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Thank God for Texas: Lamesa

A special shout out tonight to the good people of Lamesa, TX. I made chicken fried steak for the first time ever tonight and I did it using Ree’s Drummond’s recipe. She is better know as the Pioneer Woman and if you’re not familiar with her blog including her beautiful love story detailing her courtship and marriage to a rancher (High Heels to Tractor Wheels) and her recipes and photography you are missing out. Anyway, the meal was fantastic and so I set about researching the origins of chicken fried steak. Turns out it was created by none other than the early residents of Lamesa who had immigrated from Germany/Austria (Weiner schnitzel anyone?) and adapted their recipes to the abundant supply of beef in Texas. I am especially enamored with this history because one of my very special friends and blog reader hails from Lamesa (shout out to Sunny!). You can read all about the history of CFS yourself on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicken_fried_steak

Winding down 2011

Today is the next to last day in December. The month has just flown by. I wrote about our trip to Turkey in my last entry (by the way the kabob restaurant we visited the last night with the gracious hospitality is called Cigeristan) but I actually took two additional weekend trips to Europe after we returned from Turkey and a weekend trip to NM as well. The first weekend in December I flew to Krakow for a “mile run” to log more Delta miles for the year in order to re-qualify for Diamond status. Jonathan has already crossed the status threshold so he opted to stay home. I flew via NYC, Montreal, Paris and Warsaw for maximum miles and via Warsaw, Paris, Amsterdam and Detroit on the return for even more miles. If there was a way to squeeze out any additional miles on one trip to Poland I’m really not aware of it. A bit exhausting to be honest but a lot of fun. As a bonus, I met a group of older travelers (55 years+) from Italy on the flight from Warsaw to Krakow and we hit it off very we…

Trip Report: Turkey

Each Thanksgiving, Jonathan and I like to travel somewhere new over the holiday. Turkey seemed like a logical place to visit as of course everyone associates Turkey and Thanksgiving. Brilliant! We gathered up a few friends from the Beautiful Life meetup group and made our way to Istanbul to get things rolling. Our first day of the trip was consumed with just getting to Turkey (via Paris on Air France for maximum miles of course) so we had time only for dinner before we called it a day. I chose Mezze based on its stellar reputation on Trip Advisor and the restaurant did not disappoint. Lovely little small plates was the name of the game for everyone and the lamb was tender and juicy. The establishment has a featured dessert that is unique: Ballý Bademli Cevizli Kaymaklý Muz (Geleneksel veya Acýlý) . Oh sorry, did you want that in English? Bananas Topped with Honey, Almonds, Pistachios and Clotted Cream with Chili Sauce. Read that again out loud and think about it. Cream. Hot Chili. Hon…

Butterfly Angel

My parents (and their previous spouses) wrestled strenuously with their personal demons and so my siblings and I grew up in the midst of constant drama and angst. Each of us has our own story of what we endured, with varying degrees of abuse and crazy aimed in our direction. I was the younger half-sister that my parents attempted to anchor their “new” life around while they put their existing children on the backburner and this led to a lot of resentment building up against me from my sisters and brothers. With some siblings this resentment expressed itself with blunt aggression and rage while with others it was released with subtle slights and cold comments. And for a couple of my siblings there was no marked signs of resentment but there was always the emotional distance of being strangers, raised decades and geographical regions apart. With my sister Suzie everything was different. Every interaction with her during my childhood was positive and love seemed to just pour out of her. …

Sunday Supper

Tonight marked the first evening in over a month that my husband and I were both in town for Sunday dinner. We held our usual open house dinner party and I decided to take a culinary risk betting on recipes out of a cookbook I’d not used before. It’s a minor gamble to rely on a recipe you’ve never made out of a cookbook you are well familiar with and have used for other recipes to success. It’s a major gamble to source recipes from a book you’ve never worked with before. Luckily the risk resulted in reward as each of the dishes were met with enthusiasm and praise after tasting. We had three guests join us for dinner so with Jonathan and I that made five around the table. All recipes excluding dessert are from Holiday Fare : Favorite Williamsburg Recipes. This is the souvenir cookbook Jonathan chose for me from our visit to Colonial Williamsburg – he presented it to me as a Christmas gift a few years back.  We opened dinner with Candied Pecans and Leek-y Brie. I am not a leek fan (neit…

Weekly Menu: Winter

I’ve heard from several readers that would like me to share the weekly menus I put together for our family. So the weekly menu feature is henceforth rolled into publication. Expect periodic posts under this category as some weeks we are out of town and other weeks life can be so hectic that every night is takeout, leftovers, or cheerios. Also expect that some weeks the menu will be published as a partial week menu due to travel. Finally, please note that while I strive to incorporate a healthy selection of vegetables, fruit, and fish every week, the menus are not set to a specific caloric intake or diet plan. They’re just set to yummy. This week’s menu is below. Cookbooks you’ll need to have on hand include Southwestern Vegetarian by Stephan Pyles, Plenty by Yotam Otto Lenghi, and The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever by Beatrice Ojakangas. These cookbooks are all sound investments that we will be coming back to throughout the year for recipes. I’ve also included hyperlinks to the recipes …

Creativity and Optimism: Practical Applications (part 1)

I read once that optimistic people who believe that good things are coming their way appear to be lucky because good things repeatedly do indeed happen to/for them. Turns out just as many good things come down the pike for all people on average but only the optimistic people are looking for them and notice them and are therefore able to pounce on such opportunities more frequently.Can you teach people how to approach life with optimism and creativity? I’d like to think so but studies are inconclusive. Well actually that’s a lie- the studies *were* inconclusive when I last reviewed the matter for a term paper as an undergrad in the 1990s. It’s entirely possible that science has come to a firm conclusion on the matter by now but I can’t be bothered to look it up. In any case, I wanted to provide you two case studies in optimism and creativity, drawn from my personal experience to illustrate their practical applications. The first case shall be documented by way of a thread of email corr…

Avoiding Conflict

It’s very hard to separate rational truth from what we were taught as children.For as far back as I can recall I have strived to avoid conflict. With everyone, in every circumstance, regardless the consequences. Not only do I stifle eruptions of anger that well up within myself (even if justified) I do everything to avoid others becoming angry with me, especially in public. As would be expected this has exacted quite a cost emotionally and at times financially and professionally. My husband challenged me recently to consider this pattern of behavior; to study it deeply and identify why I often sacrifice everything at the altar of ‘keeping the peace’. So I did. I took time away from distractions and set myself down to pray and pursue and unravel this compulsion that often costs me so dearly. Here is what I discovered.From the time I was a very small child my mother would frequently yell at me. It was terrifying, loud, sometimes accompanied by physical violence (throwing things). I neve…

Suzie

My sister Suzie died unexpectedly yesterday in a most horrific way (she was 48). My college classmate Tondra died last week, also unexpectedly and horribly (she was 35).  I lost Jenna at the end of September (she was 14). I lost Daddy in March (he was 82). I am having a hard time keeping sane at this particular moment in time.

Ode to My Beloved Jenna

RIP Jenna "Piranha Mama" Parks
December 1996 - September 2011

Jenna. My beloved Jenna.


You have been a part of my life since I was 20. Since Jon and were in our first year of marriage. Nearly every meaningful memory of the past 15 years is intertwined with your presence.

When I broke my leg that cold Valentine’s day (a month and a day before my 21st birthday) as I raced up to my parents home barefoot with you in my arms (which you went sailing out of when I slipped on the ice and the audible crack of my bone could be heard) it was you, first on the scene, to lick my tears away and bring me comfort.

When I packed everything I owned into my car, said goodbye to my husband and set off for a new life in New York, it was you by my side in the car as my companion in adventure.

When we reached NY and were forced out of the only place we had to live, it was you and I against the big cruel world and I remember the promise I made to you through tears: I would never let anyone take …

My Protest against the 1% (God) Who Has 100% Power Over Death

It’s been a little over eight months since my father died. It’s been a difficult eight months. Sometimes my grief wells up and spills over into tears when I’m not expecting it but for the most part I find that the wound heals a little more each day.


While I am still healing emotionally and have healed physically (the human stress response of cortisol elevation causes multiple problems for our health), the death of my father has led to significant and permanent changes in my relationship with God and my understanding of the world. As I posted in a previous entry, during his health crisis in his final weeks I researched tirelessly to try to find a way to prevent my father from dying, all to no avail. This failure to control the situation burdened me with immense guilt (what if I had just could have done something different to stop this?) and stirred up irrational anger in me against the doctors (why couldn’t they save him?).

After a time, with the help of others I was able to see real…

To Mom

I sent this letter to my mother today...

 I have been thinking a lot about Dad lately and our family. Mostly lately b/c I have noticed how much happier, calmer, peaceful and kinder you have become since Dad has died. At first I was really angry that you seemed to be doing so well without him and not very sad all the time in tears missing him. You seemed to be even better than when he was still here. :/ But I talked about it a lot with Jonathan and I think I see really for the first time that maybe Daddy was not always kind to you and maybe that the way Daddy treated you and talked about you in front of me was part of the reason you struggled so much. I mean you made your own mistakes and I'm not saying that it was all Dad's fault or that I can pretend you did everything right as a mom but maybe I see that Dad didn't really help you when you were struggling with problems and depression when I was growing up or even when I was an adult- instead he used them agai…

On Running and Fitness

Several of you have emailed me to ask how my running regime has been going. I started c25k in June 2010. Way back in 2010! I made it to one week shy of graduation (I chose the distance goal versus time so for me graduation= running a 5k) and it took me something like 12 weeks to get there. I felt so good about my progress and about myself. And then...when I was so close...I let life get in the way. I lost my job (govt contract rebid lost by my employer), got depressed/anxious about that and stopped running consistently which kept setting back my progress. THEN I landed a  job and was super busy learning the paces of  the new environment and used that as an excuse to not run consistently. THEN in the winter my elderly parents fell ill, Dad came to live with us, was very sick and eventually died in March of 2011. Between the stress and grief my running was sporadic at best. I was determined to start running again in March after his death but something just wouldn't snap into place- …

Trip Report: A Weekend in Tokyo

My favorite airline (Delta) had a fantastic ‘oopsie’ mistake fare to Tokyo over the summer and so my friends and I jumped at the chance to take a 3 day weekend in Asia. After a Labor Day weekend mile run to Sydney, AU last year I swore off economy cabin flights longer than 13 hours but at less than $500 round trip it was just too good to pass up this economy fare to Asia (typical summer fares are $1400). So off we went!  A warm Thursday evening in July five of us departed the DC metro area bound for Tokyo. With the time zone changes we touched down at Haneda airport Friday evening just after ten o’clock. I’m going to be honest and share with you that it’s a bit unnerving- after growing up in the melting pot of the United States – to find yourself surrounded by a lack of ethnic diversity. The ‘sameness’ was especially highlighted as international tourism to Tokyo has dropped sharply after the tsunami. It wasn’t until two days into the weekend that I was able to stop seeing how similar …