Thursday, December 22, 2011


Sometimes I amaze myself at the type of person I’ve become.  From the sheltered life I had as a child to the wild years of college followed by the even wilder days at the ski resort to the young professional moving to a big city to now.  And “now” is pretty cool.  This person I have become is still confuddled (confused + befuddled) that I have survived all of life’s experiences.

I feel accomplished in my chosen profession and enjoy it (most days).  I have an amazing family who communicates openly and honestly (never have to question what they really meant to say).  My friends are absolute gems (priceless and pretty) and are cemented into my extended family (see the note regarding communication above).  I have been blessed with several opportunities that I have chosen to accept and am gaining the wisdom to understand how my perfect plan is not what God had planned for me.  I don’t believe God has predestined my life but I believe the Lord has bigger and better things laid out for me.  He lets me choose the path I want to take … and, at times, he persuades me to get back on track when I stray.  I feel so incredibly thankful that the plans I have built for myself are crumbling because my faith has led me to know that I really don’t know what I’m doing.  And that realization is how people grow up.

Having recently ended a year long relationship I’m surprised that my world has not shattered.  In fact, it has gotten so much better.  (Before I explain how it has gotten better this posting is no reflection on the pros and cons of my past relationship but the way I’m growing as a person.)  My friendships have grown stronger, the foundation of my family has proven to be solid, the focus on my goals are clearer, my entire support system is a lot larger than I could have hoped for, and my faith in what is unseen has never waivered.  I find that I’m becoming less afraid of the “what-ifs” and more excited about the adventures that are still waiting for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I was fully invested in my relationship and the break up really was a breaking of my heart.  However, I’m stronger in my beliefs, stronger in my friendships, and more grateful for the things that I have that are intangible.  I’m as giddy as a child on Christmas morning that has a large present under the tree with their name all over it.  I don’t know what that gift is yet but this feeling of excitement is pretty incredible and I couldn’t feel more loved or wanted than I do at this moment.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Eat Your Heart Out, Martha Stewart

I wrote a post many moons ago about making homemade laundry detergent.  As I'm writing this post I'm making my second batch of detergent from the same original ingredients.  I wash at least one load of laundry a week and I think going 4 months without having to make a new batch (or buy the store bought variety) is pretty darn good.

The laundry does not leave a smell on my clothes.  Some folks like the smell of their laundry detergent because of the smell.  I don't care about it.  My dryer sheets (store bought) leave enough of a fresh scent for my liking. 

I've also noticed that my front load washer doesn't smell of mildew like it did with store bought detergent.  Interesting, and thankful, side effect.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Omen

This past Monday I was sitting in my company’s conference room with the rest of the staff discussing projects, office schedules, and pursuits.  We do this every Monday.  It is routine.  Sometimes it is monotonous. 

However, this Monday was different.  Something hit the side of the conference room window hard.  REALLY HARD!  Like taking a baseball bat to the glass hard.

The noise made everyone jump a bit and then we looked outside.  A dove had flown into the glass and lay on the ground dead.  In that moment all you can do is stare and then laugh because of the awkwardness of the situation.  Then it gets really quiet because the thought of “this is an omen for my week” starts to pour through everyone’s mind.

But don’t fear!  One of the owners of the company (who is a good ol’ hunting Cajun) pipes up and says, “I can clean him off and add him to my limit for this week.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Meaning Behind 'Karma'

I was having a "moment" the other day at work.  The comment I made was, "I'm not cut out for a 8 to 5 job!  I should have been a trust fund baby!"  Then, I realized that my parents were at fault for my 8 to 5 job because they were the reason why I was not born into a trust fund.

You see my logic.

While at the office, I promptly called my mom and said, "You and dad were very unfair in not allowing me to be a trust fund baby!"  My mom, having known me all my life, laughed and hung up on me.  I doubt she took my complaint seriously.  I'm not really sure who else to complain to because I think my folks are the final decision makers on the trust fund issue.

Later that evening I am eating Chinese food with the same mother who laughed at my earlier comment.  The entire meal was pleasant: good food, good company, and funny conversation.  Then came time for the fortune cookie ceremonies that end the meal.
The ceremony includes opening a fortune cookie, reading the fortune aloud, adding "in bed" at the end of the fortune reading, and then giggling like crazy.

I cracked open my fortune cookie and almost started crying.  I had no fortune.

The Chinese don't even want me to be a trust fund baby!

On the other hand, mom, after seeing my non-fortune fortune cookie, laughed hysterically.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Facial Hair That's Fun to Wear

When Halloween falls on a work day it kind of takes all of the fun out of it.  Corporate America, for the most part, doesn't have a sense of humor.  If it did, you would see gremlins, goblins and a stray Elvis in the building.  I would totally go to work just to see that!

So, I brought my own version of fun Halloween costumes for the office to enjoy.  Chocolate Mustaches!  Wilton has a candy mold that is the perfect excuse to crave the manly mustache.  While it may not be gremlins, goblins or Elvis they are still fun.  Plus, it ties in nicely with the beginning of Movember tomorrow.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Give Yourself a Christmas Gift

A co-worker of mine sent me an email of ads you'll never see again.  However, thanks to the Internet, we can see them all the time!  And laugh at them.  Or gawk.

Advertising people are genius.  Or stupid.  I have friends in advertising so I'm not going to judge them.  I am a marketing person so I get why some people (me) will buy a product (glitter face paint) that is not needed.  Advertising has done wonders for our economy and a lot of damage to my pocket book.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Might Lose It

All work and no play makes Julie a dull girl.
All work and no play makes Julie a dull girl.
All work and no play makes Julie a dull girl.
All work and no play makes Julie a dull girl.
All work and no play makes Julie a dull girl.
All work and no play makes Julie a dull girl.
All work and no play makes Julie a dull girl.

I might need a vacation.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Population Control

In case you do not have medical insurance and birth control pills put a burden on your wallet I suggest using IKEA.  It doesn't cost a thing to walk around the store and let other people's children dart in front of your cart, wipe their snotty noses on the merchandise, and act like little demons.  IKEA is the solution to population control.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Never Ending Monday

It seems like I am living the actual Bill Murray movie "Groundhog Day".  I wake up and it is the same thing.  EVERY.  DAY.  However, my never ending day is a Monday.

I might kidnap Punxsutawney Phil, steal a truck, and drive off a cliff.
Or maybe I'll just wait for Friday and hope it all gets better.

Monday, October 17, 2011

What Would Conan Do?

I’m a huge fan of Conan O’Brien.  He wrote one of the best episodes of “The Simpsons” ever (‘Marge vs. the Monorail’) and can make people laugh with a single look.  His comedy mixes a clever use of one-liners, silent treatments, and lanky dancing that only he can do.

I recently watched the documentary about his life between “The Tonight Show” and “Conan”.  He did a comedy tour: The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour.  While the documentary does show clips from his tour it actually shows a side of Conan that is not often seen.  He likes to have fun, cares about his employees and fans, and is passionate about what he does. 
So it got me thinking, “What would companies be like if our bosses were like Conan?”  If corporate CEOs put their employees and clients before themselves I’m pretty sure our country’s rebound from the recession would be going better.  If our leaders cracked a joke or thoroughly enjoyed going to the office maybe employee retention would skyrocket.  If everyone at our companies were passionate about what they did maybe productivity would be the envy of other countries.

Not only am I fan but I’m also a believer.  Team CoCo all the way!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ruining the Fantasy

Talking with a girl friend on the phone yesterday we were discussing men.  Specifically, we were discussing Matthew McConaughey and Gerard Butler.
She said she would like to spend her days with Matthew and I countered that I'd prefer to spend my days with Gerard.  However, we both agreed that neither of them should actually talk when in our presence.  It would totally ruin the fantasy.

I was having this phone conversation while at work (we were waiting for the project manager to join the meeting and were killing time).  So, from my end of the conversation all you heard was, "Agreed.  Men should never talk.  It ruins everything."

My male co-worker looked over at my desk when I said this and gave me an annoyed look of "I can hear you".  So I shouted back, "DON'T EVER TALK! YOU'LL JUST RUIN EVERYTHING!"

I am still giggling uncontrollably.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Le Sigh

I made the horrible mistake of looking at American Airlines' miles program deals yesterday.  I saw that I could go to Paris in the month of October on my saved up frequent flier miles.  I'd only have to pay taxes and fees (about $50). 

DE-PRESS-ING!  My schedule doesn't allow for me to pick up and leave right now.  I know patience is a virtue but I was not blessed with that fruit of the spirit.  My immature self was egging me on, "JUST GO!  You aren't getting any younger and it is a great deal!  Think of all the relaxing, sightseeing, and French speaking you could do!"  My immature self is a jerk.

My mature self said, "You have responsibilities to tend to and you can't leave.  The airline tickets may be cheap but you'd have to pay for a hotel and the euro is still stronger than the dollar.  Just wait until you are financially in a better position to go."  My mature self is a jerk, too. 

Good thing my passport has expired.  If it hadn't I might be typing this post from Paris.  C'est la vie.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Don't Try This At Home

Have you heard about Amber Miller?  She's the woman who makes every person on the face of the planet look like they aren't doing enough.  She ran the Chicago marathon before giving birth a few hours after crossing the finish line.  Don't believe me?  Then read this.

Kudos to Amber for being "I am woman, hear me roar" but she's making the rest of us look bad.  I think I'm doing good if I brush my teeth before lunch time.  Even if I did run a half marathon I'm not sure I'd want to squeeze out a baby right after it.  I would prefer to get a massage, pedicure, hamburger, and nap.  In that order.

And you know her beautiful daughter, June, is never going to live the whole situation down.

Mom: June, for the hundredth time, go clean your room!
June: Mom, I'm tired.  I'll get to it later.
Mom: Do you want me to tell you about tired?!  Try running 13 miles and then squeezing a 7 pound watermelon out your who-ha!  Now, GO CLEAN YOUR ROOM!
June: OMG!  You are so dramatic!

Just in case you were wondering "who-ha" is a technical term. 

Poor June.  She's going to have to live up to a lot.  Maybe if June runs a full marathon then builds a house with her bare hands before breaking in a wild mustang will her mom get off her back about taking the easy route.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Skinny Butt Cakes

My mom is a true artist.  Her works are masterpieces and also taste YUMMY!  I'm pretty sure the Statue of David does not taste great and I have seen the Mona Lisa.  She is not edible.

I honestly don't know how my mom does it all or how she gets the cake so out-of-this-world dang good because she doesn't eat sweets.  Her skinny butt has never tasted one of her cakes.  I'm pretty sure she is breaking a law of physics somewhere.
Little Mermaid ... tiers are strawberry with vanilla filling, chocolate with chocolate ganache filling, and banana with peanut butter filling.

Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar

Top layer was reserved for the birthday boy who tried to eat the entire car before giving up and going to play with friends.

Birthday girl is named Reagan which required the Republican reference of elephants.

Snowman is made out of rice krispie treats.

Super Hero cake with the birthday boy (made out of fondant) dressed in a cape.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Quick Dish: Squash Frittata

I don't know about you but I love saying the word "frittata".  I put a hard E in the place of the I and spit out the Ts.  "FREE-TATA"!  Almost makes it sound inappropriate.  Which is probably why I like saying it.

I made a squash frittata for a dinner party a few weeks back.  I bought the squash at the farmers market that morning and had the rest of the ingredients in the fridge.  A very simple dish that looks and tastes great.

Spray your baking dish with a non-stick cooking spray.  Slice up the squash (I used the green and yellow varieties) and layer the squash.  Make sure you salt every two layers.  I did it by color hoping the various layers would show when cut but it didn't work out that way.  Oh well.  Still tasted delicious.
Mix together eggs (five), cheese (cheddar, asiago, and white cheddar), and spices (garlic, parsley, pepper).  Pour the egg mixture over the squash.  You can also mix the squash with the egg mixture and then layer the squash.  But that gets messy and I didn't want to deal with a mess right before a dinner party.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until the eggs are set.  Let it cool a bit before cutting. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Part 2: Lousy Larry

Another story in the saga of Lousy Larry. 

Lousy Larry had a "heart condition".  I use the quotation marks because whenever it suited him Lousy Larry stated that he needed to have a "procedure" done that was going to be really major.  And, in his opinion, the doctors would probably recommend that he needed to have open heart surgery.  So he would need to take a day or two off.


Amazing that even though Lousy Larry had a serious "heart condition" it never deterred him from ordering several burgers from McDonald's or the unhealthiest thing on the menu at any given restaurant.  Lousy Larry should be called Fred G. Sanford.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Shout Out: Sweet Firefly

As I was getting my hair did on Friday I over heard a lady in the chair next to me talking about her shop opening up the next day (Saturday).  Being the nosey person that I am I asked her what she was talking about.  Patti was thrilled to tell me about her ice cream shop opening a few doors down from the hair salon.

So, again, being the nosey person that I am I stopped by the shop on Saturday to sample the goodies.  The shop, Sweet Firefly, is located in II Creeks shopping center in Richardson.  Stopping by on a Saturday is ideal because the Farmers Market is going on and the shops are hopping.  And the line at Sweet Firefly is long. 

The shop has seating outside which was crowded by the folks who already had their treats and were enjoying the amazing weather and prime people watching.

Inside, the line of customers eagerly gaze at the menu board and watch the staff behind the counter prepare the orders.  Opposite the ice cream line there are jars filled with all sorts of candies and chocolate covered goodies.  It is your one-stop shop for delicious cavity inducing treats.

But the one item that made it easy for me to decide to give them a “Shout Out” is the availability of shaved ice.  I have not had a good snow cone since moving to Dallas.  Plus, they carry the flavor ‘Tigers Blood’.  This flavor has nothing to do with Charlie Sheen but has everything to do with my childhood days of standing in line at JJ Snow Cones burning the bottom of my feet while I hoped and prayed that I didn’t melt before I was able to get my precious ice and syrup concoction.  And Sweet Firefly brought all of those fun memories flooding back.  I honestly felt like a kid in a candy store.
I love the mason jar light pendants!
Additionally, the grown up in me is looking forward to spending time hanging out at Sweet Firefly.  The shop offers WiFi access and coffee.  I did not sample the ice cream this time but there is a vast array of flavors.  Patti said they have a dairy that makes the ice cream specifically for the shop.  The prices are quite reasonable, too.  Patti and her team are continuously looking for ways to make customers happy and to ensure repeat clientele.  I honestly think Sweet Firefly will have an avid following of people who want to relive their childhoods and create those same memories for their children.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Caught You!

I caught one of the Owners of my firm playing with his iPhone during a guest's presentation yesterday.  When he saw me walking by he very slowly put the iPhone down. 

I should have grabbed it and told him he would get it back after class.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Quick Dish: Chicken Noodle Soup

This past weekend I was not feeling well.  The cure for my illness included laying on my couch in my PJs while watching reruns of The Simpsons.  Don't judge me.  You handle your illness how you see fit and I'll handle mine as I see fit.

Part of the recovery process also included some homemade chicken noodle soup.  Nothing feels quite as comforting as a hug from momma like a bowl of delicious soup.

I started the soup by using an entire carton of unsalted chicken stock over medium heat.  I added a diced onion, three carrots, four celery stalks, a handful of celery leaves, three cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh basil, two handfuls of fresh parsley, two handfuls of slice mushrooms, and a tablespoon of sea salt.  I covered the pot and let the vegetables cook through.  I also had some leftover rotisserie chicken that I cut up into chunks and added it to the soup.  I added a cup of uncooked elbow noodles (I ventured into the gluten free product section) and turned down the heat to low, recovered the pot, and let the soup simmer during the amount of time it took me to organize my jewelry box and do laundry ... roughly 20 minutes.
Delicious gluten free pasta!
The end result is an amazing concoction of immune boosting taste.  The FDA has not proven my "immune boosting" statement but it felt like it because I feel 100 times better today.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Finish Line of Year One

Today marks the one year anniversary of the boyfriend and mine's first date.  On the surface, our first date was nothing outrageous.  We went to dinner and then a walk around the park.  However, I felt like our date is what Hollywood movies are made of; magical without the 3-D effects or pyrotechnics.

I'm not sure how I have managed to hide my psychotic personality from him for so long but it seems to be working.  He has yet to run for the hills or gather the village people to hunt down the monster that dwells inside me. 

Every woman has it inside her to be normal one minute and then a complete basket case the next.  Most of us do a good job of keeping the Wicked Witch of the West hidden but sometimes guys can be guys and the only solution is to open a can of whoop ass and get crazy.  The boyfriend, while very much a guy (and sometimes has the humor of a 12 year old boy), has yet required the open can of whoop ass.  Kudos to him, but more of a kudos to me for looking beyond the typical guy behavior and being appreciative of his good nature, good looks, and good sense of humor.

It also helps that I read Dave Barry's Guide to Guys.  Barry's book breaks down the guy's need to race lawn mowers into a way that women can understand it.  Simply ... guys are idiots.  Barry's words, not mine.

My boyfriend is not an idiot but he is a guy.  A guy who I appreciate for making me laugh during a rough week, enjoying nerdy documentaries as much as I do, and reminding me that life is too short to not enjoy every minute.  I'm fortunate to call the boyfriend mine ... including all of his guyness. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Best Commercial Ever

I love Tivo because I hate commercials.  However, if you have seen the movie "UHF" with Weird Al Yankovic you automatically love the commercials the small TV station airs.  If companies created commercials like the one below I might give up my love affair with Tivo.  Might, but not likely.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Part 1: Lousy Larry

I worked with a certain individual in a former life who is ... unique.  That is the nicest way to put it.  In order to protect the innocent (me) I have named him Lousy Larry.  I have a treasure trove of wonderful stories of how Lousy Larry drove me insane.  This is the first one.

Lousy Larry: You know the project manager for that project is a woman.  And she's asking a lot of questions that project managers should know. 

Me:  Maybe she wants to clarify the information that is being passed around.  You know, get everyone on the same page.

Lousy Larry: (ignoring my comment) It is kind of embarrassing that she is asking all of those questions.  She is not giving female architects a good name.

Me:  That's like saying you are the prime example of the male species and, therefore, all men are idiots.

Lousy Larry stared at me in disbelief that I would talk back to a man and then promptly stormed out of my office.

Julie: 1
Lousy Larry: 0

Friday, September 23, 2011

Singing On Key Is Not Part of My Job

When I get tired ... and I mean slap-yo-momma tired ... I sing.  Off key.  As loud as I can.  This act does not give me more energy but it does wake up me up long enough to finish whatever I'm doing so I can go to bed.

Lately, I have been singing at work.  I'm hoping they'll ask me to go home early.

Don't you wish you worked with me?!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Iron the Big Girl Panties

The boss came walking down the line of offices yesterday and said, "Where's Mary?"  I said she hadn't been in all day.  He replied, "Oh, I guess it is Monday!"  (Mary takes a lot of Mondays off for vacation.  All approved by management.)  The co-workers and I looked at him, corrected him and said it was, in fact, Tuesday.  Mary was out sick.  He sighed and said, "You guys never get my jokes." 

So I popped off and said, "Oh, so when you aren't in the office we should all think it is Friday?"  (The boss takes a lot of Fridays off and forgets to tell anyone he won't be in.)  He laughed and then quite frankly said, "Oh, shut up."

Dang, someone's panties are in a wad.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hearts & Hammers

Today is the first day of Hearts & Hammers.  This event gives companies and organizations the opportunity to give back to the community.  My company, along with some companies we work with on a continuous basis, will be sprucing up a house for an elderly lady.

Our duties for the workday include scraping the paint from the siding, replacing boards, repairing lights, moving plants, and painting the porch.  The homeowner is 91 years of age and will be celebrating her 92nd birthday the day after her house is complete. 

I don't know of a better birthday present to give than a home that is spruced up and safer for the family to enjoy their mother/grandmother/great grandmother's birthday.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Office Sneezing

I have been sneezing like crazy in the office.  The weather is changing but I don’t sneeze when I’m at home or outside.  So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

I did a Neti pot wash this morning.  Don’t know what that is?  Here is the summary of it: put water and a saline solution into the container, put head over sink, pour solution up one nasal opening and then the other, stand clear of anything that pours out.  This is supposed to clear the naval cavities of any irritants.

You know what happened?  I am still sneezing at the office.  Therefore, I have proven that I’m allergic to work.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dumpy Day Fix

Have you ever had one of those days where it feels like nothing is ever going to go right?  My dear and wonderful boyfriend is having a week full of those days.  Poor fella.  However, he still looks very attractive throughout the entire process.  That may not make his week better but at least I have something yummy to look at.  (If you read this, dear boyfriend, I think you are dreamy.)

Not to make light of his down-in-the-dumps week but we have all been there.  I once had a stint of a few months that really sucked.  During those times I am reminded of "Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb".  In one of the final scenes, Major Kong rides the bomb all the way to explosion by riding the device as a cowboy (hat waving while whoopin' and hollerin').
In case you are wondering, it would be totally awesome to have that kind of freedom and carefree way when a down-in-the-dumps kind of day hits.  However, I do not condone or support nuclear weapons.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Walt Disney's Intentions

Sometimes Disney movies teach us a thing or two about being human.

‘Bambi’ taught me that if I have nothing nice to say then say nothing at all.  There are severe consequences if you lie, according to ‘Pinocchio’.  In ‘Dumbo’ being different is great.  Some decisions in life are difficult to make like in ‘Old Yeller’.

I recently watched ‘Tangled’.  Not sure what kind of life lesson I am supposed to take away from that movie.  Defy my mom?  Run off with a guy I barely know?  Paint on my bedroom walls?  Seriously, I’m not sure.  It was a cute movie, though. 

However, I did steal one line from the movie.  After the bar scene (IT IS A KIDS MOVIE! WHY IS THERE A BAR SCENE?!), a short old man walks out of the tavern and says to the hag, “Someone get me a glass.  I just found a tall drink of water.”

I used this amazing line at my office.  The architect who sits next to me in our open concept office plan is a 50-something former construction worker and a little rough around the edges.  When he walked in late one morning I used that line on him: “Someone get me a glass!  I just found a tall drink of water.”

Best.  Reaction.  Ever.  He stood there, speechless, staring at me. 

Thanks, Disney.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blue Steel Moments

My house has a long hallway that leads to the two guest bedrooms, guest bathroom, and master suite.  There is nothing amazing about this hallway.  I have some artwork hung on the wall, there’s a hall light, and the linen closet is at the end.  Trust me, it is a regular hallway.

It is regular until I feel sassy.  And I ALWAYS feel sassy.  At these moments in my life I transform my regular hallway into a fashion catwalk. 

I practice my model stomp, pose, arms swinging, and blank stare.  I try to perfect the look of “I’m better than you in every way” that models tend to have on the catwalk. 

Additionally, I also like to walk like the country girls from ‘America’s Next Top Model’.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about then imagine a dog wearing shoes.  It is a horrendous walk but OH-SO-MUCH-FUN to practice in my amazing (transformed) hallway of fashion.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Debating Swagger

Do you know "swagger" when you see it?  And is it a good thing?

Merriam-Webster defines swagger as "arrogant or conceitedly self-assured behavior".  Well then!  Posh on all those swaggers out there!

But wait a minute.  What about Urban Dictionary?  What does it have to say about swagger?  "How one presents him or her self to the world. Swagger is shown from how the person handles a situation. Swagger is to move with confidence and sophistication."

If you go by the Urban Dictionary definition maybe one would say that James Earl Jones has swagger or Kate Middleton is the epitome of swagger.  However, if you use Merriam-Webster's definition then I'd put Charlie Sheen or any politician on that list. 

I personally use the Urban Dictionary definition.  There are some people who exude confidence and they automatically draw you to them because some part of them you aspire to be more like.  After all, Kate Middleton's swagger helped her wear those funny British hats and snagged her a prince.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Quick Dish: Okra & Tomatoes

I may live in a big city but I grew up country.  As a kid I thought having scabs on your knees was the way it was supposed to be, getting a spanking for acting up was a parent’s duty to make sure you never turned out to be a felon, and building forts in the living room on a rainy afternoon kept Momma sane and the my brothers and I busy.

I also come from a family who lived on very little.  My family had a garden in our yard that grew tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, and whatever else would grow in the Texas heat and red clay.  One year my dad showed us which row was for the Hamburger Helper … we used to eat a lot of that stuff so we might as well grow it.  (We also ate ‘Zebra’ meat but that story is for another day.)

Visiting the farmers market this past weekend allowed me to live a little of my childhood.  I am a bit obsessed with okra.  Pickled?  Yes.  Steamed?  Yes.  Cooked with tomatoes?  Double YES!  Therefore, last night I cooked all of the fresh okra I bought on Saturday with a can of diced tomatoes, some fresh tomatoes, a splash of chicken stock, and sea salt. 

I used Kumato tomatoes since they were what I had on hand.
In case you are wondering, I’m pretty sure this dish is on the buffet line in heaven.  You literally throw everything in one pot on medium heat and cover it.  Sweet Baby Jesus!  It tastes like my grandma walked in with a fresh batch of okra from her garden and cooked it.  No special spices or herbs … just plain garden goodness. 
If you grew up country or are in need of an escape from the concrete jungle please make this dish.  Not only is it healthy but it is also simple.  A simple dish to mimic the simple life.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Climbing One Rung at a Time

I attended a luncheon yesterday provided by the Richardson Chamber of Commerce where Anne Motsenbocker of JPMorgan Chase spoke about climbing the corporate ladder.  To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from the luncheon but the atmosphere offered great networking.  I couldn’t pass it up.

Anne is the President and Regional CEO of Chase Commercial Banking.  She is a great public speaker (even if she is a banker) and connects well with the audience.  She told us stories about getting constructive criticism from a former boss that was quite blunt.  However, that criticism was probably the best advice she ever got in her career.  Anne also told the audience about giving feedback to an employee that was difficult to give but it has allowed her to be a better manager.  She also took a tongue lashing from a client for losing meeting notes.  She said it was well deserved but it also taught her to be more organized and to graciously say “I screwed up”.

I was actually amazed that Anne opened up and shared with the attendees career details that were not always pretty.  It made me feel a bit more human and gave me a little boost to continue to keep climbing the corporate ladder while pulling other people up with you.  She pointed out that many times individuals think they have to step on other people to get ahead but a career is more satisfying if you can look around and enjoy the view with those individuals who you have encouraged to keep moving forward and the other individuals who have been mentors along the way.
The networking was great but I truly enjoyed the main attraction.  I’ve had highs and lows in my career but listening to a successful woman tell about her highs and lows makes me want to keep pushing up the ladder.  However, if the winning lottery ticket comes across my ladder I’m taking a VERY LONG vacation.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Words of Wisdom from Homer

Some days are rough.  Those days require a little pick me up.  My pick me up?  Watching guys getting hit in the family jewels. 

Sadistic?  Yes.  Hilarious?  Most definitely!

I realized that I have the same reaction to all of those ball-hits-groin home video clips as Homer Simpson.  His reaction is below. 
And maybe Homer has a point about American work ethics.  I wonder if the current Presidential candidates will reference Homer's point of view in their discussions about creating jobs.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Shout Out: Four Season Farmers Market

I absolutely love farmers markets.  The produce that you can find at these outdoor markets are seasonal, delicious, and the person who grew it will tell you a million different recipes on how to cook the one item you purchased from them. 

I was pleasantly surprised this past Saturday when I visited the Four Seasons Richardson farmers market at II Creeks off of Custer Road.  The farmers market is every Saturday from 9am until 2pm (or until the weather permits).  The vendors offer various goods as well: fruits, vegetables, brisket, tamales, wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, clothes, jewelry, honey, salts, rubs.  This past Saturday there was also a dog adoption group with the various members who were looking for their forever home.  The entire market is pretty spectacular and a diamond in the rough. 

Some of the things that emptied my bank account included a magical lime wine from a winery in Rusk, Texas.  It tastes like a margarita but it is definitely a wine.  I can’t wait to have a Mexican food dinner party so I can share the bottle.  Free samples were handed out and those samples really do sell the entire bottle.
Lone Star Cellars is spectacular!
I also bought a bottle of olive oil infused with parmesan cheese and walnuts; a glorious dipping sauce for bread, a quick salad dressing, or a lovely addition to a bowl of pasta.  Again, samples were provided.  YUM!
The fruits and vegetables did not pass my eye either.  I went ahead and did all of my weekly shopping for the week: sweet potatoes, onions, green beans, squash, okra, peaches, jalapenos, green tomatoes.  I could have bought more but I ran out of money.
Items I also brought home but have not yet tried are brisket tamales and Hawaiian sea salt (very hard to find).  I’m tickled pink to have ventured out and found a place that you can have a conversation with someone who actually knows the product and will be honest with you (if a peach looks bad they will pull it and give you the best one they can find). 

You need to check the website to see which vendors will be at the coming week’s farmers market because some rotate out.  I can’t wait to go exploring this coming Saturday!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Healthy Dose of Giggles

Have you ever said things just to get a reaction?  I sure have.  It is so much fun!

I like to say things that people only think.  For example, when I’m at a work networking event I will introduce myself to a stranger by saying “Hi, I’m Julie.  I’m kind of a big deal.”  If they laugh then I know I can keep talking to them.  If not, then I move on to the next person.

Last week one of my co-workers was worked up over some project details.  Another co-worker told him to “leave it alone” because those details would work themselves out without interference from our company’s end.  The conversation stopped.  I butted in and yelled, “Stop messing with it!  You’ll go blind!”  Lots of giggling ensued.

The other day I was at the bank with two other folks from a professional organization I’m a part of to switch some contact information over on a business account.  The bank representative was trying to make small talk and asked our group how our organization made money.  My answer … “embezzlement”.  I was bored.  And the bank representative’s face was priceless.  (Keep in mind that we were joking around with him the entire time.  Don’t try this in the first few sentences with a bank representative.  The other two people were honest with him.  We are in the clear.)

Life is too short not to make fun of it.  I need a healthy dose of giggling on a daily basis just to remind myself that the best things in life are hilarious.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Who Stays Organized?

I love it when I am organized.  Everything has a place and my brain doesn’t have to work so hard to find stuff.  It is amazing at how efficient I can be when items are in order.

And then another deadline pops up unexpectedly, a project has to go out now, the laundry needs to be done, the dishes are piling up, a meeting is needed now ... and all my beautiful organization goes the way of the Dodo Bird.
That one day I'm organized is amazing.  Then there are those 364 days out of the year that I pray for an Organizing Fairy to come down and get it done for me.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Quick Dish: Crab Cocktail Salad

This past Saturday I was at the Navy Pier in Chicago.  A magical place where adults can be kids and kids can be kids.  However, at no time can kids be adults.  That's just annoying.
View is courtesy from my seat in the ferris wheel.
Mom and I had lunch at Riva on the pier.  Our appetizer was a crab cocktail and it is absolutely delicious!  So delicious that Mom made it last night for dinner.  No cooking involved.

The ingredients are cocktail sauce, fresh lump crab meat (already cooked), mixed greens, and diced avocado.  The avocado was not part of the original cocktail but it should have been. Layer the ingredients by placing the cocktail sauce in the bottom of the dish, place the greens on top of that, the crab next, and then the avocado.  The individual servings should be mixed before eating. 
Not only is the dish lip smacking good but it is quite light.  Gotta love a meal that is filling but doesn't have all of that guilt soaked in it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Make It Rain

When I left Chicago on Sunday at 3pm the temperature was 82 degrees.  When I arrived in Dallas three hours later it was 106 degrees.  There are only a few words that can describe that kind of temperature change: horrendous, stupid, and “what the?”.  There are other words but they are unsavory for the cyber world.
Thankfully, it rained yesterday.  I do believe I had a hand in making it rain.  I wished, hoped and prayed for it to happen.  The weather folks can go back to playing chess, matching those awful ties with the hideous pastel shirts, or whatever it is they do.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chicago Living

I am in Chicago for work.  More specifically, for a work conference.  I love meeting new people, learning from other people's experiences and perspectives, and finding out when people don't get the proper work/life balance and then go to a conference they like to get crazy.  Gotta love conference folks!

Plus, the hotel experience is great.  I don't have a lavish room but I do have an air conditioner and I keep it on full blast.  Parkas are required to enter my room.  Awesome!  We could have a snow ball fight and possibly ski jump from the bed to the closet.  Bring your own skis.

Today is the last day of sessions and then I get to explore a little bit of Chicago.  The weather here is perfect.  Sunny with a bit of a breeze and if you sit in the shade you need a sweater.  I can't wait to sit outside and not sweat.  The breeze here is also cooler!

I like this strange land called Chicago. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hit List Honorees

I don’t know who thought it would be hilarious to have two Mondays back to back but whoever they are will be going on my hit list.  The list also includes the DJs who play Christmas music before Thanksgiving.

In case you were wondering, yesterday did turn into Tourette Tuesday.  Another classy day.  Multi-tasking is a way of life for me especially when I have four projects that have to be handled at the same time.  When it comes down to the wire, manners go out the window because I need every bit of brain capacity to get the smallest details right.  When the smallest detail is not right then I lapse into Tourette Syndrome. 

However, yesterday is over.  Today is Wednesday and tomorrow is Thursday.  And you know what that means …

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Zombie Monday

Have you ever had one of those Mondays where nothing goes right, you never fully wake up, and you feel like the walking dead?  Well, welcome to my yesterday.  Zombie Monday.
I have two large projects that need to go out at the same time today.  Joy. (Note sarcasm.)  I spent the first part of my Zombie Monday frantically trying to get things done for one of the projects.  To only realize after lunch that I did it all wrong.  I ended up involuntarily spewing out another rainbow of colorful words in front of my boss.  Don’t worry … I denied saying everything.  I should be a politician.

The rest of the day was spent pouring over historical project information, tracking down project managers, and trying to maintain some kind of ladylike composure.  Yeah, I laughed too when I thought about me being ladylike.

Another Monday done.  Let’s hope Tuesday doesn’t turn into Tourette Tuesday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stupid Unicorns

I had a run in with a water bug the other night.  Regular people call them water bugs.  I call them “M$#@!!% F&@?!”.  That is not a subtle way to say I cursed at the bug but that’s the actual words that came out of my mouth when I saw it.

Yesterday I was frantically cleaning my house in anticipation of my mom coming to visit.  The mom house inspection is top notch.  I can build a brand new house, have a HAZMAT team come in and wipe the place clean, and mom will still be able to find something I missed.  She’s that awesome.

Part of my cleaning involved moving my couch so I could dust the wood floors underneath.  I’m still pretty skittish after the water bug episode so I was being cautious as to what I was moving around.  When I pushed the sofa I came across this …
I thought it was the LARGEST “M$#@!!% F&@?!” in the history of the Earth.  It only turned out to be a toy that one of my nephews or nieces left under my couch.  However, you would have thought it was a unicorn by all of the colorful words that came out of my mouth.  I might have wet my britches a little but that might just be a figment of my imagination. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The "Getting Thinner" Lady is Singing

I finished!  The juicing diet is done and I’m a better American because of it.  Well, not really.  I mean, I do pay my taxes and I’m not a felon but there is no magic to the diet.  I found that I did sleep better.  Even if I got 5 hours of sleep I awoke feeling refreshed.  Several people commented that my complexion looked great and I found myself being more focused during the day. 

I thoroughly enjoyed going through this experience because it made me realize how wonderful fruits and vegetables are and how filling they can be.  It also made cooking more of an adventure and easier to clean up.  When you don’t have to worry about your food being cooked to a certain temperature, raw meat contaminating other ingredients, or using different knives and cooking utensils during the cooking process you find that you have more time to do clean up and food prep.

Last night I had a girls night at my friend Cathy’s house.  My other friend, Bonnie, and I volunteered to bring food for everyone.  Cathy is vegan and I was still on my juicing diet.  The food offered appeased to those of us on the juicing diet (me), vegans (Cathy), and everyone else. 

Bonnie brought some hummus and fresh red bell pepper as an appetizer.  She also made a vegan chocolate fondue that everyone could dip angel food cake, brownies, strawberries, cherries and bananas in.  The chocolate was not part of my juicing diet but you know what?  WHO CARES!  I tried one strawberry and one banana in the vegan chocolate because it was just that good.  I don’t regret it. 
I brought lettuce wraps.  I had two options: Mexican wraps and Asian wraps.  I laid the various fillings out in small bowls so each person could build their own wrap.  We used romaine lettuce leaves as the wrap and I had the following items for the filling:
  • Fresh grilled corn
  • Green onions
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes fries (I baked them in the oven with a little bit of olive oil and garlic salt)
  • Zucchini
  • Avocado
  • Poblano peppers
  • Pico de gallo (I made it the night before)
  • Chicken
  • Fish (tilapia)
Each filling ingredient was labeled.
Everyone loved the wraps.  Having the ingredients separate allowed each person to customize their own dinner and the meat options gave those non-juicers and non-vegans a lean protein.  The wraps are quite filling but low calorie.  Bonus points!

I also made a blueberry tartlet.  I found this recipe in one of my SELF magazines and it is vegan appropriate.  The crust is made by mixing dates and almonds in a food processor until a chunky paste forms.  I ran out of dates so I added a few prunes.  Worked great.
Next, mix the blueberries with fresh squeezed orange juice and the zest of one lemon.  I like to let it marinate for 24 hours.  The blueberries absorb the flavor of the oranges and the lemon zest is a hidden flavor pop.  Both citrus flavors bring out the flavor of the blueberries. 
The tarts can be made for individual servings.  You can form individual “bowls” out of the crust and freeze it.  Take out of the freezer an hour before serving and place the blueberries in them.  I elected to line one of my pie plates with the crust and poured the blueberries into it.  The blueberries mixed with the crust makes your brain think you are having an unhealthy dessert. 
As I said before, I love using fresh ingredients.  It does make a difference.  The dishes I made don’t require a lot of cooking experience.  Everyone can make them. 

On a noticeable and physical scale of how the juicing diet went … I lost 6 pounds and 4.75 inches from my body’s measurements.  Was it my goal to lose weight and inches?  No.  However, I’m really stoked that it happened while I was eating fruits and vegetables NON-STOP.  No one ever gained weight eating fruits and vegetables.  I also was not able to go to the gym this past week because I had a pulled calf muscle.

So, my last evening of the juicing diet I forced some dear friends to my vegetable and fruit life.  I think everyone liked them.  Cathy was excited that Bonnie and I brought vegan dishes.  I was interested to see how other people would react to a super healthy dinner.  Reactions were great and several comments included “Oh, wow, this is good!” and “If the diet includes this kind of food then I could do it.”

I am excited about my life after the juicing diet.  There are so many more opportunities to include fruits and vegetables into my every day diet.  The best thing the juicing plan has done for me is rekindle a love with all things fresh produce and surprise myself in being able to make REALLY delicious meals without recipes.  Yeah, I recommend the diet plan for anyone who is interested.  And, yes, I do expect you to invite me to dinner.