia, where the meeting took place; basketball, an activity the first girl scout troop enjoyed; blue, the color of the first Girl Scouts' uniforms. Overall, the girls showed more creativity than I, but I did have to come up with the idea of the Girl Scout birthday cake in a matter of minutes, so I was quite proud of myself anyway.

Day 2, March 9, 2011: This was a good baking day for me. I finally perfected the new vanilla cake recipe that I've been tweaking since September! I have been baking it for customers since October, and it tasted fine, but I was less satisfied with the cake's texture. The recipe was originally a mash-up of at least 3 recipes that I liked. I had an 'a-ha' moment on Wednesday evening, used a new ingredient and tweaked the recipe some more, and it turned out exactly like I had envisioned it in my head. And it tasted divine! Prior to last fall, I had been baking the same old vanilla cake since 1999. It was ok, but I finally felt like it was time for Vanilla Cake 2.0.

Day 3, March 10, 2011: This was my 2nd day to be creative in my work. For the first time ever, I decorated a cake for a customer entirely with rolled fondant only. I have always had a love-hate relationship with that sugary medium. Since I began decorating cakes in 1998, I have always shied away from 100% fondant cakes. I love buttercream too much, for one thing, and fondant has always seemed too much like messing around with Play-doh. I prefer the challenge of turning out detailed decorations on a cake with buttercream and a variety of decorating tips, but on Thursday decided that my creative challenge would be to do an all-fondant decorated cake. Obviously I have used fondant, fairly regularly lately, but mostly for small decorations on top of the cake or accent pieces. This time I went all in. I even threw in rice krispy treats as part of the cake's construction. It was a 3D Minion (from the movie Despicable Me) for a sweet 1 year old girl's birthday. I loved how it turned out and felt very creative at the end of the day.

Day 4, March 11, 2011: I went out for sushi for the first time since I moved to this city eight years ago. Is that creative enough? I do like sushi when it's mostly cooked ingredients (ie. Korean style) but feel a teensy bit squeamish when it's raw fish. I probably wouldn't have thought of Happy Hour at a sushi restaurant, but thanks to my adventurous friends, I went anyway and enjoyed it! My previous eating-out sushi experiences have been in Austin, Dallas and Vancouver, so it was nice to find a sushi place here that everyone seems to like.

Day 5, March 12, 2011: I went out of town and discovered that I had forgotten to pack several things. Necessity is not only the mother of invention but of creativity as well! I figured out how to make a paltry couple of pieces of jewelry fit several outfits, and how to apply my makeup without my key makeup brushes. That's creative, isn't it?!

Day 6, March 13, 2011: I became a child again at the Children's Museum of Houston and created some Pop Art with my 6 year old. I was simply going to watch her be the artist, but the tables loaded with markers and blank pages were too irresistible for me. I honestly could not remember the last time I sat down to color and draw just for fun, so I needed to retreat back to the childhood self who loved to do just that.

Today starts another week of being creative every day. I'm looking forward to what I can do and try over the next 7 days!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

40 = Creative Every Day

Hmm . . . It's an hour past midnight on March 8, 2011, and I am now officially 40 years old. I've approached this date for the past several months, weeks, days by alternating between feeling horrified (God, I'm so old!) and pretty blase about the whole thing (eh, whatever). Either way, for a few weeks now I've felt like I needed to shake things up a bit, step out of my very cozy comfort zone, and do something. Something else. Something different. Something scary. Something fun. I just wasn't sure what the something would be yet.

Just a few days ago, I stumbled on a blog called The B-Roll. It officially kicked off on March 8, 2010 and chronicles one man's journey from birthday to birthday with one goal in mind: "Do something creative at least once a day and document it." I was tickled that he and I share a birthday (alas, I am older than he) and that he has spent the last 365 days doing something creative or even trying something new each day. Perhaps it wasn't an accident that I discovered Charlie's blog.

This challenge led me to Creative Every Day. For almost 3 years, blogger Leah has hosted the Creative Every Day Challenge, complete with optional monthly themes for inspiration. Participants sign up and post the results of their creative endeavors. Exactly the kind of semi-organized nudging I need.

So I am stealing a page from both of these amazingly creative people, and in honor of turning 40 years old, I am launching my own 365 Days of Creativity! And I'm telling everyone right now--I will not be blogging daily about it. (You know me, that would admitting defeat before the whole thing even begins!) I will commit to updating weekly what I have been doing creatively every day!

Obviously, creativity can be defined in so many ways. That's what makes this challenge so difficult and easy at the same time. I have no idea, at 1 1/2 hours into my 41st year, what forms my own creativity will take or where this challenge will lead me. I don't care; the journey will be interesting enough!

"Be an everyday creative, be creative every day."
~ Creative Every Day blog

Monday, February 14, 2011

Will You Be My Valentine?

Well, from one holiday greeting to the next! That's how we roll here at my blog! Sheer laziness coupled with extreme busyness has prevented me from posting since last month. But here I am again, with homemade Valentine wishes for everyone:

My digital Valentine is becoming an annual tradition for me! I truly wish I had time to create a special one-of-a-kind valentine for each and every one of my nearest and dearest. But until I do, please accept this one with much love and friendship from me.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Card design scraplifted from Two Peas in a Bucket, artist unknown; Papers: Rhonna Farrer for Two Peas in a Bucket 'Basic Black & White' Gift Wrap Kit; Robyn Gough for Digital Scrapbook Place 'Pieces of Mmm' Free Kit; Embellishments: Rhonna Farrer for Two Peas in a Bucket '2 Organic' Kit, Betsy Tuma for Two Peas in a Bucket 'Glitterati' Free Kit; Peanuts cartoon strip by Me; Font: Traveling Typewriter by Carl Krull

Sunday, January 23, 2011

930 Things to Be Happy About

Happy New Year! January weather is very often too 'wintry' for me-- dark, dreary, wet, cold. Without the anticipation of any holidays to perk things up a bit, January for me is a slow month of let-downs. It's far too easy to start obsessing about little things and get down in the dumps when you have dreary weather outside to match. How easily one loses perspective.

Last week I was feeling sorry for myself for several reasons. Resentful, even. It took me until today to give myself a little shake and to remind myself that my problems are too upper-middle class to be taken seriously. That is, they are not real problems.

I was rummaging around in a storage closet tonight and discovered something that I hadn't thought about it years; I had no idea I still owned it. It was my huge 930 Things to Be Happy About poster that I bought in Fall of 1993, during my first semester of graduate school at the University of Washington. I knew the moment I saw it at a gift shop on The Ave that I had to have it. I taped it to my closet door in the bedroom of the apartment I shared with five other grad students and would often look at it when I was sick of studying. It always made me smile. I think it wasn't entirely an accident that I found it again tonight.

It's almost impossible to feel sad and sorry for yourself if you read through just 1/100th of the entire list of 930 Things. I remembered this instantly after unrolling the poster. (Why 930 Things? Because that's all that would fit on the poster! The poster, of course, was based on the very popular 1990 book 14,000 Things to Be Happy About by Barbara Kipfer.)

I put the enormous poster in my office, where I have absolutely no wall space left due to books, frames and shelves, but am determined to find a spot for it so that I can once again glance at it whenever I need a little pick-me-up. Seventeen years later, those Happy Things will once again be my constant reminders that life, especially mine, is pretty good.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holiday Greetings 2010

We are trying something new this year--no Christmas cards in the mail! I actually did create several cupcake-themed Christmas card designs for us to send out, but December was just too short and the list of holiday things-to-do too long. These are the actual cards we planned to print and mail, so please enjoy our digital holiday greetings instead:

Please click on the digital card for a larger view!

Please click on the digital card for a larger view!

Please click on the digital card for a larger view!

Joy to the World and Cupcakes for All!
Dylan, Melissa, Thalia & Carys

My Christmas Wish

December just flew by so quickly, and with too much to do and not enough time to do it, I decided that sending holiday cards would not make the 'to-do' list this year. However, I would never not want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas in some shape or form, so here is my heartfelt Christmas Wish for all of you, the friends and family who bless my life each and every day:

Please click on the digital card to read the poem!

Merriest Christmas Wishes to All!

Digital card layout credits:
Paper and Embellishments: Scrap Girls Kiddie Christmas by Keri Schueller; Word Art: Creative Memories Frost Digital kit; Overlay: Creative Memories NYC Celebration 2010 Digital kit; Poem: Anonymous

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

He Lives In You

Ten years ago this week, I saw The Lion King musical at the Lyceum Theatre in London's West End. Much has been written already about this spectacular production. The unique costumes. The amazing choreography. The new songs not heard in the movie version. Although a decade has passed since I saw it, the show was truly one of the trip's highlights and quite unforgettable.

Everyone knows the story of The Lion King. A young cub loses his father much too soon and grapples with the guilt and shame of believing, erroneously, that he caused his father's death. It's heavy stuff for a Disney movie, which is probably why many consider it one of Disney's finest.

Coincidentally, I was listening to some random Disney songs on iTunes the other day, and one particular song from the Lion King musical that I really like came on. For the first time, despite having heard it many times, it reminded me of our friend, Steve Damm. In fact, I couldn't believe that I hadn't thought of Steve before whenever I've listened to it in the almost 14 months since he passed away. For this song is about how a father, although no longer with us, lives on forever in his children and his children's children. It's about him being everywhere and seeing everything. Just like Steve.

So with much love, I send this song and video out to Steve's family--his soul mate, Tyra, and their precious children, Cooper and Katie, in his memory. Happy Birthday, dearest Steve. We miss you but you truly live on in everyone whose lives you touched.


Ingonyama nengw' enamabala [Here is a lion and a tiger]

Night and the spirit of life calling mamela
And a voice with the fear of a child answers mamela

Ubu khosi bo khokho [This is the throne of our ancestors]

We ndodana ye sizwe sonke [Oh, son of the nation]

Wait, there's no mountain too great
Hear the words and have faith
Have faith

He lives in you
He lives in me

He watches over
Everything we see
Into the water
Into the truth
In your reflection
He lives in you

He lives in you
He lives in me
He watches over
Everything we see
Into the water
Into the truth
In your reflection
He lives in you

He lives in you
He lives in you
He lives in you
He lives in you

He lives in you

He lives in me

He watches over
Everything we see
Into the water
Into the truth
In your reflection
He lives in you

He lives in you
He lives in me
He watches over
Everything we see
Into the water
Into the truth
In your reflection
He lives in you

Music and Lyrics (English and Swahili) by Mark Mancina, Jay Rifkin and Lebo M

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Stepping Out of My Comfort (Food) Zone

Many of our family photographs catch someone, somewhere, chewing. Much family energy was spent arguing the merits of this vegetable or that fish. Food offered a way for my parents to communicate their love for us when words failed. It became a passion we could all share and we took our family's preoccupation with food for granted. What a surprise to find out as an adult that not everyone shared our outlook. One way I know I'm still Chinese is because of my attitude toward food.

~ Ellen Blonder, second generation Chinese American, in her book Every Grain of Rice

When I first read the wonderful cookbook-memoir, Every Grain of Rice in 1998, I felt like I could have written about my childhood memories of food in a very similar way. I know I am still a Filipino-Chinese-American because of my own perspective on food. To be Asian is to know, appreciate and love food.

Food brings people together; it also sets us apart. Food means so many different things to so many different people. It's not simply food that's on your plate: it's individual or collective memories from your past; trying something completely new; dietary restrictions for medical or religious or personal reasons; flavors that provide emotional warmth and comfort; it's sampling an entirely different culture from your own; it can signify social prestige; it's the taste of national pride.

A whiff of Filipino barbecue on a stick is enough to bring a flood of memories of countless backyard parties and birthday celebrations from my youth. The smell of canned beets transports me to my pre-school's lunchroom in the Chicago suburbs. Just a tiny cloud of freshly spun cotton candy on my tongue reminds me of how much I loved it when I was a tween, and how it made too many trips to Showtime Pizza (one of my brother's favorites) bearable.

What's great about certain foods as comfort is also what makes them boring after a while. I realized not very long ago that I basically cook the same dozen or so meals over and over again and have been doing so for at least a dozen years. Why? Everyone in the family likes them and will eat them, I have all the ingredients all the time, and I know how to prepare them quickly and easily. And not only that, I also realized that some of these foods weren't exactly the healthiest things we could be eating, although certainly not the junkiest either.

Moreover, I felt like I needed a complete and total body do-over. "Baby weight" from two pregnancies and middle-age spread slowly but surely crept up on me in the past 10 years. I was feeling tired more frequently than I should. When I looked in the mirror, I was often shocked at the face and body that stared back at me--who was this person and where did the real me go?!

So I said a firm but wistful goodbye to my comfort foods, those of my childhood as well as my current favorites, and decided to try the Clean program by Dr. Junger. I've blogged about this on our family blog recently, but I was hooked after reading his book. I liked the whole philosophy behind the program, that it's not just a diet but a new way of life and thinking about food and health. And not just our personal health but the collective health of our planet and everyone on it.

I'm almost all the way through the 3-week program, and I can honestly say that it's changed the way I think and feel about food and eating forever. I'm not an immediate candidate for the raw food movement quite yet, but there are foods I used to love and crave that I may never want to eat again. During Clean, you pare everything down to a minimum and then have time to really think about and savor the foods you eat. You appreciate the flavors and textures of your one solid meal per day. You try new foods you've never even heard of before, and love some of them immediately. You miss some of your old favorites, but not so much that you can't live without them. Even cooking, and this time from scratch for each meal, has become enjoyable and fun again. Total irony since I've cooked more in the past 3 weeks than I ever have before!

I now know that I love kale, steamed with garlic. (I don't love kale smoothies. Yet.) I also love kale chips made by a high school classmate who I serendipitously reconnected with during this diet. Carrot-Pineapple Juice is wonderful. So is my homemade hummus, which I hadn't tried to make in probably a decade. Buckwheat noodles, which I had never bought before, reminds me of the texture of Asian noodles I ate as a child. Tuna steaks are amazingly versatile; I thought I disliked them before, but I was wrong. I drink quite a bit of water now, and I've never liked just water before.

I've really, really stepped way from my comfort zone during this program, but strangely enough, some aspects of it have also reminded me of my food beginnings. Many of the Clean recipes rely on the flavor of wheat-free tamari, which is basically like soy sauce, sesame oil and quickly cooked fresh veggies, by stir-frying or grilling. I grew up with stir-fry meals and soy sauce, of course, so I've often felt like a kid again when I eat these meals. Perhaps I was fated to find my way back to some of the tastes of my Asian childhood. I confess that when I grew up and lived on my own, Asian cooking was never a priority for me. I was too eager to try all the foods I didn't eat growing up--Indian, Mexican, Texan, etc.! Asian cooking also intimidated me; I couldn't do it as efficiently and easily as my Mom and Aunts because I didn't know the recipes or have all the ingredients (or couldn't even pronounce them.) Now I feel like I have a new comfort level in preparing dishes with Asian flavors, ones that are healthy versions of things I've tasted before, if not completely traditional ones.

Food is not just food, just as this diet I'm finishing is not simply a diet. The food we eat, or don't eat, says volumes about us. I choose now to eat purposefully and thoughtfully, for the betterment of my own self and hopefully even beyond that.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Forever and For Always

Part of this is a repeat of my post from July 2, 2009, exactly a year ago. This day last year was the 15th anniversary of my dearest friend Tyra and her wonderful Steve, and their last one together before he passed away in September.

In honor of their beautiful marriage, here are some images of that special day in 1994 that I was privileged to be a part of as the Maid of Honor:

Fourth of July Wedding Weekend: Wedding Day, Post-Wedding Party & Texas Rangers Game with the entire wedding party

Tyra and Steve, taken on the balcony of their hotel room hours after their wedding, Dallas, Texas

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life

which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide

and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart

i carry it in my heart

~ e.e. cummings

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scout's Honor

Last week, two things I read reminded me of something that happened almost exactly 10 years ago. One was an old post I stumbled upon from October 2008 at More Than a Minivan Mom, a Mom-blog that I've been following. (Post is no longer available online; I was backreading through my subscription on my Google Reader page). Another was an article, a minor item, on the Huffington Post's site. The topic of both of these pieces was the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gays and atheists from membership and leadership in their organization. Ten years ago, the Supreme Court basically ruled that the BSA has the right to exclude people they don't want, such as a gays and atheists, because they are a private organization.

At the time of the Supreme Court ruling, I was a newly minted Girl Scout leader, still in training, and had yet to lead my first meeting. I remember feeling totally disgusted that the Boy Scouts organization was institutionalizing discrimination, and I have "officially" disliked the Boy Scouts ever since. This excerpt from More Than a Minivan Mom's post reminded me that the Boy Scout organization has unfortunately not changed their official tune, in almost exactly 10 years:

According to the poll on my blog over the past few days, 17% of you have no clue that the Boy Scouts actively and purposely discriminate against atheists and gays. According to the poll on my blog over the past few days, 22% of you know this and still think they are a wonderful organization.


At first glance, the Boy Scouts seem like a wonderful organization promoting family values (a phrase that involuntarily invokes my gag reflex) and charitable good deeds. According to the Boy Scouts of America National Council, the purpose of the Scouts is to "to provide an educational program for boys and young adults to build character, to train in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and to develop personal fitness". The Boy Scout mission, "is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law". The Scouts are the largest male youth organization in the country, and as of 2007, nearly 3 million young boys were involved in Boy Scouts.

My two sons will never be one of those 3 million young boys, as long as my husband and I have anything to say about it.

As the Boy Scouts of America website proudly states, you cannot be an atheist or openly gay individual and join the Scouts or serve as a troop leader.

Quite frankly? There's no way in hell I will ever condone that type of mentality by allowing my sons to participate in an organization like that.

Don't get me wrong - I agree with the courts that the Boy Scouts, as a private organization, have the right to enforce those guidelines (it's their Constitutional right to be bigots, I suppose), and I can also agree that there are elements of Boy Scouts that are wonderful. But for me, and for my husband, all the leadership training, camping trips, and volunteerism in the world cannot excuse an organization that so openly and proudly flaunts their narrow mindedness.

Coincidentally, the BSA were in the news again, same topic, different twist: Many Scout groups receive free or discounted use of public, as well as private, meeting places around the country. But why should public government--your tax dollars--support an organization that discriminates against certain sectors of the public? Just because the Supreme Court said it was okay to discriminate if you're a private organization, the government is under no obligation to extend special benefits to your organization. It's interesting that the Boy Scouts' ban has held for so long, but I wonder if these kinds of local challenges will finally make them realize that just because it's legal to discriminate, it doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

In theory, if I had a son, I'd say NO to him joining Boy Scouts. But I'll bet it would be hard to do so in the face of everyone else's kid being in it and also being known as that kind of parent. You know, the kind that values inclusion and diversity and sticking to what you believe in. I'm glad I only have a "hypothetical" son to consider.

But what about choices your friends make as parents of boys? Now that I'm a Mom and many of my friends are as well, I have since shifted from strong dislike to tolerating Boy Scouts because of my many friends who are Moms of Boy Scouts. Shockingly, I have even given them money for their ridiculously overpriced popcorn. The first time I bought their popcorn, I felt like I was giving money to the devil. But it was my friend's son, and he is a sweet, kind and loving boy, the total antithesis of what the BSA has institutionalized for a decade. Then the next year it was another very good friend' son, and the same thing--he is sweetest little boy ever. And these boys still are, despite being Boy Scouts.

It's interesting that the BSA are still officially focused on excluding people from their membership and leadership, while the Girl Scouts perspective on the same issue contrasts greatly. Ten years ago, the Girl Scouts of the USA Communications Director stated: "It's a non-issue for us. We don't ask people to declare X, Y, or Z. It's not in our makeup to have to define people like that. The Boy Scouts believes that to be gay is somehow immoral. That is not our feeling." Girl Scouts don't ask members or leaders if they're gay. They also don't expect everyone to believe in the same God, or any for that matter. Ten years later, I am so proud to be a part of an organization that continues to value inclusion and openness.

I still "officially" dislike what the Boy Scouts say they stand for. I don't hate any little boys though. I wish more parents of Boy Scouts would stop thinking it's okay for an organization that has such an impact on so many young boys to exclude anyone they don't like and demand change. Life is too short to systematically dislike/exclude/hate someone because they're not who you want them to be.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Putting It All Out There

A little "what if?" game to play in your head. What if your spouse of over a decade tells you that he no longer is in love with you/has had an affair with someone else/is ready to move on? No, it's not my spouse. Or even a close friend or relative's.

What if the people involved in this situation are people you read about in a blog? I've been following a Mom-blog by a friend of a friend, not religiously, but now and again because I liked reading about her life as a working Mom of 3 kids in Austin, and then later in a Dallas suburb, and because her stories were funny and clever. She has a way with words and is a truly gifted writer. But what can you say when her words become too uncomfortable and heartbreakingly sad to read? And you don't even know this person? You go from innocently catching up on Mom-stories to knowing waaaay too much about this woman's marriage, and even worse, it's like an accident on the side of the road-- you can't not look.

She wrote, at first, that her husband said that "maybe this isn't working for him." That was Valentine's Day. Then she wrote that she could not elaborate more about her marriage, except that she did exactly that--about their couples' therapy, her feelings, frustrations, insecurities. And then the other shoe fell--her husband's confession of infidelity--and even more of her intimate thoughts came out on her blog. Until the day she decided not to write anymore, that "my marriage means more to me than my blog." However, only a week later, her marriage had pretty much ended, and the blogging started once again. That was this past Monday.

I feel so much sadness for this woman who I've never even met, because she was blindsided, and her life was already full and challenging enough. When you read a person's blog, you get to know them a little bit, and only 7 days before everything started to fall apart for her in February, she wrote of her marriage:

So far, perhaps the greatest accomplishment of my life. More than my degrees, my career, even my three children... I am proud of our relationship.

It felt more than a little voyeuristic to continue reading this woman's blog after it went from being a thoughtful, funny snapshot of modern family life to a one-sided view of the unraveling of a relationship. But I was hooked, I'll admit it. It was like a real-life suburban soap opera unfolding before my very eyes. I cried through several of her posts. What would I do in her shoes? How would I feel or react?

All the while I was catching up on her posts, I also cringed for her and her family's privacy. At this point, it's almost non-existent. She had upwards of a thousand hits per day on her blog sometimes when her life was "normal." And while there is an awesome online community of strangers who are supporting her through this, it's unnerving to think about the sheer numbers. I send prayers her way, that she will get through this and be stronger, not broken, from the experience. I also pray for her precious children. She and her family have been in my thoughts very much this week. But I also wish, despite how much I admire her ability to put into words exactly what she going through, that she would not write about it at all. So much is out there about her and her family, and these are children whose ages are the same as my kids', whom we now know more about than just what their Halloween costumes looked like or that they love Chuck E. Cheese. I write this a little bit hypocritically of course, as I am still keeping up with this woman's posts. But if her blog finally goes dark, I will respect her silence all the more.

Blogs are such strange creatures in the online world. Kind of like your own personal diary broadcast to everyone and anyone. A tribute to one's own healthy bit of narcissism, in a totally different way than updated-every-second social media sites are. Perhaps that's why my own blogs have never quite moved beyond the merely-out-there-occasionally-updated-rarely-read status: I can't bring myself to write about anything particularly private or intimate from my own life or those of my family members. And sometimes I think that has a stultifying effect on my blogs overall. I don't own my family's thoughts, actions, feelings, words, even as they affect me. They each exist apart from me and our collective "family." They deserve their own private lives.

So my posts are as random as the thoughts and ideas I feel comfortable sharing with the wider world (whoever you are!). I wish I could write everything in my life, maybe my life would make more sense to me(!), but I just can't give up my family and my privacy for that.

Monday, May 31, 2010

I Give Up

At the beginning of the year, I lamented the sorry state of my four (yes, four) blogs. They suffered from benign neglect with a very few posts showing up now and again. I decided that my blogs needed some "structure." Hence, the five-days-a-week schedule of stuff I thought everyone needed to know about me and mine.

Okay, since I haven't blogged in over a month at pretty much all my blogsites, I'm throwing in the towel. Hell, I threw in the towel long, long ago. Structure is SO overrated.

I loved the idea of it. I still do. But with the exception of the couple of weeks spent on my couch while recovering from surgery, our family's lifestyle (that would be code for 'my personal laziness') is too busy to allow for regularly scheduled posts. I admire greatly blogs such as Heather Binkley's Did You Remember Your Pill Today that manage to entertain us each and every day with her very busy family's antics. And countless other Mom-blogs out there do the same, in spite of their collective busy-ness. But as for me and my blogs, it's just not gonna happen.

So the new blog schedule goes like this: Recipes, retail love, book reviews, daily blessings and creative writing attempts will continue to appear, but only when I have time for them!

So if you've been a loyal follower of my personal 'rants and raves' blog, thanks for sticking around and don't give up on me yet! I may surprise you all (and myself) with a little less structure!

Portions of this blog post also appear on With Four You Get Eggroll

Thursday, March 25, 2010

52 Blessings: A Coke and a Smile

Wow, I only seem to blog on '52 Blessings' days! It's been a busy two weeks since I last blogged. Been too busy, but in a good way, I suppose.

Today's blessing is also possibly my worst vice! I am thankful for my first sip of Coca-Cola each day (usually morning.) Yes, my daily Coke is a blessing! It helps jump-start my day if I have one in the morning, or revive my flagging energies if I have it in the afternoon. It's a craving that coffee can't fix; I need that sugar rush.

I love Coke so much that I recently taught my Girl Scouts the Coke 'I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing' song for World Thinking Day! All we were missing were the candles and Coke bottles!

I've been obsessed with Coke since I was a very small child and they came in family-sized glass bottles. I would beg for Coke for breakfast! Drinking it makes me feel happy, just like it did when I was three years old. I travel with my own Coke if I know I won't be able to get to a convenience store anytime soon. Good friends have a six-pack waiting for me in the fridge when I visit.

Although I prefer an actual Coke, I'm not such a cola snob that I won't drink other brands when they're on sale or put in front of me. I recently had a Boylan's Natural Cane Cola with a shot of Black Cherry--not bad at all. But I'll take my high fructose corn syrup-infused Coke any day. It's a blessing to be able to buy and drink a Coke pretty much whenever I want one.

Pic from Coca Cola website; video from YouTube.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

52 Blessings: Libraries

Today I'm grateful for the blessing of Libraries, specifically libraries that are freely available to the public. The first time I remember going to a library was when I was a young child in the suburbs of Chicago and there was a bookmobile parked near the grocery store parking lot. It was amazing. I checked out a Barbie chapter book.

My favorite library ever will always be the Carrollton Public Library that was located on Jackson Road and Josey Lane. The library opened the same month our family moved to Carrollton, Texas, in March 1981. It was brand-new and filled with books! Whenever I think of the library, the Carrollton Public Library pops into my head. It's no longer there, relocated to much larger location after we moved away and Carrollton's population exploded along with all the other North Dallas communities. But it lives forever in my memories. For six years, I frequented the library with my Mom and my brother, or browsed by myself for hours, or met my friends there for study groups, or walked there with my high school pals after school to hang out (yeah, geeks do that). Being at the Carrollton Library was like being at home--comfy, cozy and I knew where everything was.

Ever since we decided to proactively trim our family budget in October 2008 in the face of the still-to-get-worse recession, the public library has been a treasure trove of entertainment in all forms of media.

I've successfully resisted the urge (usually) to buy new books since our "money diet" and yet haven't suffered things to read thanks to the San Antonio Public Library! I can browse the stacks, if I have time, but usually I just put books (and CDs and DVDs) on hold and pick them up a few days later. It's like my own personal media concierge service!

A few weeks ago I submitted library purchase suggestions for two non-fiction books that I wanted to read but were not in the library catalog. The library has already ordered both books and I'm first in line to check them out! Cool.

I also love that my kids are getting to know the ins and outs of the library as well. I want them to understand that it's a privilege to have such a great library system available to us. Not every city invests equally in their public library system. Our library is not perfect, of course, but it's ours, paid for with our tax dollars. And more than ever, it's a blessing.

Friday, March 05, 2010

52 Blessings: Normal

Aack! The whole week's gone by and no blogging since Monday. I've been caught up in everyday life, which I am now officially back to and can no longer use the excuse of my 'recuperation' to avoid doing stuff. And we started our taxes this week. *Sigh.* One of the two things we all want to avoid (the other being death), and I do my best to avoid doing them until my husband starts nagging continually. We are due a refund, you see, but that still doesn't make me want to do my share of the taxes (Schedule C for my business). On a brighter note, I've been writing up wedding invitation orders, working on cake designs and once again participating fully in my kids' school and after-school lives!

Anyway, I have a myriad of choices for blogging this week, as I've not blogged anything on schedule. A recipe? Some retail love? No, today I'm writing about another of my 52 (and more) Blessings.

I am very thankful this week that my children are "normal." Your typical, average kids living in Suburbia, USA. When I say normal, I mean that they are on track as far as their physical and mental growth and development. (Otherwise, they've got their little quirks and oddities about them in spades!) Neither has ever been diagnosed with anything that requires complicated medications, therapies, special assistance or additional help at home or school. They've walked on time. Learned to tie shoes on time. Talked (way too much sometimes) with the appropriate number of vocabulary words at the right times. Expressed emotions at every age.

I thought of all this in the past week after talking to my Mom about a distant cousin of mine whom everyone in the family has known to be "slow" for practically his entire life, but whose parents did not seek additional help or resources to help him become more independent or cope with every day life. His condition seems fairly mild and he could probably, with the right kind of help, do much more for and by himself. He is a young adult now, but still lives at home and requires his parents to help navigate life each day. I wonder what will happen to him when his parents are no longer able to do so. It scares me to think about it.

A dear friend's son was identified as autistic last year. He is a great kid, but of course requires a different kind of education and more resources now than they had ever planned on. I could feel my friend's stress through the phone lines last year, as she related the decisions they had to make about who would care for their child while they both worked, or if they could even find a place willing to care for a child with special needs. This school year, he started elementary school, introducing another kink into the big picture. I wondered how I could ever cope if I were in her same shoes.

It is a blessing to have kids that are so normal that they're basically like everyone else's in matters of health and development. We take it for granted too often, especially when the situation can change in a heartbeat. Only God knows what He has planned for my children. I pray for their continued "normalcy" and count it as one of my many blessings.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Creative Writing 101: High School Days

Freshman - Sophomore Years

Churchill High School: Junior - Senior Years

I was out of town Friday to Sunday, so Creative Writing 101 is a bit late, but here it is! FoodieLicious is off this week (still can't decide if I liked the brownie recipe I made up last night enough to share with others.)

Describe a typical day during your high school years:

For the first three years of high school, my typical day consisted of classes, classes, classes and then after-school varied, depending on whether or not I had any after school activities. I played no sports, so my activities were related to various clubs and councils. such as Future Teachers of America, Key Club, Anchor Club and National Honor Society. I was an officer of several organizations.

My senior year was more frenetic than the previous years due to the added burden of working on college admissions applications, an after-school job as child care provider for a local Jazzercise instructor and being a member of the Academic Decathlon team. This was in addition to my other school clubs and activities.

I was on the self-chosen honors graduation track, requiring certain honors courses and more science and math than the regular degree. So my schedule typically consisted of: English, History, Math, Science, PE or other elective, and Art or other elective. Academic Decathlon was also a class. Lunch was somewhere around 4th period. Not enough passing period time to even go to my far-away locker after each class, so shared lockers with friends who had advantageously-located lockers.

Now that I'm "old and gray", I am amazed by how much we packed into a typical high school day. So much learning and activity in 7 hours. And then more activities and homework well, well into the night. My typical bedtime became later and later each year, so that by senior year, I was up all the way through the David Letterman Show, which ended past midnight, and went to bed halfway through Sally Jessie Raphael!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

52 Blessings: Health Insurance

While the battle rages on in Washington, DC, over health care reform, I am thanking God and all of my lucky stars that my family has decent health care coverage. By extension, of course, I am thankful that my hubby has a kick-ass job that offers this insurance for him and his dependents!

I've been to two doctors this week, wrapping up my 'Health Care February' that began at the beginning of the month. I've had a double surgery, which should be pretty much covered, minus my deductible. My very nice gynecologist told me that this week's appointment was 'no charge.' My meds (thank God for the meds!) were even reasonably priced thanks to insurance-negotiated rates.

In addition, my Mom and I took Carys to the after-hours minor emergency clinic on Monday night, after three days of earache complaints. No ear infection (hooray!) but the doctor thought it might possibly be strep (boo). An exam and strep test later, Carys was clear and just needed some OTC meds. Her doctor visit, although not to her regular pediatrician, was covered by our insurance as well.

I shudder to think of what my life would be like without health insurance, knowing full well that so many people in this country are not as lucky as I am. This week's blessing is truly one that cannot be taken for granted. If we were to lose our coverage through loss of employment for example, could we afford the outrageous COBRA premiums? I can't think about it! So I will just be extra thankful for what I have at this moment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Woman's History Turned Upside Down

Pic from

Finally! A new book on my nightstand and I'm actually reading it. I finished up two books in the past week that I'd started weeks ago. Now I'm reading a very interesting, sort-of feminist take on about 500 years of historical research on a very elusive person: Shakespeare's wife.

The book, aptly named Shakespeare's Wife, is Germaine Greer's attempt to turn history on its head as it pertains to Will Shakespeare's better half. Publisher's Weekly notes that "generations of critics" have purported that Ann Shakespeare "being eight years older than Shakespeare, was an unattractive woman who seduced and trapped him in an unwanted marriage, from which he escaped as soon as possible. His abandonment of his wife and three children supposedly without support is generally regarded as their just desserts, as is his will, leaving her with nothing but his second-best bed."

I'm only into the first part of the book, but already we see that Shakespeare's family, his father in particular, were kind of losers, and Ann Hathaway's family had land and money and much more going for them. Hmmm. What crazy female would want to seduce that?

I'm very interested in how this will unfold, how Greer will address all the different points of the supposed myth built up over centuries around this mysterious wife. Her research seems to be very thorough; her sources are logical and, not to be sexist, but the ones that a woman would think of. Like, for example, a list of Ann's possessions to ascertain how she was doing at a certain point in her life. But then again, I've been away from academic life for almost 14 years, so what do I know?

I do know that I'm enjoying this book, which is a departure from the stuff I've been reading of late.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Retail Love: Birthday Wishes

Thalia and Carys talk constantly about their birthday parties, no matter how many months away their actual birthdays are. No doubt this is a byproduct of having a Mom who is always creating birthday cakes or printing party invitations! Likewise, they keep a running 'Birthday Wish List' of things they really want for their birthdays, again with no thought to how far away their big day may be. They want odd, random things: Playmobil wedding set. Chinese food. Bath toys. A dog. Whatever catches their fancy.

Well, I'm a bit like my kids too. (Or rather, are they a bit like me?) I keep a running Wish List in my head of odd, random things that catch my fancy as well. Some items on my List have been there for years, things I have a deep affection for. Sometimes, I'll forget that I thought something was really cool until something jogs my memory.

A benefit of reading other people's blogs is finding out about more cool things to add to my Wish List. For example, I just added these to my mental list today after reading about them on someone else's blog:

Clearly she has good taste! Charbonnel et Walker Pink Marc de Champagne Truffles from the UK

Hmm, what's not to like? Pink chocolates made with champagne?! I love chocolate and I love champagne. And I love the UK. Good thing my birthday's in 2 weeks! I may have to buy myself a gift from my Wish List.

Photo from

FoodieLicious: Spicy Chicken Dip

Key ingredient: Spicy Chicken Dip

One of my foodie delights is to eat an entire meal made up of snacks and appetizer foods, all of which are totally bad for me. Chowing down on spicy, cheesy, creamy snacks--what could be more decadent? Televised sporting events give us good opportunities to do this. I missed the Superbowl, but I celebrated UT being in the National Championship Game with an impressive (given that it was just for me, my hubby and kids) menu of yummy junky food:

Shrimp Cocktail Dip
Kid-friendly Queso
Mini Fish Tacos
Hot Wings
Honey Wings
Salmon Mousse
Tortilla Chips
Potato Chips
Crudites (gotta throw in something healthy)
Hot Chocolate
And . . . Spicy Chicken Dip!

Spicy Chicken Dip is this awesome dip I had at our Troop's Holiday Party in 2008, made by my friend Pam. I could eat it all day if it weren't so spicy! But it's still soooo good.

So if you're inclined to have a sybaritic meal of snacks soon, try this one:

Pam's Spicy Chicken Dip

8oz cream cheese
2 cups cheddar cheese
6oz hot sauce
8oz ranch dressing
2 chicken breasts cooked and diced up

Melt together the cream cheese, cheddar cheese, hot sauce and ranch dressing. Stir in the diced chicken.
Serve with tortilla chips.

My Notes: Pam serves this with homemade fried tortilla chips. Whatever. I have also added a small package of blue cheese, thus making it a Spicy Buffalo Chicken Dip!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Creative Writing 101: Five Things

Me and my Pink Giraffe, a gift from my godmother, in 1971.

You can only keep five things you have. What will they be?

Well, if I'm taking this prompt literally, then aside from my husband and kids, the "things" I would keep are:
  • My wedding ring
  • Thalia's baby book
  • Carys's yellow ducky blanket (any one of the four she owns)
  • My oversized pink giraffe stuffed animal from 1971
  • The external hard drive attached to my computer (Is that cheating? It technically holds more than 5 files.)
Each is meaningful in its own way. If my house ever caught on fire, I hope I could at least save one of these '5 things.' However, in the end, the most important things in life aren't "things"; the most important things in my life are my family.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

52 Blessings: Mom

My Mom and my girls, wearing gifts from Mom!

This week I am really, really thankful for the woman who made my entire existence even possible, my Mom! She rode in days before my double surgery like a Lady in shining armor and took charge of hearth and home. In the past two weeks, she has cooked, ironed, laundered, shopped, chauffeured and run errands for us all, with love of course. We would be quite literally lost without her!

Along with my Dad, my Mom is the most self-less person I know. I try to be like them, but fall far short of their example. They give and give and give of themselves, often with little thought about receiving for themselves.

So while I've been hanging out on my couch this week, I've been blessed with having my Mom here to literally lend me a hand up. And that part of my week has been a blast.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Retail Love: Lilly

From my perch on the living room couch, which I have to admit I am really getting tired of, I have been shopping online since I got home from the hospital last week! I'd been saving up catalogs and coupons for the past month for just this moment-- when I'd be forced to "take it easy."

But shopping, in whatever form, is always good for the soul, I say. I'd decided a few weeks ago, with positive input from Thalia and Carys, to finally redecorate our second bathroom. We've had two full baths in each house we've lived in, a total of three in 13 years. In each house, the second bath decor has never changed: leopard, leopard, leopard. In fact, it's not just the same theme, but the same stuff that's moved from house to house to house! Same towels, rug, shower curtain, decorative accents. Even after the addition of two kids, the bathroom has stayed the same! So now I'm finally sick of the leopard bath. Hooray!

I suggested the idea of a Lilly Pulitzer bathroom after receiving a mailer from Garnet Hill announcing their new Lilly bed and bath collection. The girls were soooo happy we were retiring the leopard kitsch. (Honestly, you'd think I'd been torturing them their entire short lives.) And they looooove Lilly.

So this week I am tackling the bathroom project by ordering new everything from the Garnet Hill Lilly collection, using my Garnet Hill coupon code, and from other online sources. The Lilly towels are so cheery in the midst of winter, I can't wait until they arrive! And the monogramming was free!

Lilly Pulitzer Home Collection

I always think white eyelet goes perfectly with anything Lilly, so I found a lovely white eyelet shower curtain that will really pop after we (Dylan) repaint the walls a Lilly-ish green color.

Eyelet shower curtain--sweet.

I'm also sick of the bath accessories after 13 years, so I also have my eye on this bamboo wastebasket, which is even lined with natural cotton. Eco-friendly and wallet-friendly on sale.

Friendly bamboo.

I'm sure more ideas will present themselves as I further browse online. We're going to need some Lilly-ish artwork for the walls, maybe some floral-fruity knobs for the cabinets, etc. Shopping in my PJs from home rocks.

Pics from Garnet and

Monday, February 15, 2010

FoodieLicious: Fat Tuesday Treats

I'm a little sad about being laid up this week because there are so many February holidays and special days to celebrate with friends and food! In previous years, I have hosted celebrations for the Super Bowl, Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, Mardi Gras and Girl Scout Thinking Day. Not to mention San Antonio Rodeo-themed possibilities. Oh well, at least I can think about all the yummy treats I would have cooked up!

I missed the Super Bowl completely due to icky pre-op prep required by my doctors. I kind of forgot about Chinese New Year, it being eclipsed by Valentine's Day. I did as much as I could, given my current limitations, for Valentine's Day, but even failed to take a single photo of our family! The heart-shaped homemade pizza was pretty much not going to happen either, although delivery from Domino's did.

The next holiday up is Fat Tuesday--this Tuesday--and I will especially miss serving up some Cajun favorites to everyone. However, in honor of Mardi Gras, I am sharing one of my recipes that I like to make on Fat Tuesday. This one is from Emeril Legasse of the famed New Orleans restaurants, so it's pretty authentic.

Classic Remoulade Dressing
Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, Food Network

Yield: 6 servings

For the Dressing:
1 egg
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
3 tablespoons Creole or whole-grain mustard
3 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
Cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil

For the Salad:
Lettuce leaves
Onion slices
Cooked shrimp
Fresh parsley

Combine the first 10 ingredients in a food processor with a metal blade and process until smooth. Season with salt, cayenne, and pepper. While the machine is running, slowly add the oil, a little at a time, until thick. Reseason if needed.

To assemble, toss the lettuce with half of the dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Mound the greens in the center of each serving plate. Lay the onions slices over the greens. Place 3 piles of the shrimp around each mound of greens. Garnish with parsley.

My Notes: I omit the raw egg from the recipe. I sometimes leave out the cayenne pepper. I use less oil than called for in the recipe. I have also served this with chicken instead of shrimp.