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Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkin Wrap-Up

With the season shifting from Thanksgiving to Christmas...{meaning twinkly lights instead of crunchy leaves, hot chocolate instead of hot cider, and, most importantly, peppermint instead of pumpkin!}...I needed to wrap up the pumpkin extravaganza.

So I had a bit of a cooking marathon on Friday {after Turkey Trotting on Thursday...yay!}

Cooked up batches of:
  • Pumpkin turkey chili {YUM}
  • Pumpkin turkey pasta {YUM}
  • Pumpkin hummus {yep...YUM}
  • Pumpkin white chocolate fudge {FAIL}
I was so disappointed! I just knew I would love this fudge, but it was too sweet, too gooey, not enough like peanut butter fudge {the only kind I eat}.

So, so long pumpkin. At least until next year. No extravaganza planned, but I have a host of new family favorites and options to feed my seasonal cravings. Just let me know if you're interested in any of the 20 or so I tried, and I'll be happy to pass them along!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday & Christmas Cards

Do you all hit the sales on Black Friday?

I've been twice.

In my life.

Can't handle the crowds, the before-dawn shopping, the sales that aren't really that great after all. But I do love myself a deal, so I jumped on board with some online sales for the first time this morning. {Shout out to Pure and Lovely, Playing Grown Up, and Doctors Foster and Smith. Guess who that gift is for.}

In other deal news...I'm very interested in getting 50 free holiday cards from Shutterfly!

I usually buy Christmas cards a few days after Christmas {for the following year} and just stick a note/Bible verse and a family photo in there. But I've been doing that since little Freddy joined the family {seven years ago--wow!}, and last year it just started to feel blah. So I told Jason we should think of something creative for this year.

Enter Shutterfly. They have a lovely selection of cards I do not have to make myself {the one problem with creativity}. Enjoy!

And happy Christmas season! Here we go!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Sportscaster's Guide to Watching Football

A Sportscaster's Guide to Watching Football by Mark Oristano

Will you be watching the Cowboys take on the Saints today? How about the classic Texas and Texas A&M rivalry? Or, like me, will you be cheering on the Tide tomorrow?

Now...even though you'll be watching these you always feel a little lost? A bit confused by the penalties? The downs? The numbers on the jerseys?

If so, A Sportscaster's Guide to Watching Football is exactly what you need.

Mark Oristano worked as a sportscaster for 30 years for the Cowboys and the (then) Houston Oilers networks and has written a primer for confused football fans (primarily those who are coerced, er...persuaded into watching by the "Fan in Your Life").

He does a great job of breaking down the concepts, explaining the rules, and defining the terms of football (including a handy glossary), and I really enjoyed the "time-outs" and "cool things to say" that made the book an easy read. You can probably knock it out in four quarters.

My only complaint is that, in writing, Oristano can occasionally come off as slightly harsh when I have the feeling that he would sound just the opposite on air. Perhaps a football podcast should come next? I have the feeling he would be a great addition to the Quick-and-Dirty crew.

For more information about the book, check out another great site.

Happy Thanksgiving, and Roll Tide!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for...Children's Literature!

Children's literature is some of my favorite, and to celebrate it (and Thanksgiving), I'm giving away...

Both perfect for this time of year!

As always, I'll throw in a few extra goodies as well. :)

Just leave a comment to enter, and I'll choose a winner on Monday.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

National Brain Tumor Society Walk Pics

My mom passed away November 27, which, eight years ago, was the day before Thanksgiving. So I think about her passing on two different days (if that makes sense).

Anyway, sorry to start off on a heavy note, just thought this would be an appropriate day to share some pictures from the Brain Tumor Walk (thanks again to all of those who supported me!).

It was cold that day!

Pretty Fort Worth...
Jason was there, too...

Next up...Turkey Trot!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Recipe Club, Pt. 2

Enjoy this little bonus from Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel! Happy {soon-to-be} Thanksgiving!

Tales of Thanksgiving Food and Friendship
By Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel,
Authors of The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship

For some people, Thanksgiving evokes warm feelings triggered by memories of a close-knit family gathering, where relatives share traditions and a home-cooked meal.

For others . . . it's the beginning of a holiday season stuffed with lunatic relatives, family dysfunction, bitter recriminations, and heartburn.

We heard a wide range of Thanksgiving Tales this year while traveling around the country for our Recipe Clubs. Inspired by the plot and structure of our book, Recipe Clubs are storytelling and friendship circles in which women gather to share true-life food-related stories along with recipes. Recipe Clubs are not about cooking; they're about creating community and fostering friendship . . . they're about laughing and crying . . . they're about honoring our own lives and the lives of others. They show us how the simplest, sweetest, or funniest tales about food can turn into deep revelations about our lives.

Just about everybody has at least one quintessential Thanksgiving food memory that perfectly captures the complicated feelings surrounding the holiday. Here are some of our favorites:

One Recipe Club friend recalls the first time she ever cooked a Thanksgiving meal on her own. Her mother, who traditionally did the meal, was recovering from surgery. Her father was working. And her sister was flying in just in time for the meal, but not early enough to help cook.

So our friend rose to the challenge, proclaiming that she would do the entire meal, on her own. No problem -- until reality set in. She woke at dawn, shopped, chopped, and soon realized her oven was half the size it needed to be. By the time the turkey wanted basting the chestnut stuffing required baking -- and the brussel sprouts were definitely not cleaning themselves!

But things really went south when it came time prepare her grandmother's famous pumpkin pie. This was the pie recipe that had been handed down through generations. If it didn't come out perfectly, our friend knew she'd feel like a failure.

Of course, nothing went right. The pie crust was too wet, then too dry. There was too much nutmeg, not enough ginger. With every crimp of the dough her head swam with the imagined voice of her southern grandmother: "A woman is judged not just by who she is, but by what she can bring to the table."

When the pie came out of the oven, the crust was too brown, and there was a giant crack running down the middle of the filling. Our friend fought back tears, took a deep breath, and set the pie out to cool, knowing more clearly than ever that neither it -- nor she -- was, or would ever be, perfect.

But when it came time for everyone to gather at the table, something shifted. Her parents and sister praised her hard work and loved the meal. And our friend realized she had somehow been carried on the wings of the generations of women who had cooked before her, without complaining, to serve a Thanksgiving meal to their family. She felt truly thankful for all the work that her mother, grandmother, aunts -- indeed all the women she'd known through her life -- had accomplished each holiday. Triumphant, connected, and happy, she understood that food cooked with love is its own kind of perfection.

One Recipe Club friend recalled her first Thanksgiving after her divorce.

Since carving the bird had always been her ex-husband's job, she delighted in finding a new, turkey-free recipe. She settled on an apricot-glazed ham, and went to work cooking a glaze of brown sugar, cloves, and apricot nectar (an ingredient that gave her extra pleasure knowing her ex-husband detested it.)

When her grown children came for dinner, they were childishly upset not to have their usual 12-pound bird. But it was delicious, and in the end each one complimented the chef. On her way out, the youngest daughter told her mother, "maybe we all need to learn how to gracefully accept change."

For this new divorcee, serving ham became a way of asserting her independence, showing her children there was life after marriage, and teaching the whole family to find new ways to be together.

The truth is, we don't pick our relatives. So if the Thanksgiving gathering of the clan is an annual emotional challenge, you aren't alone.

In a recent Recipe Club circle of old friends and new acquaintances, we met a woman who admitted that for most of her life she dreaded Thanksgiving; all it evoked for her were memories of family fights. The contrast of what she knew Thanksgiving was "supposed" to be, versus what it was in her home, always made her feel ashamed and disappointed. And yet every November she felt compelled go home for a family Thanksgiving meal.

But one year, that changed, when her parents and brother decided to have Thanksgiving away from home. They journeyed together to Nantucket, where they ate dinner at a seaside inn. The inn served a New England clam chowder, rich with cream and warm on a cold autumn night. And they discovered that a new location, with new foods, away from the house where memories were often more fiery than the jalepeno cornbread, turned out to be just what the family needed.

Now, every year, back at home, they have a new tradition: serving New England Clam Chowder at their Thanksgiving feasts, each spoonful bringing back fond memories of a peaceful and loving family holiday.

Finally, a little tale of food and friendship.

A reader of our book told us that she had a choice this year. She could invite Uncle Tim and Aunt Zoe, the way she does every year, and spend the entire holiday worrying about whether or not the perpetually complaining couple were happy. She could include cousins Beth and Sean, knowing they would be competitive, putting down her choice of food, her way of cooking, her table setting. She could extend an invitation to her brother and dreaded sister-in-law, who would sit in silence the entire meal and pick at the food.

Or . . . she could shake things up and do something entirely different: invite only friends. True friends. People she enjoyed being with. Who made her laugh. Who spoke truthfully. Who shared her passions for good books, good wine, and good music.

She took the leap. She dumped the whiners, broke with tradition, irritated several family members -- and never looked back. The moral: good food and good friends are the perfect combination. Sometimes it's a good idea to trim the guest list before you serve the bird with all its trimmings.

For EVEN more Recipe Club information, check out the book's website.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Epistolary Pumpkin Catch-Up

Dear Leann,

Thank you {and your mother} for the pumpkin mousse recipe. I licked the bowl I mixed it in and the bowl I served it in. And, honestly, I didn't really want to share it. Even Jason {who can be slightly picky about pumpkiny foods} loved it. And suggested it might also be delicious served up in a pie crust. We'll see. ;)

Dear Healthy Pumpkin Muffins,

You tasted much better with cream cheese icing on you, but thanks for trying to keep my waistline in check.

Dear Person I Can't Remember Who Gave Me the Pumpkin Banana Bread Recipe,

YUM. Mouth-watering yumminess. And I feel like I'm eating something healthy.

Dear Readers,

I'm sorry for not having any pictures. My camera doesn't agree with iPhoto {boo}, so it's a whole thing to load pictures onto another computer, email them to myself, then save them to this computer. Then I wait to blog until I have pictures, but the pictures take awhile, and it becomes a vicious cycle of procrastination.

Also, I used the word "epistolary" in the title because of the lovely book I just reviewed on my other blog. If anyone's looking for a good read for the holidays, I highly recommend The Recipe Club.

Love, and happy soon-to-be Thanksgiving,

The Recipe Club

Dear Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel,

Thank you so much for writing The Recipe Club. I love the {mostly} epistolary format, and it was clever of you to even use the occasional news article to tell the story. The fabulous illustrations were lots of fun, too!

Val and Lilly's friendship was touching and poignant, and I couldn't wait to get to the next letter to see where their 40-year relationship would go. {I'm also very, very excited about sampling the 100+ recipes...particularly the Nutty Professor Cookies, Lovelorn Lasagna, and Ben's Brownie Sundae. }. I laughed and cried at all the right parts, and I was shocked how quick of a read it was.

So many women are all-too familiar with the complications of frenemies--how you love your female friends but also seem to be in a bit of competition with them. I've never read a novel that so aptly portrays this phenomenon.

Thank you for writing it, and rest assured I'll be recommending it.

Your new fan,

P.S. To my own dear readers, I'll have a Thanksgiving article by these two authors posted tomorrow, so check back for more goodies then!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aurora of the Northern Lights

Aurora of the Northern Lights by Holly Hardin

While Holly Hardin has written a lovely fairy tale about a little girl and her search for her true home, illustrator Donald Vanderbeek is the shining star of the book. His illustrations are breath-taking, and I found myself wanting to tear out pages to frame. (Don't worry; I didn't.)

The story follows Aurora, who loses her parents and travels through cold, snowy lands trying to find a place to call home. It is written in rhyming form and is a sweet, albeit slightly frightening, tale, as most fairy tales and fables seem to be.

Again, though, I can't get away from the illustrations. I just wanted to gaze on them--especially as the weather turns cooler, and I start thinking of wind and snow and chills. It's perfect for this time of year!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Turkey's Treat

The Turkey's Treat by Marie Sanderlin Metroke

The Turkey's Treat tells the story of Jeff, who is a mildly rebellious child, and his frenemy, the grocery store turkey.

The story idea is amusing, and the illustrations are great. (One of the turkey scenes even frightened me a bit--but just because I'm a long-time bird-a-phobe.)

My only complaint is that the writing seemed a bit more geared toward parents than children. Instead of describing some of the events in a way that Jeff would see them, Metroke sounded like she was on the side of the parents. This made the book come across as a bit didactic at times.

Overall, though, this is a cute book and a great addition to the upcoming holiday season.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Possible Futures: Creative Thinking for the Speed of Life

Possible Futures: Creative Thinking for the Speed of Life by Jude Treder-Wolff

Jude Treder-Wolff takes an analytical look at how people think, make decisions, and generally go about their lives in Possible Futures. She seems to be troubled by many of the current mindsets in society and offers solutions for those who are similarly bothered.

What we can do is recover from the way industrial-age thinking conditions us to accept the dysfunctions of consumer culture and support an environment of social learning that can help people deal with the dynamic complexity of our times.

She is a proponent of creativity, collaboration, and purposeful living.

The key is to be more identified by our authentic self, our passions and purpose, than we are by the external roles available to us. The creative process knows no socio-economic barriers, and persistent, consistent through and effort in the same direction moves energy that eventuates in tangible change.

The book is well-researched and well-written, but it does have a bit of an academic feel. It might prove slightly dry for those used to your typical self-help fluff. But I enjoyed it and found it a good reminder for life's "best practices."

Other favorite quotes...

Our current worldview marginalizes the creative, intuitive mind and the skill set necessary for mastery of our inner life.

Our tendency to hold on to the old familiar as long as possible but still reap the benefits of life-changing innovations results in a tension between what is and what is emerging that heightens the ambiguity and creative conflict we dread...The way information is delivered in the information age is not much help in this regard, with so much trouble in the world beaming at the speed of light directly into our homes.

Inextricably linked with control, perfectionism continuously and viciously measures our worth against how well things turn out, keeping the focus of our energy on performance as a catalyst for certain feelings we want to have and control over those we do not.

Stresses in daily life are opportunities to train new neural pathways in response to difficulty. Attitudes toward daily hassles, disappointments, and challenges are creative choices. People who learn to approach them with flexibility, adaptability, self-responsibility, openness to the unknown, and concern for others as well as self can acquire stress-resilience that translates into greater effectiveness in the face of high-level stress or adversity.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Tarts & Bevvies

So, the ole pumpkin extravaganza has taken a downturn the last few weeks (a bit like Alabama football, but let's not talk any further about that, shall we?)...

Pumpkin Chocolate Tart (courtesy of Martha Stewart)
I'm only going to say that creme fraiche and heavy cream are {apparently} not the same things, and drizzling melted chocolate does not equal just pouring it on top of the tart. Blech.

Pumpkin Cookies (again, courtesy of Martha)
I didn't use a pastry squeezer (or something like it with a fancier name), and I accidentally used almond milk instead of evaporated. Still, blech.

I think Martha is a bit of a tart for giving us these terribly difficult recipes. ;)

Moving on...

I've been noticing pumpkin beverages all over the place. Pumpkin eggnog (yum), pumpkin spice creamer (thanks to Tina), pumpkin soap (ok, you don't drink that, but I thought it was interesting), and pumpkin spice ale.

Yep, pumpkin-flavored beer. Drunk as a pumpkin? Hmm. Not me, of course. :)

I'll stick with pumpkin spice creamer in my coffee...
Good for those late-night study sessions.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


I had to write an abstract for my latest paper. It was a short one, but I suspect the professor is prepping us for the format of the "publish or perish" world. Anyway, it was about Brenda Dervin, and I thought I'd share it here. (I'll spare you the 10 pages of citation analysis.)

Ohio State University Professor Brenda Dervin is well known both in the communication and information science fields for her work with Sense-Making Methodology. A prolific writer, Dervin is perhaps most recognized for the 1986 article “Information Needs and Uses” that signified what has been called a paradigm shift in the above-mentioned fields. Interestingly, however, this classic citation is primarily highlighted in Google Scholar, rather than in the more traditional databases and indexes. On the other hand, databases like Web of Science serve to give a more complete picture of Dervin as a communication scholar, especially regarding how fellow academics have drawn and built upon her work. She describes herself as both a postmodern modernist and a modern postmodernist whose theories can be applied to virtually any type of research or academic work. Her 40-year career has also included more than 300 publications as well as service in several noted organizations.

And she also collects socks. :)

Read from the beginning...