Blog Archives

BBC: ‘Bittersweet’.

Happy Friday/Holiday-weekend Eve! Don’t you love that Friday feeling – knowing that you’re about to do whatever the heck you want for three whole days? Yep, that’s a great feeling. I always look forward to Memorial Day weekend – it’s festive in a no-pressure kind of way, and it’s the true sign that summer is coming.

Speaking of summer, the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club – “Bittersweet” by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore – is perfect for the season! Here’s the description from Amazon.com:

Suspenseful and cinematic, Bittersweet exposes the gothic underbelly of an idyllic world of privilege and an outsider’s hunger to belong.

On scholarship at a prestigious East Coast college, ordinary Mabel Dagmar is surprised to befriend her roommate, the beautiful, wild, blue-blooded Genevra Winslow. Ev invites Mabel to spend the summer at Bittersweet, her cottage on the Vermont estate where her family has been holding court for more than a century. Mabel falls in love with midnight skinny-dipping, the wet dog smell that lingers near the yachts, and the moneyed laughter that carries across the still lake while fireworks burst overhead. Before she knows it, she has everything she’s ever wanted: friendship, a boyfriend, access to wealth, and, most of all, for the first time in her life, the sense that she belongs.

But as Mabel becomes an insider, a terrible discovery leads to shocking violence and reveals what the Winslows may have done to keep their power intact–and what they might do to anyone who threatens them. Mabel must choose: either expose the ugliness surrounding her and face expulsion from paradise, or keep the family’s dark secrets and make Ev’s world her own.

This book randomly grabbed my attention – I found it on Pinterest about a month ago. I have always liked this idea of elite families, especially the ones with old money and Vermont estates. This book has that, plus a few very dark twists that I didn’t expect. I found this book to be very visual while reading it, which is one of my favorite things about reading.

Mabel’s character is easily relatable, while Ev is that girl we all know – very slender, fashion-forward, money-rich, and looking for love in all the wrong places. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a little bit of a mysterious escape.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Born a Crime” by Trevor Noah, from “The Daily Show”. Should be an interesting one!

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m hoping to scoot out of the office a little early and get this weekend started! My original plans of lounging by the pool all weekend have been squashed by the prediction of less than stellar weather. Instead, I made a list of indoor activities to keep me busy, including: seeing “Baywatch”, shopping, two dance classes (one is for charity and I cannot wait!), hair appointment, and of course, cooking up some new recipes! And okay… maybe I’ll add in some TV time, too.

I hope you all have a fun, safe weekend! I’m going to give myself Monday off from blogging, but I’ll be right back here on Tuesday!

Holiday weekend EATS.

Delish summer treat!

You guys!! We are on the cusp of one of my favorite times of year – summer! In Texas, the later months of summer are waaaay too hot to enjoy much of anything, so this beginning part sure is something to celebrate.

Before my Vegas vacation, I know I talked a lot about my efforts to eat right, exercise more, and drink less. And I did! Honestly, I still felt a little pudgy in my bikini, but… 31. I ate and drank pretty much everything in sight on vacation and then got back on my healthy eating once I returned.

Ever since, I’ve been feeling better and am starting to see a little bit of a difference in my figure, but being healthy and feeling good is my top priority. It’s still a constant struggle, though, to find recipes and things to cook at home that make me excited to eat healthy.

I have been eating 1 hard-boiled egg, an oatmeal English muffin (it has double the protein), and half a bottle of Naked juice for breakfast for the last three weeks and I’m still not sick of it. In week’s past, I’ve made vegan chili, veggie rolls, sausage and grits, and Hawaiian chicken sewers, among other things for lunches and dinners.

But I wanted to find some festive, special things to cook this weekend to deter me from eating out (I am still letting myself have a cheat meal at the Drafthouse to see “Baywatch”). So, I am really excited to share with you these two recipes I found on Pinterest. Here goes:

Shrimp Boil Foil Packets

Photo + recipe from Damn Delicious!

I was really excited when I saw this recipe – it was in a collection of recipes that all involved a foil packet. I have been craving some Louisiana food, and this is a really easy way for me to fulfill my wishes while still staying healthy. I think I’m going to eat this as-is, but it would also been good served with brown rice, or other veggies such as asparagus or okra (yum!).

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 (12.8-ounce) package smoked andouille sausage, thinly sliced
2 ears corn, each cut crosswise into 4 pieces
1 pound baby red potatoes, halved
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 teaspoons cajun seasoning
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill over high heat.
  2. Cut four sheets of foil, about 12-inches long. Divide shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes into 4 equal portions and add to the center of each foil in a single layer.
  3. Fold up all 4 sides of each foil packet. Add olive oil, cajun seasoning, salt and pepper, to taste; gently toss to combine. Fold the sides of the foil over the shrimp, covering completely and sealing the packets closed.
  4. Place foil packets on the grill and cook until just cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.*
  5. Served immediately, garnished with parsley, if desired.

Note: This can also be baked for 15-17 minutes at 425 degrees F.

Black Bean Butternut Veggie Burgers

Recipe + photo from Peas and Carrots!

I really love a good burger, especially in the summer. While a regular burger is perfectly fine, I have been making a conscious effort to eat less meat and focus on plant-based foods. I’m hoping this recipe turns out great – I’m planning to add a little cheddar to my burger, and serve it with sweet potato fries and maybe some watermelon!

INGREDIENTS

1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax + 3 TBSP water) or 1 egg
1 cup mashed black beans [refried black beans work too!]
1 cup pureed butternut squash
1/3 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced celery
2 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
1 TBSP olive oil [or butter]
3/4 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [like mrs. dash]
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley [or fresh if you have it!]
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1.5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats [not instant]

Optional toppings: 4 burger buns (I used a bakery poppy seed onion bun – amazing!), 4 slices of pepper jack cheese, romaine lettuce, fresh baby spinach, mayo (store-bought or homemade) mixed with sriracha chili sauce

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk together 1 TBSP ground flax with 3 TBSP water and pop it in the fridge to set.
  2. Next mash black beans in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Add your butternut squash to the beans and set aside.
  4. Next saute onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil until tender and near-translucent, adding the minced garlic towards the end to prevent burning.
  5. Season the veggies with your Italian seasoning blend, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and parsley and stir to coat.
  6. Add the freshly sauteed veggies to your beans and squash and stir in your oats.
  7. Remove your flax egg from the fridge and add it to the bowl.
  8. Stir to fully incorporate and roll mixture into four balls.
  9. For optimal burger shape, cup each ball in your hands and squeeze tightly, rotating as you gently, but firmly, press it into a disc.
  10. Giggles aside, pop your burgers onto a plate, cover with foil or cling wrap and refrigerate as you prep your buns [or lettuce wraps!] and toppings. This will give them a little while to set. You can even leave them overnight and cook them up the following day.
  11. Pour a tablespoon or two of oil in a skillet and heat to medium-high, so the burgers sizzle when you add them to the pan!
  12. Cook for a few minutes on each side until you’re left with a golden crust. and a warm center. Repeat for each burger, or cook two at once if you have a big enough pan!
  13. Slather your buns with sriracha mayo, pile them high with lettuce, spinach, pepper jack and top each with a yummy butternut burger.

That’s what I’ll be cooking up on this gloomy, rainy weekend – I’d love to know what recipes you’re looking forward to this weekend, or this summer!

Adulting: Score one more for me.

Facing fears and going to the doctor!

I know I’ve talked quite a bit about my health this year, particularly about handling some extreme fatigue I was experiencing in January and February. While I have been feeling better – after sticking to a diet and a sleeping pill – I still knew it was time I buck up and go to the doctor.

Since I changed jobs at the beginning of the year, I also changed insurance companies. This was a great time to make all the rounds, so on Monday, I had an appointment with my OBGYN for a wellness exam. Every time I go to these exams, my doctor asks me if I am open for doing lab work, and I always either find some excuse not to (whoops, didn’t fast today…) or I just casually walk out of the office.

I’m serious! I’m not necessarily afraid of needles or blood…but more so just all things medical. But because of this fear, I do not have any idea what’s happening inside my body. Cholesterol? Vitamin D? Thyroid? I have never had anything tested, so I’m clueless.

Now that I work in the healthcare industry, I’m much more privy to how things work, and to top it off, I’ve educated myself on all this AHCA nonsense, so I’m learning a lot about insurance and what’s covered, etc. It’s a fascinating world.

So, when I scheduled my wellness exam and they said to fast beforehand, I told myself yes, I’m going to do it, and if they offer to do labs then I’m just going to go for it (#2017Goals) – no making another appointment, no freaking out, hell, no walking out – just DO it.

Sure enough, right after asking me how I was doing, she asked if I needed labs. Yes, I said. Everything you’ve got. So, after my women’s exam, she directed me down the hall to the lab, where, right out in the open, a nurse was drawing blood.

It was basically my worst nightmare, but I looked the other way, and it was over in like 30 seconds?! I kind of can’t believe I was so scared for that! I know it’s so small, but I felt so proud of myself and I still do. To top it off, when I went to pickup my prescription last night, I was prepped to pay $160 for a month’s supply under my new insurance. But, to my delight, it was $0 and my doctor had given me a three-month supply. Major score!!

I’m really trying to take charge of my health, and this is one step in the right direction. By just a few seconds of fear and pain, I am going to get results on my thyroid, cholesterol, and vitamin D levels. Sure, I hope they’re fine, but if not, I can start doing what I can to fix it.

I have always been grateful to have good health, but I think loosing a close family friend this year really drove that home. I don’t have to take lots of medications just to feel normal. I don’t have to avoid certain foods or activities; I can pretty much do whatever I want and I’m okay. But I know I may not always be this lucky, and it’s about time I start paying attention to what’s happening with my body.

I’ve already gotten one test result back and it was good, so we’ll see how the others go. If you’re on the fence about something health-related, just get it done! I feel so much better that it’s out of the way, and now that I’m about to be in the KNOW, I can continue to get healthier and healthier.

‘Southern Charm’: Sari, Not Sari.

Patricia’s Sari party.

Man, yesterday was a pretty cool day. I kicked things off at the doctor’s office for an annual exam, and was brave enough to go ahead with blood work for the FIRST time ever in my life!

Then when I went to pick up my prescription, I thought it was going to be about $200 with my new insurance… and it was $0. And my doctor gave me two months’ worth of samples. Yes! And then I ran home and turned on “Southern Charm”, of course. Let’s get into it!

The episode kicks off with Naomi and Craig at couples’ counseling. Honestly, I was shocked at how horribly this went. They were arguing, yelling at each other, and calling each other names right in front of the counselor. I kinda feel like their relationship is coming to an end, but I feel like they’re the kind that just stays in it to win it, so we’ll see.

Later, Landon is out with Austen. They’re at some hole-in-the-wall bar and Landon is wearing lumberjack flannel and drinking Mich Ultra. They seem pretty chummy, but of course Landon keeps bringing up Austen’s “girlfriend”, Chelsea. Austen isn’t so sure what their status is given the conversation they had in last episode, after their night in the cabin.

And then Shep shows up wondering what the hell is going on – he’s pretty sure there are sparks flying between Landon and Austen, but I think he’s actually trying to start trouble.

Then, Thomas and his dad have a meeting to go over some of the residential projects Thomas has taken over. While Thomas’ dad has a rich history in politics, he’s taken on renovating Charleston properties in his later years, and now many of his children are taking over to help.

Out on another date, Austen and Chelsea head to a trampoline park that looks pretty serious. They make it through a few of the obstacle courses and they start talking about their families. Austen says he has a younger sister that he’s close to, which is surprising because she is 9 years younger than him. Chelsea asks, why did his parents wait so long, and did he ever ask them?

He says, well I actually already know. He then confesses to Chelsea that he had an older sister, who was 10 when he was 7. And basically… she fell off the side of a mountain during a family vacation. Like, for real. I almost burst into tears.

Later, Chelsea and Kathryn have an interesting conversation when Chelsea cuts and styles Kathryn’s hair. Kathryn says she wrote Thomas a letter, and says she will always love him, she misses him, and if she saw him, she’d just want to give him a hug. Uh, whatttt??

At Patricia’s, she’s hosting a party to honor her friend who helped with the Sari line (which features dog prints), and to remember their trip to India. While the group struggles to follow the strict rules at the table – no talking politics, religion, or sex – they certainly dressed the part.

And then the special guest arrives: a psychic. When Craig gets in the chair, the psychic says law is his passion, and that he will pass the bar within the next year. Everyone gets their turn in the chair, but all of the answers from the psychic seem a little toooooo perfect.

That is, until Whitney brings up Kathryn and a huge fight breaks out between everyone in the group. It’s basically last season’s reunion all over again. And that’s the end of the episode, naturally! It’s looking like next week’s episode is as equally riveting, with Kathryn back in the picture… dun, dun, DUN!

Taking steps for Crohn’s.

Take Steps for Crohn’s!

Howdy! I’m still recovering from a two-day work trip to Dallas, and the weekend. I didn’t get back from my trip until Friday night, and still had some loose-ends to tie up before it was really the weekend, but I didn’t waste much time drinking a beer and falling into bed. I had to be up at a reasonable hour for Austin’s leg of the “Take Steps” – a walk to raise money for a cure for Crohn’s disease.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this walk. While I am SO, so grateful for everyone who sponsored me (I raised $175 toward the cure), no one agreed to walk by my side. So, I woke up on Saturday morning to find it was storming quite heavily in Austin. Nonetheless, I ate, got dressed, and drove 20 minutes to the expo center.

I checked in, soaking wet, and got all sorts of free swag because of the amount of money I raised. I still had an hour before the actual walk started, and there wasn’t much for me to do – there were plenty of things for kids to do, but I sort of slinked away and tried to kill time listening to podcasts and staring off into the rain.

I thought about Cheryl, my friend who died after fighting with Crohn’s. She was my reason for walking on Saturday. Truthfully, I felt like a jerk. She did everything with a smile, and there I was – a grouch. But, I wondered if she was with me in spirit then, and possibly laughing at the fact that this walk was indeed inside a barn, and I was about to embark on a dusty, dirt path in brand new sneakers.

I also wondered why I’d never walked before; why had I not supported my friend when she was alive to see it? The truth is, she made Crohn’s look easy when it probably was not. I know everyone’s experience with it is different, but I know her battle was difficult at times.

As my hour-long wait came to an end, they invited everyone over to the stage. They called up some of the big donors, introduced doctors in the area to help those with Crohn’s and similar diseases, asked those diagnosed to come to the stage, and introduced their “Hero” – a boy who was probably 14-ish, and had been undergoing treatments for years. He spoke, and said his doctor found a treatment that worked for him and put his Crohn’s in remission… until his body developed antibodies to it, and now he was on something new. And while this treatment helped, he said, it was not an eliminator. Our money is working to possibly create an eliminator – and together, Austin raised $62,000+ for the cause.

And with that, we walked. It was a short walk, but I’m glad I did it – for Cheryl, but also for myself. I often take my health for granted, and it was very eye-opening to see others around me who have to work hard and take lots of medications to even try to feel normal. I can’t imagine.

But, my fight for Crohn’s isn’t over. I’m walking again, in a month, in Indianapolis, to raise more money and honor Cheryl once again. And if you’re in the area, I hope you’ll join me. To join my mom’s team with me, please click here. I hope to see you there!

Queso me crazy?

Queso Fundido from ‘What’s Gaby Cooking’!

I know I’ve written a few posts about my resolutions and goals for 2017, but there’s one tiny thing I haven’t mentioned: I kind of wanted to enter some sort of contest, particularly a cooking contest. I don’t really know what brought it on, although I’d be lying if I said the episode of “Real Girl’s Kitchen” where Haylee enters a Texas pie contest really had me curious.

Sure, I’ve entered in writing contests all the time (and happily lose them one-by-one), but I also love to cook, and I’m always saying that I’m getting tired of impressing MYSELF in the kitchen, right? What better way to see what you’re made of than by entering a contest?

A few weeks ago, I randomly came across a Tweet that was advertising a local food contest, with all of the money going toward charity. Sounded right up my ally, so I saved it for a later day.

Upon further inspection, this contest is the 7th annual “Quesoff”, allowing anyone to enter, and all of the proceeds and donations go to the Austin Food Bank. Umm, yes! If you remember, another one of my goals for 2017 was to “Just go for it”, so I did, without really considering it.

Yep, it’s official, Team Bitter Lemon is a contestant in the 7th Annual Quesoff, which takes place at the end of August.

…Which is probably a good thing, because… I’ve never made queso. That’s right, I entered a contest to make something I’ve never made. Awesome.

Of course, it doesn’t seem that competitive and it’s for a great cause, so it’s whatever, but you better believe I want my queso to be delicious. It should also be noted that I’ve entered my (so far non-existent) queso into the “Meaty” category, so it’s got to have meat.

While I do not consider myself a queso connoisseur, I already know that I’d like to make a white queso that features lean, shredded meat with a smoky flavor, possibly duck. I also want it to be nice and spicy (edible, of course).

I haven’t tried recipes as of yet, but I have recruited some local foodies to my team, and I’ve rounded up several folks to help me taste recipes as I jump into this cheese wave of summer. It’s gonna be a fun one, I can promise you that.

In general, we use the term “queso” to describe a delicious bowl of melty cheese, often enjoyed with nacho chips. But of course, queso refers to cheese; queso blanco is white cheese; queso fresco is fresh cheese.

There are so many different ways to make queso – with several cheeses, meat, beans, spices, tomatoes, chiles… the possibilities are endless!

While this endeavor doesn’t really go with my current diet, I’m going to have fun testing out new recipes for the contest. The Bitter Lemon will NOT be embarrassed showing up in Queso country with a first timer cheese dip! Let the cheesing begin…

Creating style while approaching 32.

Dream life.

Since the start of 2017, I have slowly been going through my closet, getting rid of items that don’t belong anymore. But it’s not just about the items that I haven’t worn, it’s more about the ones that don’t fit, and those that I just should NOT wear.

In general, it has taken me years to figure out what my style is, and when I can’t afford that look verbatim, how to look for pieces that I can afford and get good wear out of. But many of those pieces are now old, and they’re showing it in the form of underarm stains, tiny holes, missing buttons, and those annoying little balls of thread or fuzz.

As of now, I have two brown grocery bags full of items to get rid of – which I know doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a start. When I moved to Austin at the end of 2015, I got rid of many of my “professional” clothing items since my job attire was very casual. Since then, though, I filled my closet with more casual clothes. But as I look through my closet, I find I wear the same type of thing all the time – and rarely am I excited to get dressed in the morning.

Love this denim + heels combo.

So, as I take inventory, it’s not just pulling out one item of clothing and deciding right then and there, I have actually been wearing some of the items in my “maybe” pile, and seeing how they fit throughout my day. I added a shirt last week after wearing it to work and realizing it was uncomfortably short (it was also a shirt I bought almost 10 years ago, FYI). As I write this, I’m wearing a grey pencil skirt that’s going directly into my brown bags – it’s too tight; so tight I couldn’t get the top button into the loop and compromised with a long tank top. See what I mean?

As I get rid of items, I have slowly started to buy new things that are (hopefully) a better fit to my current body, and my current style. But, as I’ve been shopping, I’ve realized two things: 1. I think I’m smaller than I actually am, and 2. I have a habit of buying things that aren’t perfect.

That’s right, I have body dysmorphia in the backward way – I actually think I’m smaller than I am, which is great for my self-esteem, but bad for shopping. On Sunday, I spent three hours in ONE store, trying a pile of clothes on – most of which were too small. Why?

Honestly, I shopped a lot when I was in high school, probably because I had much more of a disposable income then (plus money from my parents). After that, I hit a long period where I didn’t have money to shop at all, and also went through some weight fluctuation. It’s very likely that I straight up do not know what size I am, and just go for what I know, which is often too small. It doesn’t help that the sizing charts for companies vary; I’m a medium in some brands and a small in others, and when it comes to swimsuits, I’m an XL (we’ll touch on this later).

I have always loved K-Cav’s effortless style.

As I was trying on item after item on Sunday, I would tell myself, “Oh I could get this, but I’ll have to resew the button”, or, “this needs to be hemmed”… and I finally just said no, I’m not buying it unless I can wear it as-is right after I walk out of this store. That meant out of the 20 items I tried on, I bought four, but they were four items that I am really excited to wear, so I’m happy I was picky.

Another truth is that as I get older, I’m trying to find out what types of things I should wear. Yes, I know, we should all just wear whatever we want, but, I want to look my best and flatter my body as best possible. I’m not 25 anymore, and I can’t wear the same types of things I did then – and I’m okay with this, but it means looking a little more.

For example, shoes. Summers for me have always meant flip-flops – not anything remotely expensive or nice; I’m talking shower shoes from the Dollar Tree. But… I don’t have cute feet; and I’ve also spent all this time crafting the perfect outfit, do I really want to slap on the flip-flops? No. So, I’m currently on a hunt for cute, flat sandals that will flatter my feet: maybe some metallic, strappy ones.

Another example is swimsuits. I used to live by Target-brand string bikinis… in my twenties. While they looked cute then, I just don’t have that body anymore. It doesn’t matter how many vegan meals I eat, dance classes I slay, or bottles of water I guzzle, a woman’s body changes, and mine certainly has. I have tried to always embrace my curves, and hunting for the right swimsuit has certainly been a challenge. I need underwires and significant straps to support my bust, and I need full coverage for my butt. No “cheeky” bottoms for this girl! I recently ordered a cute, patterned one-piece from Old Navy that has underwires, adjustable straps, and a full-coverage bottom that looks promising. We’ll see!

Love this look for summer!

If you follow me on Pinterest (which you should), you may have noticed that my general style is a little bit of boho, a little bit of sparkle, and a little mix of feminine with masculine – I love mixing a boy blazer with red lipstick or boyfriend jeans with high heels. I also have an affinity for jackets & scarves.

Speaking of accessories, that’s another thing I’ve been taking inventory of. I used to pride myself on my collection of jewelry… but it was jewelry from Charlotte Russe and Charming Charlie’s. While I certainly loved some of those pieces, they have overstayed their welcome and are either highly off-trend or tarnished. New note to self, spend a little more cash on timeless pieces that will last.

I’ve started to replace some of my jewelry pieces, and wow, it’s way more overwhelming than I recall. I don’t even know where to begin with the statement necklaces and all the earring options and have since decided that it’s probably best just to buy jewelry for specific outfits.

So, yes, I may be a little late to the fashion-in-your-thirties-game (I’d love to hear how you all are tackling it), but I’m learning that it’s constant upkeep. No wonder people are shopping all the time, right? I hope this post doesn’t come across as superficial; but it has always been important to me to look presentable, and to be able to express myself through clothes that make me feel confident, no matter what day it is or where I’m going.

I’ll continue to keep you posted on my fashion and style journey – until then, I’ll be scouring the sales racks and trying on piles and piles of clothes!

‘Southern Charm’: Foul Play.

Oh Craig…

The night’s episode kicks off with Kathryn heading over to JD’s house, where she finds out that Jennifer invited Thomas to her Sip n’ See, but not Kathryn… and she acts SHOCKED. Uh, girl you accused her of having an affair with Thomas, among being a blatant cold shrew to her about her son!

Meanwhile, Shep gets up and jogs over to Whitney’s house, as he’s still on his health kick. Shep says he wants to take the gang on a guided quail hunt, so that should be interesting.

Later, at Criag and Naomi’s, the two attempt to talk about what happened in the previous episode. Craig still doesn’t think anything he did was wrong, They continue to go in circles, so Naomi says she won’t talk about it any longer until their is a couples’ counselor in the room.

On Patricia’s porch, Landon stops by for a rum slushie, and Pat is wearing a kimono with chauncey printed all over it. Pat is giving Landon some love advice, and she’s quietly pushing Thomas into the picture. Landon admits she is proud of the father Thomas has become but she doesn’t want to be involved in all of the baby mama drama. Speaking of Thomas, he’s getting his kids ready to go with Kathryn for the weekend.

The group is heading out of town for the hunting trip, and naturally the lodge is GORGEOUS. Whitney jumps right into his hunting outfit which had me rolling laughing, as he looked like the Lorde of the manner, or even Benjamin Button. Ha!

Chelsea is living her dreams with all the guys dressed to the nines and her, carrying her own gun. She tells Austen she wishes he was more into trucks and guns… and then he walks into the field and gets the most kills of the day.

That night, Thomas arrives (once the hunt is over as he cannot hold a firearm per his conviction), and Austen and Chelsea seem like two peas in a pod. So, is it a coincidence that Shep starts drinking again? Nope.

Over dinner, and after, the group proceeds to get completely HAMMERED, so much so that even I was laughing while watching. But, it’s all fun and games until Austen and Chelsea head off to their cabin alone… dun, dun, dun…

So, they slept together, and in the morning, they’re having some pretty cute pillow talk. Chelsea says something about how they’re on the same page, but her page is “nothing serious”, and Austen admits he’s feeling a sense of attachment toward her post-sex. Awwww man – I kind feel bad for him!

It should also be noted that I’ve started recording “Southern Charm Savannah”, but I haven’t watched any of the episodes yet. I’m just not sure how it could be better than the original…

BBC: ‘Why We Broke Up’.

Hello, hello! My sincere apologies for not posting this on Friday – I had some internet issues on Thursday night, and was simply too tired to stay up and resolve them. But alas! I finished reading another book last week and wanted to share it with you.

Blanche’s Book Club’s latest read is “Why We Broke Up” by Daniel Handler. Here’s the description from Amazon.com: I’m telling you why we broke up, Ed. I’m writing it in this letter, the whole truth of why it happened. Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box. Inside the box is why they broke up. Two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.

…Sounds like the leftover from many of the relationships I’ve had!

I got this book from the library and what I noticed off the bat was that it weighed a TON. It wasn’t that big of a book, but upon further inspection I saw that it was printed on thick, glossy paper and was filled with colorful illustrations of the items inside the box. After reading it, I can’t help but wonder if the weight of the book was also supposed to resemble the weight of the box from Min.

This book is very different. The voice is very raw and honest, and although there are stories upon stories about this relationship, the reader is still given lots of room to imagine the course of this couple. Sure, it’s a little dramatic, but Min and Ed are teenagers, and nothing hurts quite like your first broken heart.

While most of the things inside the box represented milestones in their relationship, some of the tokens were proof that we all assign meaning to even the smallest of things – especially if there were very few of them. I can recall not wanting to go to Blockbuster after my first relationship because we would go there to rent movies… us and the entire world! It’s funny how much we invest in the physical parts of a relationship, possibly when there’s not much to feast on emotionally.

The way this book is written – one really long letter to Ed – is different and a bit artsy. If that’s you, I say GO for this one! It was fun and refreshing.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Bittersweet” by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. We hope you’ll read it along with us!

I hope you all had a great weekend – I went to dance, lounged at the pool with a book and some wine, did some shopping, and did a little cooking. It was fantastic! I’ve got a busy week ahead between work and travel, and I’ve got my Steps for Crohn’s on Saturday. It should be a good one – but I’m ready for a brand new episode of “Southern Charm” tonight, which I’ll be recapping right here tomorrow. Hope to see you then!

Spring cleaning + soy candles.

Time to get scrubbin’.

Over the weekend, I decided to tackle a task I’ve been putting off: spring cleaning! I don’t think I’ve ever officially completed a “spring clean”, and frankly, I never understood why it was such a big deal (or maybe it’s not and I am just falling for the advertisements). But this year, I really felt like my apartment needed a good scrub.

During the winter months, I barely stepped foot on my patio, so it really needed the attention. So, I kicked off my Saturday by hitting up a few stores and getting supplies. I ended up with a giant new pot, six new plants (including a mini cactus, lavender, and a mountain laurel, among others), a cute citronella candle in a ceramic owl, and a string of solar-powered lights.

I spent the next four hours or so transplanting the plants that had survived the cold months, and putting my new plants in some random pots I had. I put up my string lights, swept the patio, and even cleaned the glass for my sliding door. Finally, I re-arranged the pots (according to their need for sunlight)… and it looked like an entirely new patio! I have eaten dinner out there a few times since, and it’s just so cute!

Next, I took my cleaning party inside and just started scrubbing. Truthfully, I keep my kitchen and bathroom pretty clean from week to week. Because of my kitty, I clean my bathroom (where her litter box is) once a week, and I always try to clean up my kitchen each night before bed. I hate dirty dishes in the sink!

But, rarely do I do these “big cleans”, and this one was about more than just scrubbing. I also wanted to get rid of a few things, and organize some drawers. So, this clean took a very long time. Currently, I have two brown bags of clothes to donate (along with a few pairs of shoes), and a stack of books. I’m not quite done going through everything, but it’s a start.

I cleaned out my kitchen drawers and my bathroom drawers, wiping them out and organizing along the way. Although it was a time-consuming task, it makes me happy to open up my makeup drawer each morning and have everything right in its place.

One thing that’s difficult for me is keeping things tidy. I’m really bad about just tossing things down when I come home for the day, or not putting things in their place once I’ve used them. And this week I’ve tried to be better about it since I put in all the time on Saturday, and although the place still looks pretty nice, I’ll admit it’s kind of frustrating always being on “tidy duty”, or whatever you want to call it!

On Sunday, I was rewarded for my labor with brunch and a girlfriend came over to make soy candles. The funny thing is, I had recently started looking into what it would take to make my own candles. Why? Well, I have a soot problem from burning cheap candles – the soot has nearly stained my ceiling and even my carpet. And it got me thinking – what the heck have I been breathing in?

So, when the friend suggested we MAKE soy candles, I jumped on it! She had already ordered the soy wax flakes (a 10lb bag), wicks and adhesive, a pouring pot, and a food thermometer. She even had the essential oils so we could add scent.

We went to Michael’s and found some really cute jars for under $2. We got to my apartment and Googled a few videos to make sure we weren’t about to mess things up. Honestly, we just sort of played things by ear. We boiled a pot of water in one pot, and placed the pouring pot into the water – the pouring pot had the soy wax flakes in it.

Those melted down, and we took the pouring pot out of the water and waited for the temperature to drop before dropping in the oil. It’s important to let the wax cool to around 120 degrees farenheit or else the scent will burn off.

We never could get a could sense of just how much oil to put into each batch – some sites said 1 ounce, which is a TON in essential oil measurement. We started with 6-8 drops of oil per 3ish cups (unmelted) of wax. If the wax didn’t have a strong smell after pouring into the jars, we added additional drops. The soy wax flakes were white and we didn’t add any colors – although some of the oils had natural coloring.

The fun part about making the candles was choosing the scent blends! I also have a collection of oils, so we had a lot to choose from. Some of the combinations we made were: lavender + peppermint, lemongrass + sweet orange, tea tree + lemongrass + cedarwood, and winter morning (a premade blend) + wintergreen.

So, basically you just have to pick your containers (you could use jars, cans, coffee mugs…), then apply the wicks to the inside bottom of the container, and add something to hold the wick in place – such as a pencil or a chopstick to lay across the top of the container and twist the wick around it.

Once you melt the wax, let it cool to 120 degrees, add the oil, stir, and pour into the containers. Then let it sit overnight – I put ours in the fridge to set completely. The one thing we truly guessed at was the measurements. We used 5lbs of wax and made 10 candles, all around the 6-8 ounce size. The wax melts down quite a bit, so 3 cups of unmelted wax is probably 2 or less cups, melted. I don’t know science, but this was a constant struggle for us!

Nevertheless, our candles turned out so cute, and I’ve already started burning the lavender + peppermint one and it’s fabulous. Homemade candles would make great gifts, or are just great to keep!

Still, I resist.

Image from ‘We the Protestors’.

I know I said I would try my best to keep this blog a place where people could escape from politics, and essentially, get away from negativity. But at some point, my silence is complicity, and that is something for which I will not stand.

You may recall last July, when I finally broke my silence after Alton Sterling was murdered in Baton Rouge. It was a week of frustration and heartbreak, and I was at the end of my rope. I saw so much victim-blaming and I was ready to stand on my roof and yell “F the police!”

Here’s a snippet from the post:

I woke up nearly two hours before my alarm on Tuesday, and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I started scrolling through my Twitter feed. I saw the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag had gained popularity and I knew it: another innocent black man had lost his life to the bullet of a police officer.

And sure enough, that was the case for Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We’ve all heard his story by now, I’m sure. Soon, most of us will be able to sweep him under the rug just as we’ve done before; just like we did for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, Tony Robinson, Phillip White, Eric Harris, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray, among several others.

As white people, we’re granted the ability to forget about incidents such as these, because we don’t understand the struggle blacks have continued to go through. Introducing white privilege: White privilege is the systemic construct that grants unearned advantages to people based solely on skin color. This definition is significant in that often people see how race puts people of color at a disadvantage, but seldom see the corollary of white skin advantage.

Read the entire post here.

Last Tuesday night, I had a similar, frustrated feeling when I saw the news that there would be no charges against the Baton Rouge police officers who murdered Mr. Sterling, even after the US Department of Justice completed an independent investigation. It was the first case under Jeff Sessions, who airs his racial prejudices openly.

Days after the decision to not press charges, chilling details emerged about the 90-second exchange between Mr. Sterling and two police officers (along with six bullets). “A law enforcement source confirmed that Salamoni calls Sterling both a ‘bitch’ and a ‘motherf*****’ while threatening to “shoot” him in the head if he doesn’t comply” (source).

The reactions to drop charges in Baton Rouge had mixed reactions online, where I saw several activists even saying they “weren’t surprised” this was the outcome. That broke my heart. Many people said Mr. Sterling deserved to die because he had prior charges, and/or because he wasn’t permitted to carry the handgun he had in his pocket. But none of that justifies his death, and it doesn’t answer the bigger problem: institutional racism.

That same week last July, America watched live as Philando Castile, a black man, was murdered by a white police officer. Castile was stopped for having a broken tail light. The officer asked Castile to show him his license and registration, and Castile told the officer he was armed (please note that Castile did have a permit to carry a gun). Then he died – and it was all aired on Facebook Live (source).

In February, his murderer plead not guilty to second-degree manslaughter. The trial date is set for May 30.

About a week ago, the country learned that Jordan Edwards, a 15-year-old black teen was shot and killed by a white police officer. The police officer has since been arrested for Edwards’ murder (source).

The narrative surrounding Edwards was mostly about how great he was – how he made the honor roll. And while that’s fantastic, and sad, it shouldn’t matter what kind of person he was or the grades he made for his life to matter. He was riding in a car, leaving a party – neither of which are illegal, and they’re certainly worthy of getting murdered.

But this is the narrative that works to uphold institutional racism. With Trayvon, they said he wasn’t that great of a student – he smoked weed – he stole things; with Alton, they said he had past charges and was convicted of molestation; comply, don’t die, they say.

But what does the narrative become when you comply? What does it become when you make straight A’s? When you’re sober? When you’re wearing a seatbelt in the backseat of a car?

It’s about being black in America.

I spent a portion of my workday yesterday at the Texas Capitol, taking pictures of women dressed as Handmaids to draw attention to the 30+ anti-abortion bills that have worked themselves into the legislation session this year.

Since I started my job in January – I work as the Digital Communications Manager for a national abortion clinic – I’ve learned a lot about how the government has set itself up against women. Frankly, unless you’re a white male, you’re pretty much doomed to fail in this country.

As far as abortion goes, the anti-choicers have created a narrative that shames women into thinking abortion is immoral, among other things. The narrative uses false stories and urban legends to support their case – a case that is medically inaccurate. There will never be a time when abortion is gone – it will just be illegal, and unsafe.

Since the AHCA passed, I took a look at what it outlines – and it says that rape is considered a pre-existing condition, on top of having a c-section, and having irregular periods.

So, if you’re a woman, you don’t qualify for insurance. And if you’ve been raped, you’ll either have to shame yourself into not saying anything so you can get coverage, or say something and pay out-of-pocket for your medical care.

I know that this one blog post may not make a change, but I was so upset by politics, and the world, last week that I couldn’t continue on without saying something. Because if you just stand by while all of this continues, you’re part of the problem.

But, since I had training on dialogue about institutional racism, and since I’ve started working in abortion care, I have learned just how much change I can make with my voice. Talking creates noise. When I share my opinions with others, I am letting them know what I believe and what I stand for. Even just introducing myself and saying I work in abortion is enough to spark a conversation and let someone know where I stand, and what I’m not willing to tolerate.

So, I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again: Black lives still matter, and Women’s Rights are Human Rights.

‘Southern Charm’: To Liver and Die in Charleston.

Shep and Cam.

Can I just say that Monday nights are pretty awesome – I’ve got two of my favorite dance classes to take, and then I come home to some great TV, plus there’s that whole feeling that at least Monday is over. Right??

I was extra excited to see last night’s episode after last week’s craziness with Craig and Naomi. So, let’s get into it. At the top of the episode, Shep’s doctor calls and tells him the results of his labs. Turns out he has an elevated enzyme in his live and needs to cut back on the drinking, and will be tested again in two to three months.

At another house, Cameron is waiting on Craig (typical). She’s showing him some investment properties so he can fulfill one of his many dreams! Turns out, he’s pretty picky about what he wants in a rental home, and Cameron asks him if Naomi is supportive of this financial decision. He says he can’t continue to do things JUST for her, or else he’ll come to resent her.

Meanwhile, Patricia is at the pool with Chauncey and Whitney stops by and tells her about the conversation he had with Thomas about dating. Patricia suggests Landon as a possible match for Thomas, and of course, she decides she should host a casual dinner party and she can seat Thomas next to Landon (how Charleston of her).

Then, Chelsea and Austen go on another date – beer tasting (perfection). They get to talking about Shep and Austen tells Chelsea that Shep was a little disappointed that he was the last to know about the two of them talking. However, Austen assures Chelsea that he’s squashed it and he has no questions about it, and he does not feel like he violated Bro Code.

Remember last week, when Cameron had the witch doll made for Shep? Well, she takes him out to dinner: a table for Cameron, Shep… and Mama Estelle (Cam’s doll). She explains to Shep that she had a doll made for him because she was going to cast a love spell on him but she’d since changed her mind. So, she gave him the doll and said he could use it when he met someone worth falling in love with.

Later, Patricia’s is putting the final touches on her dinner party, and she says, “With these kids, I can just go to Costco and buy all the liquor.” Seriously? I would PAY to see Patricia in a Costco. The dinner party goes fine, but it doesn’t seem like any crazy sparks are flying. However, Thomas sniffs out that it’s a setup pretty early in the evening.

Meanwhile, Craig is on the sewing machine, embroidering tiny images of his cat, Gizmo, onto pillowcases. Naomi is not impressed by this at all, and when Craig casually mentions that he put an offer in on a house, she’s not really interested in that, either.

Later, Shep joins Kathryn for his first ever yoga class, as he continues his journey to detox. He’s struggling pretty hard throughout the class, but afterward tells Kathryn that he’s trying to see what it’s like not to drink every night. There’s a few clips of Shep at home, taking vitamins, and making a fruit smoothie in a Vitamix. He then calls his mom and says, “I just made a smoothie!” …It’s probably one of the cutest TV moments, ever.

Speaking of parents, Austen has dinner with his parents, and they are REALLY fired up about him starting a business. They don’t see his work as a beer salesman as anything serious; they want him to settle down, get married, and have a 9-5, and they really want him to make a business plan to show them he’s getting serious. Whoa.

And finally, the gang heads to Jennifer’s sip and see, where Thomas and Landon are flirting pretty heavily, and Naomi and Craig continue their fighting in front of everyone. Basically, she’s calling him out on his bullshit and he sees it as her not being loyal…which doesn’t really make sense.

But at the end of the episode, it doesn’t look like things between them are getting cleared up anytime soon, because she leaves the party without him. Bloop, bloop! Guess we’ll find out next week!

Yep, I just geeked out over groceries.

Introducing Whole Foods’ 365 stores.

Friday after work, I decided to venture slightly north to an area of Texas I’ve come to know well – Cedar Park, near where the Texas Stars hockey team plays. I’d recently learned about a new store opening there, a 365 by Whole Foods Market.

So, I took the 20 minute drive and ended up in a new, really nice shopping center, complete with the freshly minted market. Supposedly, the 365 versions of Whole Foods are a test for the company, and the one in Cedar Park is one of five in the country. These stores are smaller, and house more of the 365 brand products, and are supposedly more affordable than the Whole Foods megastores we’re used to.

I went to the store with a list of things I needed for the week, but also kept the mindset that if they didn’t have what I needed, I’d just get what looked good and hit up my usual H.E.B. later. As I was walking up to the store, I noticed nearly all of the picnic tables outside were filled with people having dinner and drinking fresh juice.

Once I got inside, I could see why: the store had two counters to order food, pizza sold by the slice, ready-made sushi, a coffee counter, and a Juice Land. Major score for those living nearby, and especially for those working inside the shopping center.

At first, I was thinking the place looked a little small (like a Trader Joe’s) and there was no way they were going to have the things I needed. But, I grabbed the produce I needed and then thoroughly checked out the bulk aisle, where I got a big bag of trail mix for $6.

Next up was meats and frozen goods, where they had a bin of Mochi – a Japanese treat made from rice flour. I had never seen it before – it looks like a bath bomb – but I Googled it immediately. Hmm, ok, cool, they’ve got new things here, I thought.

As I left the olive bar, I discovered there was an entire other side to the store that had aisles, along with a section for fresh-baked goods. I went down every aisle, checking things off my list one-by-one. I even picked up a few unique bottles of wine, and got some decently healthy crackers for the salmon salad I planned on making.

But, the geeking out didn’t truly happen until I rounded the corner for the ready-made aisles. There was the sushi (a favorite of mine – I love the rolls with brown rice), and also ready-made meals from Snap Kitchen.

And then, there, under the light from the heavens was the section for cold coffees and energy drinks. For the first time ever, I saw it: Blue Bottle Coffee – right in front of my face.

“Oh my God,” I whispered under my breath. “It’s here!”

There’s only three Blue Bottle locations in the US – two are in California and one is in the Northeast. I discovered it via Instagram and have only drooled over the thought of the stuff given its hefty price tag and that I’d have to have it shipped. But there, on the shelf, was their NOLA iced coffee packaged in small milk cartons, right beside little cans of their cold brew.

It took every ounce of my insides not to do two things: 1. squeal with delight, and 2. put my arm on the shelf and slide it across it in a manner that would place all 40 cartons and cans into my cart.

It was then I realized my life has really turned a corner: There I was, 7pm on a Friday, Cinco de Mayo, and I was talking to myself over gourmet cold brew. Sing it with me, “I don’t know about you, but I’m feelin’ thirty twoooo-o-o-o-o!”

Amirite?

My geeking out didn’t stop there, because I soon discovered bottles of Picnik’s paleo butter coffee, along with a wide collection of Evolution’s pressed juices.

Needless to say, my fridge is really happy right now… even opening it makes me smile. As I write this, I’ve been eating olives from the olive bar, cheese, sesame crackers, salami, and sipping some sangiovase rose. It’s fantastic.

So there. I don’t know how often I’ll make the trek (and fork over the money) to hit up the 365 Market, but it sure was fun while it lasted… and now I have the joy of eating all this delish, healthy stuff!

BBC: ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’.

Hello! I’m assuming everyone survived the Star Wars’ holiday and is now prepping for margaritas, so happy Friday! And double score for you guys, because I’ve got a great book recommendation to share!

The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Since You’ve Been Gone” by Morgan Matson. Another YA novel! Here’s the scoop:

Emily is about to take some risks and have the most unexpected summer ever. Hellogiggles.com says, “Basically I couldn’t be more in love with this book,” from the bestselling author of Second Chance Summer and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour.

Before Sloane, Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, and she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—someone who yanks you out of your shell.

But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just…disappears. There’s just a random to-do list with thirteen bizarre tasks that Emily would never try. But what if they can lead her to Sloane?

Apple picking at night? Okay, easy enough.

Dance until dawn? Sure. Why not?

Kiss a stranger? Wait…what?

Getting through Sloane’s list will mean a lot of firsts, and with a whole summer ahead of her—and with the unexpected help of the handsome Frank Porter—who knows what she’ll find.

Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

* * *

I swear I’m not obsessed with lists or the number 13 (the book club recently read “13 Reasons Why”). Generally speaking, this book is fun and perfect for summer. It has a bit of a “Paper Towns” feel to it in that Emily is following the list in hopes of getting to Sloane somehow.

I’ve never been given a list like this one in the book, but it sure helped Emily have a summer she’ll never forget. A friend and I were just talking about how we love looking forward to summer adventures, and this book offers that same excitement.

I would definitely recommend this book for those who love a little summer fun and/or romance. It will be perfect for those lazy weekend afternoons.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Why We Broke Up” by Daniel Handler. Yes, it’s another YA novel – swear it’ll be the last one for awhile!

Have a great day and a fun weekend, all! I am hoping to tend to my patio garden some and possibly do some crafting and cooking – it’s going to be a weekend full of ME time!

Join my team!

I’m taking steps to honor my angel, Cheryl, in Austin and in Indiana.

Hello! As many of you may have read, I lost a dear family friend in February to Crohn’s disease. I wasn’t able to make it home for her funeral in Indiana, so I am Taking Steps in Austin to not only honor her memory, but to raise money and awareness that will hopefully lead to a cure for this terrible illness.

If you live in the Austin area, I could REALLY use some teammates! I’m happy to walk alone, but would love the support, along with the opportunity to make it a fun-filled day for a walk. If you’re able, please join my team by clicking here.

If you’re not in the Austin area, but happen to live in the Indianpolis area, I will be Taking Steps in Indianapolis on Sunday, June 25. Please mark your calendars, and stay tuned for the link to sign up for my team – I would LOVE to see some old friends and their families out in Indy, marching for a cure.

Here is just a snippet of some words I wrote to describe my relationship with my friend, Cheryl:

Cheryl was a ray of light in the darkness – she always found a way to laugh at pretty much any situation, which is a trait I’ve always admired. I can recall so many fun times with Cheryl and her daughter, Sarah – times I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I know Cheryl meant so much to my mom, and to her family. To me, Cheryl was South Carolina sweet grass. She took her daughter and I on a rode trip one summer, from the middle of Indiana to the shores of South Carolina, where we stayed, for what seemed like a month.

It was my first time really discovering a new culture – we went to the market, bought handmade jewelry, tried homemade ice cream, walked cobblestone streets leading to plantation homes, and chased crabs in the sands of Folly Beach. It was heaven.

You can read my entire post about Cheryl, here.

And so, Texas friends – I hope to see you on my team for May 20, and Indiana friends, keep your eyes peeled, but I’ll be there, ready to rumble on June 25.

In advance, thank you always for the support.