Books Read in 2014…so far…(a confession)
Jun 29, 2014

This is not a post where I humblebrag about how many books I’ve read this year so far. This is a post to call myself out. I’ve only read 5 books and it’s already mid-year.

I only have excuses. I moved. Work has been busy. I read a lot of magazines & blogs & read at work. And man, TV was really good…True Detective, Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Orange is the New Black, etc.

But really, I just fell into a rut. I started seeing my iPad more for the Netflix escape versus the Kindle escape. I remember when I was living in my apartment; I had dreams of being outside reading where I didn’t have to worry about neighbors walking 2 feet in front of my patio.

Well it’s time to turn that dream to reality. I have been enjoying reading outside in my backyard recently. Summer reading…outside in the sun, cold beverage beside you, the birds chirping, your skin burning–wear sunscreen!

Let’s make a pact to read more this summer!!

Books I’ve Read So Far in 2014

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This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper

I purchased this book several years ago when I was still living in Wichita. When I read in Entertainment Weekly (see–I do still READ), that they were making a movie with Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and more…I was motivated to read the book. If you like books with an ensemble cast of characters about family with humor, I think you’ll enjoy this book. And PS it was helpful to keep all the characters straight in my head knowing which actors were playing them in the upcoming movie.

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Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Reichl

Until reading this book, I knew little of Reichl other than I think she’s guest judged once on Top Chef. Tender at the Bone is Reichl’s memoir of growing up and her adventures with food. Her very eccentric mother would plan lavish dinner parties with food that would make even people with iron stomaches ill. Reichl had to save face for her family and save the guests. She later parlayed that into being a food critic & editor of Gourmet. I really enjoyed this book!

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One More Thing, by BJ Novak

Confession time! I bought the book, One More Thing, purely out of hope of seeing Mindy Kaling. BJ Novak was in Austin during SWSX for a book signing at Book People. And I knew Mindy was in town for SXSW and they are besties. I thought maybe, just maybe, she’d come support him at his book signing.

(Geez, you see why I need to read more….)

I’m not normally a fan of a book of short stories. But humorous stories, I’m game.

Some of my favorite stories in the book:
Missed Connection: Grocery spill at 21st and 6th 2:30 pm on Wednesday
Chris Hansen at the Justin Beiber Concert
Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Bicycle
There is a Fine Line Between Why and Why Not
One of These Days, We Have to do Something About Willie

If you like audiobooks, I highly recommend the audio version of the book! Listening to Ryan the Temp, er I mean Novak read the stories brought a smile to my face.

Where We Belong (7/24/12)by Emily Giffin

Where We Belong, by Emily Giffin

Giffin’s Where We Belong is the story of a girl searching for her birth parents. It alternates chapters from the girl to the birth mother’s point of view. I don’t have a lot to say about this book. It was good, not great, but an easy summer read.

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Ali in Wonderland, by Ali Wentworth

Another confession! I just read this book yesterday. I knew that I was going to be writing this blog. It was just too depressing to say I’d only read 4 books. Five sounded so much better.

If I’m in a rut, funny memoirs to the rescue!! It was not nearly as good at Reichl’s book, but it served a purpose as a fast read that made me smile.

One gem from Wentworth: “The Queen or Kate Middleton should knight whoever invented the epidural. (And also the person who invented Skinny Cow ice-cream sandwiches.)”

And now I’m off to watch TV….oops, I mean read more!!

Brunch Spotlight: Freedmen’s
Jun 24, 2014

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When thinking of a new brunch spot to try, I don’t automatically think of BBQ. But I will now! I hadn’t been to Freedmen’s since an AFBA event over a year ago. It is a little harder to navigate due to yet another apartment/condo building going up in Austin. Once I was inside the patio area, all was well.

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Freedmen's Austin patio

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Freedmen’s serves brunch on Sundays. They do take reservations, which you may want to do if you’d like to sit inside. They have ample outdoor sitting which was my preference. However, if it had been much hotter or if you wanted a longer leisurely brunch, the summer sun + your “meat sweats” wouldn’t be the best combo.

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For my brunch beverage, I tried the Drink Me. It’s a combo of tequila, lime juice, Campari, ginger beer, and basil. I’m a sucker for a cocktail with ginger beer. Although I had no problem finishing the drink, I would suggest just sticking with a Moscow Mule for your ginger beer fix. Or ever better, opt for a Bloody Mary which for brunch at Freedmen’s is $3 cheaper than the Drink Me.

Freemen’s has a limited brunch menu. You can order from the regular menu though if you’d not in an egg-y mood. Brunch, eggs, and me are BFF’s though. And man, oh man, I’m glad we invited brisket to our friend circle.

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The Barbecue Benedict was delicious. The foundation was a hearty biscuit, not fluffy, so it could hold up to the meat. On top of the biscuit, you have your choice of meat. I went the brisket route. Over the meat, there are two poached eggs with a creamy smoked tomato hollandaise sauce. I would go back and order this again immediately!

My only caution is that it was quite peppery! I do love a lot of pepper, so I didn’t mind but those who aren’t into a lot of spice—what’s wrong with you?–I mean, you may want to ask them to go easy on the pepper for you wimps. I tease, I tease!! Now, go dig in!!

Freedmen's Austin barbecue benedict brisket

For other brunch spots in Austin, check out this post.

Slice of Life: Blanco Lavender Festival
Jun 22, 2014

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Last weekend was the Lavender Festival in Blanco, TX. Having never been to Blanco and having never been to a lavender festival, I thought hey why not?!

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When first arriving at the festival, there were a variety of tents set up with vendors similar to a craft fair. It took at least 20 minutes before we saw anything lavender related. Most of the lavender related booths were at the back of the festival, which seemed like odd placement.

For lunch, we had lavender lemonade, a ham & cheese crepe, and peach lavender ice cream. I was a fan of all 3 items. The lavender lemonade was very refreshing after having walked around outside. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had lemonade. The crepe was tasty too…I added bacon to mine, which is always a good idea. The ice cream was good too…mainly because I was so hot by the time we ate it. It was overly frozen, so it took a while to be edible. And let’s be honest, I don’t think you go to a festival in a small town for the best ice cream out there. It’s more for the experience and having a fun afternoon.

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Jessica was a fan of her hypercolor straw.

After having our fill of the actual festival, we made our way down to one of the lavender farms. Silly us–we thought we’d actually SEE LAVENDER at the LAVENDER FESTIVAL. But the festival “grounds” are more about products to buy, which in retrospect makes sense. So over to the Imagine Lavender Farm we went. I swear you had to drive so far back on a dirt road to get to the farm…I commented to Jessica that this would be a perfect place to hide a dead body. Interestingly enough, she still hangs out with me after that comment.

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Would I go back to the Lavender Festival next year? No, I won’t to be honest. But that’s not that I wouldn’t recommend it to someone that’s never been. It was a lovely afternoon and nice to do something outside of Austin. I just feel that once you’ve crossed it off our list then that’s good enough.

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{Last photo courtesy of Bake Me Away}

Creamed Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes
Jun 17, 2014

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Creamed Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes

After spending Sunday afternoon walking around the Lavender Festival, I was hot & hungry when I got home for dinner. I knew that I didn’t want anything too heavy…after already had a ham & cheese crepe and lavender peach ice cream earlier in the day. But I also knew that I wanted something filling.

Enter creamed spinach stuffed tomatoes. Tomatoes are so ripe and affordable right now. Combined with the spinach, sour cream, and Parmesan cheese to help fill me up. And finally topped with a generous sprinkle of Gruyere cheese that in the oven leads to melty goodness.

Yes please.

Recipe found here.

{I added some garlic to my spinach mixture. I also salt & peppered the inside of my tomatoes.}

Trail Mix
Feb 03, 2014

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Happy Monday, folks!! It’s hard to be happy about a Monday. But having a new fun snack to get me through work will help.

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My aunt recently gave me these Blue Diamond toasted coconut almonds. They are AWESOME! Actually, I’m not seeing them on their website. If they are a limited time item, I need to go stock up, STAT.

I decided to mix things up a make a some trail mix.

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I threw together my almonds with some banana chips, sunflower seeds, orange flavored cranberries, and chocolate chips.

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You control the flavor with your ratios of ingredients. Add more nuts for a saltier mix. Or add more of the sweet stuff if that’s your jam.

This trail mix is great just to nosh on when you’re tiding yourself over until meal time. Or add it on top of your yogurt for breakfast. I did that this morning with some blueberries as well and it was great (sans the chocolate chips for that go-around). And yesterday, I add some to my oatmeal breakfast. It was fantastic! A few melted chocolate chips in oatmeal…twist my arm.

Weekend Ramblings
Feb 02, 2014

Argh, where did January go? I only posted once in January. And that didn’t really even count since it was just one Wordless Wednesday post. Remember when I rocked it in November? I need to get that mojo back.

I will catch you up on recent happenings though.

Austin Beerworks

I went to an event at the Austin Beerworks brewery. It was to celebrate the soon-to-be opening (and it’s now open) Whole Foods at the Domain. I had 2 of the Peacemaker beers & could have downed more but I was responsible. It’s their extra pale ale and that’s exactly what I was in the mood for.

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I also recently had a birthday. I celebrated on my actual birthday with my family and had a big ass beer. Gawd, that reminds me that I should update my About page to show that I’m 35 now. Waaaah!!!! Although, I think I have the writing style of a 23 year old…which I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. Let’s just say good.

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After my beer & wing consumption, we played poker on my birthday. I didn’t win. Even after my aunt & uncle gave me some chips after I went out the first AND second time, I still went out first. I guess I don’t know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. That’s a reference to a Kenny Rogers song for all you young punks out there.

The next night, I went out to Javelina on Rainey Street to spend my birthday with friends. I had a tasty tasty burger & sweet potato fries and a few Moscow Mules. It was a good time!

Yesterday, Jessica & I finally ventured out west for lunch at Pieous. We’d both heard great things about their pizza. We were not disappointed!! Although, I disappointed myself and forgot my phone at home, so no pictures. Check out Jessica’s Instagram to view the deliciousness.

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I’d been so so so good and avoided Target shopping other than essentials. But yesterday, I needed to get dog food for Haley. And I needed socks. So….in walking from one department to the other, the housewares department called my name. Julie!! Buy us buy us!!

I’m in the process of house hunting. It partly seemed very silly to buy new decor for my mystery house. But it also made me feel excited. And it was on clearance. Purchases are justified if you slap a clearance sticker on the item.

Wordless Wednesday
Jan 01, 2014

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Happy New Year, everyone!! Let’s make 2014 a great one!

Wordless Wednesday
Dec 18, 2013

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Weekend Ramblings
Dec 15, 2013

1. Candles burning during the holidays are a must for me. I currently have 7 candles burning in my apartment. I told you I’m obsessed!

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2. I’ve started reading more lifestyle/fashion blogs. They haven’t made me want to take daily selfies of my outfits. But they have led me to try more outfit combos and think more about accessories.

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3. I got some mini candy canes for a work event & have a lot leftover. They are perfect to melt into hot chocolate. It’s my lower calorie, cheaper version of Starbucks peppermint mocha.

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4. Gold glitter nail polish. I’ll be wearing this polish through the end of the year.

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5. I recent went to the John Mayer concert with Jessica. It was my 2nd time seeing him and the first time was better. His last 2 albums had more of a country feel and I’m more of a fan of his previous songs. But I understand and he even said so, that he wished he could play everyone’s favorite songs (mine is Vultures) but when you have so many songs it gets to be impossible.

These annoying ladies behind us kept shouting for him to play Gravity. First of all, HE CAN’T HEAR YOU! And secondly, that’s one of his most popular songs, that will be the encore song. Of course, the ladies left before the encore and missed their song. Their loss!!

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John Mayer

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I’m linking up with TX Women Bloggers.

Texas Women Bloggers

Success!!
Nov 30, 2013

Yay! I successfully blogged every day in November!

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I have to thank my friend, Jessica, for keeping me motivated. I really didn’t think I’d keep at it, especially after a sad bump in the road. I filled you in on my first year at the ACL festival. I once again shared my love of Christmas movies. I recapped my recent vacation to New Orleans. And I shared a couple of recipes.

I enjoyed re-connecting with my blog! Although I still love to cook and bake, I liked just blogging about whatever was on my mind. And that’s what you’d talk to friends about anyway. So I’ll most likely continue with random posts sprinkled with food posts. Those are the blogs I most enjoy myself…not simply recipes, but where you get to know the person behind the blog.

I hope you’ll continue to join me! :)