Kick it!

This week I’ve been participating in a blogging challenge that focuses on ways to
your blog work better. It’s put together by the same lovely ladies that
put this challenge together. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I
had already instituted some of their suggestions (go me!), but mostly
I’ve learned a lot and made some changes…some behind-the-scenes, some
that you can see. I spy some nifty social
media buttons, do you? I added those all by myself (okay, Jeremy helped
little). While working on this challenge, I realized that the best thing
I can do to improve my blog is to post
more. I’m up for that challenge. Stay tuned.

Guilty pleasure

“You should have been a ballerina.” It’s prom night and I’m walking down the stairs at my friend’s house where we had all gathered to get ready. I never had a great desire to be a ballerina, but ever since that comment was uttered by my friend’s mother I felt like I had somehow missed a calling. At the time, I felt incredibly conspicuous and embarrassed. She meant to compliment a gracefulness I didn’t feel I possessed, but I thought immediately of my boyish frame (read: flat chest and no hips to speak of). Never do I feel the pangs of this unspoken desire more than when I’m watching my newest guilty pleasure, Bunheads.

When I read in WWD of all places that Amy Sherman-Palladino had a new show coming to ABC Family I knew I had to watch. The same speed-talking, reference-dropping dialogue that made my head spin in Gilmore Girls is there, albeit a little more choppy. Each week I feel like I am getting to take a stroll down the streets of Stars Hollow. There’s the same small town setting with plenty of quirky characters and, of course, the fact that the cast is populated by many of the same actors doesn’t hurt either. Emily Gilmore herself is a main character and you catch glimpses of other familiar faces here and there.

The similarities between the show pretty much end there. Instead of being focused on an impossibly tight-knit mother-daughter relationship as in Gilmore Girls, Bunheads follows the transition of a Vegas showgirl into a small-town ballet instructor. Yes, each episode is filled with the drama that caters to a more high school audience, but that hasn’t kept me from parking my butt in front of my tv each Monday night to watch it. What is your guilty pleasure?

Can I take a raincheck on that handshake?

There has been a noticeable uptick in the number of sick people around me during the last couple of weeks. I have been taking precautions: asking my sick husband to please sleep in the other room, making sure I have hand sanitizer at my desk and in my purse, and of course lots and lots of good, old-fashioned hand washing.

Today, I was introduced to a new co-worker. As we exchanged our “nice-to-meet-you’s” she reached out and gave me a nice, firm handshake. The first thing I thought was, “Oh good, she isn’t one of those limp fish handshakers.” You know the type. Then with horror, I began thinking of all the other hands she had shaken in her round of first-day introductions. I was on my way to lunch and made a mental note to wash my hands before eating or at least use the aforementioned purse hand sanitizer.

Well, between the short walk from my desk to the cafeteria I completely forgot to do either of those things and wouldn’t you know, a couple hours later I started to feel nauseated and dizzy. Although it’s much more likely that this nausea is due to the questionable cafeteria kabobs I consumed during lunch, I can’t help thinking back on that handshake and wishing I would have just asked for a raincheck until after flu season.

Ps. I’ve always wanted to learn this secret handshake from the Parent Trap remake. 🙂

Feast and forage

A foodie, I am not. Not a nwaFoodie. Certainly not a Fancy Pants Foodie. Not even on Fridays. But I do love to cook and search out new ways to bring healthy, tasty food to the table. Ever since I began my grain-free, sugar-free and a whole-lot-of-other-stuff-free diet, people have come to me asking for healthy recipes. At the same time, I hear a lot of “I could never follow your diet.” I tell these folks to imagine their dinner plate. Usually it will contain some kind of meat, vegetables and then some kind of starch or grain. If you simply remove the starch then you are eating my diet. It’s not really that simple (especially since I’ve never eaten a lot of meat), but if you think of it that way it is a lot easier to swallow (I know).  So, for this Foodie Friday edition of BLOGtober Fest, I would like to share the top recipes that I tend to share when asked.

Brussel Sprouts –From my absolute favorite food blogger, this recipe calls upon white beans and pecorino cheese to make those sprouts oh-so-tasty!

Texas Turkey Chili –A really fast and easy recipe. I prefer to use the beer it calls for, but you could easily substitute chicken broth.

Salmon patties –Kind of like crab cakes, but with salmon and almond flour. A favorite in our house.
Chicken with sage roasted vegetables –Perfect for a busy week night, this recipe uses rotisserie chicken and frozen veggies, then you can use the left-overs to make Chicken and Roast Veggie Stew

Mediterranean Chicken –this was very good, but I would recommend serving it over brown rice or even pasta (neither of which is allowed on my diet, but I think it needed something.)

Mediterranean Vegetable Stew –the recipe says to sprinkle on feta cheese if desired, but I would say that the feta cheese makes this recipe! Be sure and add a lot!!

Chicken Stir-Fry Lettuce Wraps –I love these just the way they are. Jeremy prefers the stir-fry over rice or in a tortilla instead of the lettuce.

Finally, this is similar to the recipe I used to make the vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free (did I mention delicious?) cupcakes pictured above. There are many more recipes to be found on my Pinterest board, Feast & forage. Kinda thinking this could be a series here, foodie or not.

Im’ma come back

Wow, this year has gone by so quickly. When I wrote this post in January
about traveling to New Orleans for my friend’s 30th birthday, I
wondered what the year would bring. I also wondered what it would feel
like to make that transition from twenty-something into
thirty-something. I can’t say that it feels a whole lot different. In
fact, someone asked me my age this past weekend and I told them I was 31
without skipping a beat. I won’t be 31 until March, but Jeremy had just
turned 31 three days prior, so I must have just decided to go ahead and
be 31, too.

One funny little antidote from my trip to N’awlins that I didn’t share
in my previous post was when we went out to dinner on my friend’s
birthday. We called and called restaurants trying to find one that was
still serving their Christmas/New Year’s Reveillon dinner. I had read
that some restaurants continue theirs until January 6, but we did not
find a single one. So, instead the birthday girl decided she wanted
breakfast for dinner. We asked the girl at the front desk for a
recommendation of a local place that served breakfast all day long. She
sent us off to a diner down the street from the hotel. When we got there
we thought we had struck gold. It looked like a little hole-in-the-wall
place where only locals would eat. We were partly right. It was not a
chain and there seemed to be a table of “regulars” sitting a few feet
away from us. However, the food was not “local flavor” by any stretch of
the imagination. The coffee was horrible (and not just compared to Cafe
Du Monde), and the food left much to be desired, but our waitress was
the worst! We were looking at our menus and not taking any longer than
what is normal to decide on what to eat, but she kept coming back and
just standing there, waiting for us to order on the spot. Finally, she
realized that we were not going to just throw out an order to appease
her and she announced, “Im’ma come back,” and just disappeared. The rest
of the trip we laughed about it and it kind of became a new catchphrase
for me and my traveling companions!

I hope you enjoy this flashback to my “Love Song For the Crescent City”.
It’s BLOGtober Fest over at Arkansas Women Bloggers, and today was
promote a post from the past day.

The fair is a veritable smorgasbord

Every year around September, I get a hankering for pumpkin spice lattes and the Texas State Fair. Since massive amounts of sugar preclude me from indulging in the former, I’m always trying to find a way to experience the latter. Not just any fair will do. It has to be Big Tex. This past weekend, on a trip with my sister to visit my papa in Central Texas, I was able to feast my eyes (if not my sadly restricted digestive system) on my old friend in Dallas.

I didn’t ride the ferris wheel or eat anything deep fried, but I did allow myself a taste of the best root beer in the world. Yes, it probably had just as much sugar in it as the aforementioned pumpkin spice latte, but it was so worth the ache I’m still feeling from it today, 3 days later.

I am so glad that we were able to go! Have you ever been? Are you as terrified of the ferris wheel as I am? (I love roller coasters, but the ferris wheel just gives me too much time to think about how high up I am!)

Also, this print cracked me up. Reminds me of my dad.

This post is part of the Arkansas Women Bloggers BLOGtober Fest. Fair print via Fab.

Ghosts of Halloween past

While fall is my favorite season, Halloween has never been my favorite holiday. I don’t wear a costume or put up decorations. And I confess, more often than not when the 31st rolls around, I just leave the porch light off. So when the topic of Halloween arose as part of the Arkansas Women Bloggers BLOGtober Fest, I drew a big, ol’ blank. 
Then I started thinking. I could write about the time I was trick-or-treating in North Carolina and walked onto a porch to find an unattended (so I thought!) bowl of candy sitting next to a scarecrow decoration. As I reached out to take my piece (only one, of course) the scarecrow moved! Or, I could tell the tale of my first (and last) experience going to the haunted houses in the abandoned warehouses of the Kansas City West Bottoms neighborhood. For me, the terror began even as we stood in line waiting to enter. Inside was a maze winding through the dark. I feared every corner, around which came some new horror. 
However, my fondest Halloween memory has to be watching Arsenic and Old Lace with friends. It became a tradition of sorts. One that I try to keep even now. Last year, I added the Cary Grant flick to my Netflix queue and then put it aside to watch on Halloween. I ending up sending it back unwatched. I hope to make up for that this year. 
“It’s not a nice thing to do. People wouldn’t understand. He wouldn’t understand. What I mean is…well, this is developing into a very bad habit!”–Cary Grant as Mortimer Brewster addressing his elderly aunts after they’ve poisoned and killed their 12th lonely, old man.

I fancy fall

Ah, fall. The season of cooler weather and scarves, crunchy leaves and boots, bonfires and sweaters, and steaming hot beverages and jackets. Okay, clearly for me fall is as much about fashion as it is about anything else. I’ll just go ahead and say it, I’m pretty sure I dress better in the fall. It might have to do with the fact that I tend to do more shopping in the fall than in any other season. Or it may be that I’m much more comfortable in the layers, sleeves, tights and boots of fall than I am in their warm weather alternatives. 
A quick peek at my Fall Fancies board on Pinterest reveals that I’m loving leather, dots, colorblocking and those oh-so-fall textures like houndstooth and tweed. Not to mention the fanciest of my favorites for fall–peplum. Be it on dresses, tops or jackets, I’m in love!

As for the image above. I have been watching all of the old seasons of Frasier on Netflix and I’ve decided to channel Peri Gilpin as Roz Doyle this season. I’ll leave the hair in the 90s where it belongs, but so far I’ve spotted her in maxi dresses, chambray and again my favorite, peplum.

This post is part of Arkansas Women Bloggers BLOGtober Fest. Check out all of the fun here.

Why I’m wearing teal this Friday

I am an ovarian cancer survivor.  So many emotions bubble up inside of me when I make that statement. Believe it or not, shame is the one that registers highest on the ol’ feelings-o-meter. Why? I have long struggled with the feeling that my cancer experience pales in comparison with those of other survivors’ so greatly that I downplay it at best and flat-out pretend it never happened at worst. I have first-hand knowledge of the kind of cancer that takes every last vestige of hope and energy away from you, ultimately ending in the loss of precious life. My family and I were all right there with my baby brother, Russell, when the heavy burden of a brain tumor was laid on his slight, young shoulders. We watched him battle through surgery, chemo, radiation and other treatments that left him weak and sick. We saw him lose range of motion and slip into a coma. We gathered at his bedside when it was “time” on more than one occasion, including that October day when his suffering was ended.  
However, that same painful path was not planned for me. And, I might as well just say it, I feel guilty that what was laid on me was such “a walk in the park” in comparison. 

My friends, family and gynecologic oncologist (not to mention the bikini-prohibiting scar I acquired at just 21 years old) often have to remind me that my 8-lb tumor and the surgery that I went through to remove it were not “nothing.” At the same time, I was once told that my stage 1, level 1 tumor was “barely cancer,” as if there were such a thing. Since my pre-op CA-125 (the blood test that detects ovarian cancer) was negative, I didn’t even know that the watermelon-sized tumor that made me look three months pregnant was cancer until after the surgery to remove it. There were several days of waiting–in the hospital and once I was home– to find out if my cancer was all contained in the tumor or not, but I still can’t help thinking, I didn’t even know I had it until it was already gone. 
Let me stop right now and say that I am so very thankful that I was spared the awful realities of cancer treatments like radiation and chemo. Not to mention the fact that while my tumor was hey-you-can’t-ignore-me huge, the cancer itself did not progress beyond the first stage. Yet, even when saying that, the guilt weighs so heavy. Ladled upon these already shameful feelings, I think about the fact that I should be using my story as a means of hope and a light in the dark. I should be glorifying my God with unconstrained praise for not only sparing me such pain, but also for keeping my family from having to go through so much turmoil only 4 short years after Russell’s passing. It breaks my heart to think of my parents during that time. My mom, curled uncomfortably on the chair next to my hospital bed, unsleeping at 4 a.m. when I finally awoke from a drug-induced slumber and telling me that it was in fact, cancer. 
Instead, I mostly keep it to myself. Afraid that if people knew my story they would balk at my nerve to deem what I went through as surviving cancer. So I mention it in passing, wave it off when pressed for more details and sweat buckets when my family and friends request that I come to a Relay for Life and put on the purple shirt that says “Survivor” across the back in big, bold letters. I want it to remain this small thing that happened to me, yet at the same time, I so want other women to know that you can have this disease and not recognize the symptoms until it’s too late. As a billboard screamed at me while traveling home over the Labor Day holiday, “Your pap smear won’t detect ovarian cancer.” This is me screaming for those of you who read this and do not know this fact. Please pass it on to other women you know. Wear teal on Friday, and when someone compliments you (they will, it’s an awesome color), tell them why you’re wearing it. 
The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance‘s teal ribbon is in the photo at the top.


this one under “better late than never.” I have been remiss of late in
posting here. It seems all I have time to do is post my weekly guest
series on my good friend’s photography blog. If you are planning on
getting photos taken for any reason, jump over to Rebekah’s photo blog and see my photo-tastic outfit
options. The last three weeks I’ve been focusing on what couples should
wear for engagement photos.

Speaking of couples…

I have been loving this lovely series by graphic designer and
letterpress artist/blogger Amanda Jane Jones. Titled, My Better Half,
it’s a little peek into the lives of ordinary (extraordinary, really)
couples. It is so interesting to read about these people that I don’t
know and learn what makes them tick, what makes their relationships

my parents recently celebrated their 36th anniversary, I decided I
would dedicate this couple-centric post to them and do my own version of
my better half featuring them. (Without Amanda’s great graphics, I’m afraid.)

Philip & Malinda: The Early Years

1. My dad is the guy you go to if you want to know anything.
He also has the uncanny knack of finding people he knows wherever he
is. On family vacations, trips to the store, a dinner outing, you can
expect him to run into someone he knows (and still remembers from high school!).
3. Has a great love for music that started in his adolescence, and he still plays it too loud.

1. Loves paper & tags of all kinds and collects them. Throw away a cool-looking tag off a new shirt and you are dead to her.
Still wants to do everything she planned to do “when she grows up.”
This probably has something to do with why she is always in a library.
Had a dream when she was younger that she was the lucky winner of a
coveted grand prize: a brand new baby. She went on to have 4 children.

Mom & Dad Christmas 2010

How they met:
version of the story I’ve always grown up hearing goes like this: Dad
was stationed in my mother’s hometown of Killeen, TX. Some friends set
them up on a blind date that went just okay. Flash forward to when my
mom is at church and sees this cute guy and asks her friend, “Who is
that?” Imagine her surprise when her friend told her, “that’s the guy you
went on a date with the other night!” And as they say, the rest is
history. Happy (belated) anniversary mom and dad!