My year in review

Until this morning, I did not realize that over two months have passed since I last posted to my blog. I wish I could tell you that during that time, I have been a lady of leisure, vacationing on a tropic isle with a fruity concoction in my hand, and/or strolling the streets of Rome partaking in the incredible cuisine and architecture.

Wish is the operative word of that sentence….

The reality is that over the course of the last sixty-plus days, I (we, really) have dealt with the  horrible side of our former landlords (an experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone), and moved into our new home (hooray!). My joy of finally unpacking was dampened by the discovery that multiple items from my storage unit have mysteriously disappeared – most notably my dining room table and several cartons of cookbooks.

The loss of my cookbooks hurts just as much as the loss of my table thankyouverymuch….

However, my sadness over the missing items was replaced by the joy of my parents coming to stay with us for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were quite pleased with their new room, which J properly dubbed “The Buckingham Suite”. Dad made himself at home, cooking breakfast every morning and then challenging me to several “Chopped-style” dinner projects at night. It was a lot of fun to cook with him, and watch him maneuver his way around the kitchen. For a man that barely cooked during my childhood, he certainly has come a looooong way….


Anyway, with 2015 rapidly coming to a close, it’s time to focus on the new year, and all the promise it holds.

It’s going to be an amazing year, of that I am sure🙂

Thoughts and randomness

The fly in my coffee this morning was a clear indicator that Armageddon is coming. No, wait…. it’s here now.

How do I know this? While packing up the hall pantry earlier today, I discovered that my 7 quart crockpot is cracked. I now have a cracked crock! And to add insult to injury, the replacement liner costs more than a new crockpot. That’s egregious!

Well, if someone was to look for the silver lining in this scenario, I suppose it’s a good reason to buy a new, updated model.

If that someone was so inclined.

Yep – I am.

Cacio e Pepe Pasta Pie – and a complaint

I generally don’t like to complain, because if you stop and think about it, complaining serves no purpose whatsoever. If you can change something, do it. If you can’t, work around it and move on.

That mindset has worked out quite well for me, until recently. I am faced with a dilemma that I HAVE to complain/vent about, because I can neither fix it nor work around it. My gripe? The school system. Here’s the situation: Sabrina’s graduation ceremony is at 8:00 a.m. on a Thursday. I have to get her to the school by 5:45 a.m., so she can attend the senior breakfast, then the entire class boards a charter bus that will take them to the ceremony site – which happens to be about 25 minutes from the school.

That, however, isn’t where the problem lies.

The problem is that Alexander naturally wants to attend his sister’s ceremony. It’s an epic day in her life and he really wants to be there to commemorate it with her.  Side note: The realization that she’s not going to be at the school next year hit him hard about two weeks ago. She has a potential plan to attend college in Indiana, and Alexander was genuinely upset, concerned about her ability to still have dinner with us every night. She just looked at him like he’d fallen out of the sky and said, ” I told you that you’d miss me someday!”

I gritted my teeth and took another sip of wine, because at that moment I realized she might actually move away this summer. Is it too early to start turning her room into an office? I’m kidding, I’m kidding…

Anyway, due to a school district member’s clever planning abilities, the rest of the high school students have final exams scheduled for the day of the graduation. And they thought that was a good idea? Why on earth would they plan the graduation ceremony on a day when the other students have finals that they obviously can’t miss? Why not have the ceremony in the afternoon? Or early evening? The other high schools in the district are scheduled for the following Saturday. How did we get the short end of the straw?

Oh – and one more thing: we (the family) are supposed to be at the ceremony site at 7:30 a.m. Again, no problem. Except that Alexander starts school at 8:45 a.m. Last time I checked, I was unable to be in two places at the same time. So I have to drop him off at 7:00 a.m. in order to make it out to Cedar Park by 7:30 a.m. Ok, I can do that. 

Then I made the mistake of saying, out loud, that I was going to go into the school office and see what could be done about having Alexander attend the ceremony. Surely I can’t be the only parent with this complaint? Sabrina put her hand out , looked straight at me, and said, “Mom, stop. Don’t be confrontational.”

Me? Confrontational. I think that’s a compliment. 


Cacio e Pepe Pasta Pie – adapted from Food and Wine

I learned a very valuable lesson while making this – don’t judge a recipe by the simplicity of the ingredients. I am probably going to make this again for Sabrina’s graduation dinner – it’s equally delicious hot, or at room temperature.

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces Fontina cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • 6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
  • Butter, for greasing
  • marinara sauce, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425°. In a pot of  boiling water, cook the spaghetti until barely al dente. Drain well.

In a bowl, mix the milk, Parmigiano, eggs, pepper, and 1 1/2 cups each of the Fontina and cheddar. Add the hot pasta, and mix well using two forks or tongs to get everything blended together, and that the pasta has a chance to absorb some of the liquid. Pour into a buttered 9-inch springform pan, then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup each of Fontina and cheddar on top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Transfer to 
a rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Remove the ring, cut the pie into wedges and serve with marinara sauce.


Thoughts and Randomness

I can’t believe it’s been 9 days since I last posted to this blog.

Oh, it’s only been 9 days, you say? That’s not long at all. However, in my current mental state, 9 days feels like 9 years. As The Queen Mother would say, “The days are long but the weeks are short”. How very true…...

So, starting at the top (which is how every good story starts, or should anyway), here’s what’s been happening: As most parents know, life with two teenagers is always interesting. The shenanigans and goings-on have certainly tested and tried my patience, sanity and (at times) my temper. I am very fortunate that they really are good young adults, and are simply exercising their right to question my intelligence at every turn. I’ve turned to long walks and quality time with my Pilates video to keep my thoughts in order and my blood pressure down. Side note: it definitely helps.

Along that line, I haven’t been cooking and/or baking as much as usual, it seems that most evenings I eat dinner solo (J is still out of town). Sabrina and Alexander’s social lives are keeping them on the go-go-go, and I have had to stop and remind myself, on more than one occasion, that I don’t have to prepare dinner for four.  And the benefit is that I get to eat whatever I want :) 

I’ve also made a point to set aside the time and put more work into the family cookbook, and when I read this article earlier today, I must admit that it brought a tear to my eye, as so much of our lives are centered around food, family and (my) memories of childhood dinners. And it also made me exceptionally thankful that my Mom was (and still is) a great cook.

In other breaking news, we recently acquired 6 goats at the ranch:


Say hello to Calvin (Klein), Tory (Burch), Kate (Spade), Tamara (Mellon), Stuart (Weitzman) and Cynthia (Rowley). About their names: I took the liberty of naming them after my favorite designers. The smallest one, Cynthia, will also go by the name Snowflake, as she is pure white. Mom bestowed that moniker on her, and Sabrina and I decided that will be her stage name. After all, I found her on top of the flatbed trailer the other day, standing at the front, in what looked like a scene from Titanic. I was about to get a picture, but the donkey next door started braying so loudly it startled all of them and they bolted. Anyway, the group are quite content in their new environment, as there are plenty of good eats – i.e. grass, flowers, and thistley plants they seem to enjoy – and a nifty water system I bribed Alexander and his friends to help me with. Now Sabrina is on me to procure a mini horse that she wants to name Reginald…..

Good lord.….

Speaking of Sabrina, she is thrilled to be attending prom next weekend:


I sent this picture to The Queen Mother and Dad for dress approval, to which Dad replied, “Nice dress, and by the way, WHO is that?!”

I replied, “You didn’t hear it from me, but she’s going to be 18 next month. And graduating high school.”

So amidst and amongst all of the activities, party planning, and general end-of-the-school-year hullabaloo, I have taken to preparing highly detailed Excel spreadsheets, and making copious notes in my calendar to ensure I keep track of everything.

Organization = a woman’s secret weapon. So is a loaded .45, but that’s another story…….

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake – and an Anniversary!

Fun fact: exactly one year ago today, April 10, the posse and I packed up our bags (and Daisy), said goodbye to our friends in Vegas, loaded up Dad’s plane, and made our move to Austin.


And quite frankly, my mother hasn’t forgiven me (or J) since…

However, to say we love it here would be a grave understatement. We really love it.  How can you not love a city that bills itself as the Music Capital of the World? And has food trucks on every corner? Suburbia when you want, and quiet country life as well?


 Sunset in our slice of country life …

Although traffic here is epic (comparable, in my world, to SoCal traffic), it’s a small price to pay for what we consider home. And even though we’re still in the rental, and a bit cramped from what we’re used to, nothing can dampen our spirits.

I take that back….there is one thing. The only downside to the euphoria of this scenario is that I miss my family. We are that odd breed that truly enjoys each others’ company, and if you see us in public, we’re the ones that are laughing the loudest, having conversations that border Mensa-level, and living life to the fullest. I’ve come to realize I need to up the ante to persuade Mom and Dad to move here. I mean, really, everyone has a price….. I just need to find theirs.

Mom? That’s easy – find her the best high-rise condo, in a location not too far from the city, and not too far from the ranch (or the swamp, as she lovingly refers to it…) and she’s good to go.

Dad? Well….. he’s going to take a bit of work to leave Vegas. Note I said “a bit of work, not a piece of work..” His requirements are a tad more complex. After all, this is the man that was worried his daughter was going to become a hill-billy. Like that could ever happen – our neighbors at the ranch can hear my car approaching from a mile away. I’m that girl walking the property with the builder in my platform pumps, without worrying about the dirt and dust… And although I receive a fair amount of good natured teasing for my sometimes over-dressed attire, I know that you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl.

Not that I have any intention of changing. And I’ll find his price….somehow...

Happy one year anniversary to us! Yay!

I downsized the recipe (since it was just for the three of us) and skipped the crust completely. Although I did top Alexander’s glass with an Oreo…..

No Bake Chocolate Cheesecake – adapted from serious eats

  • 10 ounces chocolate cookie wafers (such as Nabisco Famous wafers)
  • 2 tbs. granulated sugar
  • 8 tbs (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) plus 2 tbs. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (I used greek yogurt)
  • 7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

    Pulse cookie crumbs and granulated sugar in food processor until fine. Place in a large bowl and toss with melted butter until moistened. Firmly press into the bottom and 1 1/2-inches up sides of an 8-inch springform pan.

Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until light and creamy, about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low and mix in vanilla, sour cream, and melted chocolate until smooth and homogenous.

Spoon mixture into crust and smooth top. Chill until set, about 4 hours. Dust with cocoa powder and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Thoughts and Randomness

Today was certainly one of the more unusual days I’ve had as of late… 

With J out of town, I found myself wide awake today at 4:50 a.m. By 5:00 , I realized I wasn’t going to go back to sleep, and made my way downstairs to take care of the pups. After getting them through their morning routine, and a quick morning coffee (for me, not them), I headed out the door for a 4.5 mile walk. I need/want/am determined to get back into my exercise routine, it really helps clear my head and I am able to get super organized for the day. Of course, at 6:00 in the morning, it’s still pitch black outside. I’m not deterred, however, as the temperature was about 60 degrees. Perfect early morning walking weather.

So there I was, 2 miles into my walk, thinking and plotting and planning…when all of a sudden, I heard a man shout, “Don’t move!”

What would you think? 

Probably the same thing I did, which is that someone was being held up in the parking lot about 10 feet in front of me. I paused for a moment, trying to determine if I should run in the other direction and call for help? Or take a few more steps to see what was happening? In the split second that I was thinking, I heard the same man’s voice saying, “Don’t move, I’m calling for help right now..” At that moment, I turned the corner and saw a woman laying underneath a car, and a young man kneeling down over her, holding her hand and repeatedly telling her not to move. I ran up and asked if they needed help, and at that exact moment, another man pulled up (he was at the adjacent gas station and saw the commotion) and asked if he could help. The man standing over the woman said he was calling 911, but I told the man in the car that the fire station was literally one driveway away and he could drive there faster than I could run.

So while he drove off to get help, this poor woman was still trapped underneath her car, scared half to death and clearly in shock. I bent down, gently took ahold of her arm, and tried to reassure her that she was going to be ok, help was on the way. Seconds later, thanks to the man that went next door to the fire station, several firemen, a trio of EMS and the local Sheriff all showed up. They secured the woman onto a board, pulled her out from under the car, and from what I could understand (the noise from the trucks was deafening), she suffered a broken leg. Which, considering her minivan had just rolled over her, was miraculous.

But …. how did she get there?

According to the man that saw the accident, the woman had dropped her cigarette out of her window, and stopped her car to pick it up. She thought she had the car in “park”, but actually had put it in “neutral”.  When she opened the door to retrieve her cigarette, the car started to roll backwards, knocked her down, and rolled over her legs, thereby trapping her.


I finally left when the Sheriff told me that I wasn’t needed, since I didn’t actually witness the accident. I headed straight home, a bit unsettled of course, but thankful that the woman was going to be ok.

Sabrina was at the kitchen counter when I walked into the house, took one look at my face and said, “Are you ok?”

I said, “Let me tell you about my walk…….”

Thoughts and Randomness (and a house update!)

Big news on the housing front! J and I met with the builders for our home yesterday morning, and gave them our updated ideas for the floor plan. We had a multitude of changes to make, mostly reconfiguring the cabinet/storage space (and shop space!)…. because, well, we NEED and WANT it.

I say “need and want”, because as Dad so succinctly puts it, “It’s YOUR home, YOU are paying for it, and it should to be the way YOU need it and want it  – if they can’t accommodate you, find someone that will”.

He’s right, of course (but don’t tell him that….  )

Fortunately, the builder can and will make the changes we requested, and thanks to Pinterest, I had lots of pictures to show them of features that we want to add, especially to the kitchen.  We both agreed that it was a smart move on our part to wait as long as we did in terms of finalizing the plans, as we discovered during our week long vacation together during Thanksgiving break that we definitely require a whole lotta counter and storage space for all of our gadgets and appliances.

So now, we sit back and wait patiently for the next set of plans to arrive. It’s hard to believe that before this year is over, we will be living in our new home on the ranch.

Or, as Mom puts it, “Living out in the swamp…”

She will change her tune when she sees her suite …..