Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers

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A few weekends ago, James and I went to see Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers at the Winspear Opera House with Laura, Curtis, Korena, and Ian. I was so excited to see Steve Martin perform and, okay, I admit, I was hoping to hear some Father of the Bride-related anecdotes, too. I was also so happy to see another show at the Winspear, my favorite venue in Dallas. We’ve seen Bon Iver there (which was undoubtedly the best concert of all time – I just got emotional thinking about it) as well as a fun Modern Family panel and a theater performance of Peter & The Starcatcher. The acoustics are amazing and there is truly no bad seat in the house. Also, they serve cocktails in what I fondly refer to as adult sippy cups so you can enjoy your libations during the show, which I think is just brilliant.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers, even though I knew I would love the music, which is bluegrass. I was absolutely blown away by the group’s musicianship from the moment they started playing. It was other-wordly. Edie Brickell joined the crew for several songs, and her voice is incredible, compounding the already gorgeous sound with her swoon-worthy vocals. Steve Martin had a stream of hilarious commentary that he peppered throughout the set, which kept the entire audience in stitches. The Steep Canyon Rangers are amazing in their own right (they won multiple Grammy Awards even before combining forces with Steve Martin) and they got to play some songs on their own, which were majestic. Their harmonies may or may not have brought a tear to my eye.

Just when I thought the whole experience couldn’t get any more magical, Steve (we’re on a first name basis now, he and I) casually mentioned that his friend, Paul, was going to come out and join them all for a few numbers. What he meant was that the legendary crooner (and Edie’s husband!), PAUL SIMON, was entering the stage to blow our minds all over again. The collaboration was absolutely perfect, the cherry on top to an already unforgettable evening.

If Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers are ever in your neck of the woods, please buy a ticket to go see them – you will absolutely love the show. I would go see them again in a heartbeat. And you never know, Paul might even decide to show up, too.

Image via American Songwriter

Taste & Try: Blueberry Sugar Cookie Crisp

I originally saw this recipe in a copy of Oprah Magazine and later tracked it down online when I found myself craving it. This treat is just so very good. Blueberries are some top contenders in my favorite fruit category, and they are in their prime right now, making them plump, juicy and flavorful. The sugar cookie topping is an unexpected and drool-worthy twist on the standard crisp topping variation, making it quite the shining star. Be sure to note that you’ll need two+ hours to let the berries sit and soak before you top them with the sugar cookie dough. Also, let this cool a bit before digging in – I couldn’t resist and started chowing down on my treat right when the crisp came out of the oven, but I must admit that the dessert tasted more flavorful and complex when I let it cool significantly, as the sugar cookie topping had soaked up some of the tasty blueberry juice. As you’d imagine, this crisp pairs perfectly with vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry Sugar Cookie Crisp

Recipe via Lisi’s Luscious Desserts (original recipe via Oprah Magazine)

Blueberry Sugar Cookie Crisp

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 pints (about 2 lbs) blueberries
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine berries, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Stir, mashing slightly. Cover and refrigerator for about 2 hours.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.
  3. With the paddle attachment, beat the butter, remaining 1 cup of sugar, and brown sugar. Beat until light and fluffy; then scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again.
  4. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest until berries are ready (you can also make this ahead and keep it in the fridge).
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Strain the berries and save the juice (if you don’t have any juice, no worries – it is not crucial, just an added bonus). Boil the juice until it reduces by half. Put the berries in a 9×13 baking dish and pour the liquid over the strained berries.
  7. Take the sugar cookie dough and flatten between palms to about 1/2 inch thick. Lay flattened balls of dough over the berries to almost cover. Sprinkle with a pinch of sugar.
  8. Place dish on a baking sheet and bake for about an hour, or until the top is golden.

Mondays

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Even if you love your job (like I do) and even if you consciously attempt to express and practice gratitude at every chance you get (like I do), Mondays can still be shrouded with a cloud of gloom. Weekends are just so delicious, after all, making the Mondays that follow them a little hard to swallow.

Like I mentioned yesterday, I was inspired by Camille Styles’s post about looking forward to Mondays instead of dreading them, so I tried item #1 on her list: schedule a lunch date at a fantastic spot with a darling friend. I woke up so excited to spend time with Heather and catch up over a midday meal at CBD Provisions. After some meetings, calls, and e-mails, I headed to the Joule Hotel, the chic spot that houses both CBD and Weekend Coffee, the latter of which, as you know, I have been dying to try. I was a bit early so I popped into the coffee shop for some journaling and a cappuccino (which was the best I’ve had in a very long while – so creamy and delicious), enjoying the beautiful space and the tasty caffeinated beverage (pictured above on that super cool wooden tray, which, of course, now I want). I moved along to CBD to meet Heather and her adorable baby boy, Finn, for lunch, and we caught up over spicy quinoa bowls, which were unbelievably good. The entire adventure was the perfect midday treat, and the whole experience – spending time with a great friend, exploring a new place, enjoying delicious goodies – gave me such a great boost, motivating me to accomplish my tasks for the rest of the day, a goal that can be tough every afternoon but especially on Mondays. I’m thinking that this kind of special event could become a permanent fixture in my game plan for Mondays to come…

Week & End

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Happy Sunday! How has your weekend been? Mine has been so relaxing and lovely. Kyla (and her sweet Scottie, Franklin) came over on Friday night and we drank crisp, cold white wine while making a splendid dinner of bruschetta and spinach salad. We took our pups for a walk, had long talks, and reveled in one another’s company. There’s nothing sweeter than a night in with a best friend, is there? The rest of this weekend was spent savoring relaxation, free time, and air conditioning – the summer heat has finally descended upon Texas, so it’s been nice to post up indoors and get a few projects done.

If you’re in an evening blog-reading mood, enjoy some fun links!

The photo above, documenting my enjoyment of both coffee & tacos at my favorite spot, is a tribute to the blog’s namesake, of course, and an image from Mom & Dad’s visit to Dallas, which I’ll post about soon! While we didn’t eat at Good 2 Go Taco this weekend, James and I did just get back from dinner at Taco Joint, another spot that we love. The restaurant just opened its third location a mere 1.5 miles from our house, which we are very excited about. We love their tacos, queso, and salsas (especially the jalapeño ranch dip).

I really liked the post on Camille Styles’s blog about creating ways to look forward to Mondays. I tried one of the tips and made plans to meet Heather tomorrow for a lunch date at CBD Provisions. It’s helping a little, but I do find myself wishing the weekend could linger on. However, I did love this quote from the post – it was so poignant and worth taking to heart:

“Let’s face it: life is too short to hate 1/7 of the weekdays! Instead of bemoaning that it’s ‘another Monday,’ practice a spirit of gratitude for another day to live life to the fullest and be your very best self.”

Kyla and I made this blueberry sugar cookie crisp for dessert on Friday evening and it was delicious (James and I are still living off of the leftovers, paired with vanilla ice cream, of course). I’ll post the full recipe on Tuesday!

Have you visited Rifle Paper Co.’s website since they launched their new design? It’s so gorgeous that I want to live in it, and it makes me want to buy a bunch of paper products (like the passport pocket notebooks, all of the greeting cards, and the paint strokes weekly desk pad).

Allison lent me her copy of The Vacationers and I devoured it this weekend, finishing the entire book in two days. It was so good and so well-written. I highly recommend it!

Taste & Try: True Food Kitchen

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My most favorite go-to restaurant as of late has been True Food Kitchen. I’ve gotten to dine there several times lately (including when Mom & Dad visited Dallas) and I keep finding gems on the menu, delicious treats like their fresh-squeezed Kale-Aid green juice, the vegetable crudités with tzatziki and black olive dips, the “inside-out” quinoa burger, and, most recently, the summer market salad made with greens, corn, almonds, cucumbers, avocado, goat cheese, blueberries, and tomato & herb vinaigrette (which I topped with a perfectly grilled piece of salmon). Dad and I sampled my favorite of their cocktails, the Thai grapefruit martini, which is a simple, delicious, and refreshing combination of vodka, Thai basil, and grapefruit juice. So tasty! All of the menu items are made with the diner’s health in mind but taste is certainly not sacrificed in the process – I have yet to see something on the menu that doesn’t appeal to me. And there really is something for everyone – Mom, a vegetarian, loved the quinoa burger and Dad, who was initially skeptical when we described the restaurant, raved about his bison burger after we finished our lunch. James hasn’t tried True Food Kitchen yet but Mom & Dad generously gave us a gift card to the restaurant when they left – I can’t wait for us to go there for a date night!

The Science of Sleep

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What a whirlwind of a week it’s been. Due to the heart-wrenching Ebola outbreak in West Africa, our upcoming trip to Ghana has been cancelled. Touch A Life, in conjunction with our amazing Medical Advisory Board (comprised of five physicians and one pharmacist, all of whom are equipped with immense knowledge, wisdom, and international travel experience), has decided to cancel the trip for the protection of the children in our care and for the safety of our travelers. Though Ghana is currently not one of the affected areas, its proximity to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea prompted our staff and medical team to have concerns about volunteers traveling to the region. The Ebola virus has not spread to Ghana (so the children and staff at our Care Center are safe and healthy) but the Center for Disease Control recently placed Level 3 restrictions on the affected countries, asking travelers not to take any nonessential trips to those spots. After tons of prayer and deliberation, we agreed that it was unnecessary for our large team of volunteers to take this journey, less because we are worried about the disease itself (though we are still praying hard for those affected, as Ebola is very serious and scary) and more because we are concerned about the instability of the region and the high likelihood of travel delays, flight cancellations, and quarantines in the areas surrounding Ghana. You can learn more about Ebola and the impact of this outbreak, the largest recorded instance in history, from this excellent NPR podcast – this gave me so much additional context for exactly why this specific outbreak is threatening the stability of West Africa. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people and communities who are fighting the spread of this disease, as well as to the brave medical personnel who are fighting alongside them.

On a (semi) lighter note, did anyone else have to read The Hot Zone in high school? The book, about Ebola and its horrifying ability to spread rapidly, was terrifying on its on but even more so when the subject matter actually came to the forefront of our lives last week. Though Ebola has been present in many regions in Africa since the 1970s, last week’s outbreak was extremely notable because the disease, normally contained to rural areas, hopped into urban areas and across country borders, exponentially increasing its ability to spiral out of control. As you can imagine, this shift led to many sleepless nights as our staff prayed fervently for friends in West Africa, for guidance about the decision to cancel the trip, and for the safety of the children in our care. It also brought back the hilarious nightmares I had while reading the book in high school, which were so vivid then that I can still remember them to this day (let’s just say they involved a blue tiger, my history teacher, and a few non-threatening dinosaurs). I like to read before bedtime, as it makes me so relaxed, but I normally stick to books that don’t make me scared to go to sleep, things like chick lit, faith-based books, and magazines. While reading my most recent issue of Real Simple last week, I came upon a fascinating article about sleep called “While You Were Sleeping.” The premise of the article was this:

“‘A lot of people think of sleep as an inert state, like a laptop switching off,’ says Jessica Payne, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and the director of the Sleep, Stress, and Memory Lab at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana. ‘But during sleep, your mind and body are actually highly active with processes critical for your physical and mental health.” In fact, your body even performs certain tasks more efficiently and thoroughly when you’re at rest than when you’re alert.

This felt like a personal victory to me, as I’m one of those people who requires a good 10 hours of sleep per night and loves any article that justifies this behavior. I can (and do) go on less, but I know my optimal performance comes after a really restful night’s sleep, so I silently applauded the article’s author, Jennifer King Lindley, for penning such a great piece that didn’t just regurgitate everything we already know about sleep (including the things that we wouldn’t have to read about to know – like, duh, if we get a good night’s sleep, we know that we don’t feel tired the next day) but instead focused on some new, interesting points that illustrate how sleep makes us more efficient, thoughtful, diligent people. The main points of the piece emphasize that:

  1. Sleep heals.
  2. It enhances memory.
  3. Sleep boosts creativity.
  4. It keeps weight in check.
  5. Sleep helps conquer stress.

To those of you who think this topic is a little tired (badda bing), pick up a copy for yourself – this article is worth the read. And if you aren’t crazy about it? At least maybe it will put you to sleep.

Image via Modern Hepburn

Boulder, Colorado

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Karli, Becca, and I had such an amazing time visiting Erin in Colorado a few weeks ago. Erin and her husband, Dave, moved to Boulder last August and they’ve both acclimated to life in their new city so well – it was a blast to tour their stomping grounds, meet Erin’s friends and co-workers, and generally just soak up all of the goodness that their new home has to offer. Us girls got to spend so much time together exploring (hiking along the Chautauqua Trailhead was one of my favorite adventures), eating (at Pizzeria Locale, Lucky’s Cafe, Lucky’s Bakehouse & Creamery – the banana & graham cracker + oatmeal cookie ice cream, oh my – The Kitchen Next Door, while also enjoying some home-cooked gloriousness), lingering on the patio with glasses of wine, checking out the University of Colorado’s beautiful campus (including a spontaneous private tour of the football stadium), breathing in the mountain air, and sharing life together. I cherish our girls weekends more than I can say and I feel so grateful for the memories we keep creating together. Now, where should we rendezvous next?

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Taste & Try: Guacamole with Pico de Gallo

I am not typically a fan of chunky guacamole. I prefer my guac to be a basic combination of ripe avocados, freshly squeezed lime juice, and salt, something more akin to what I use in my favorite breakfast dish, avocado toast. But last summer when my friend Rebekah made the Pioneer Woman’s version of guacamole with fresh tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and cilantro folded into it, I was sold – each bite has such a complex flavor palette, so no taste is exactly the same. This has been my go-to appetizer since I tried it out on the Fourth of July and, as you’d expect, it pairs perfectly with crunchy, salty chips and icy margaritas. There’s a lot of chopping involved in this recipe but I assure you that the outcome is worth it.

Guacamole with Pico de Gallo

Recipe & photo via The Pioneer Woman

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Ingredients:

For the pico de gallo:

  • 5 whole plum (roma) tomatoes
  • 1/2 whole large (or 1 whole small) onion
  • 3 whole jalapeño peppers
  • Cilantro
  • Lime juice
  • Salt to taste

For the guacamole:

  • 3 whole avocados
  • Pico de Gallo
  • Lime juice
  • Salt to taste

Directions:

For the Pico de Gallo:

  1. Chop tomatoes, onion, and jalapeños into a very small dice (leave seeds in your jalapeños for a spicier Pico de Gallo, and adjust the number of jalapeños to your preferred temperature).
  2. Chop up a nice-sized bunch of cilantro (just remove and discard the long leafless stems before chopping).
  3. Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir thoroughly.
  4. Squeeze the juice of half of one lime into the bowl. Add salt to taste and stir again.

For the guacamole:

  1. Start with buttery soft avocados. Halve them lengthwise and remove the pits.
  2. Using a spoon, scrape the “meat” out onto a large plate.
  3. With the bottom of a clean cup (or with a fork), mash the avocados, making sure to leave it relatively chunky.
  4. Add just a couple of shakes of salt to taste.
  5. Add a generous helping of the Pico de Gallo and fold together.
  6. Squeeze the juice of half of one lime into the bowl and stir together one last time.

Hi, Mom & Dad!

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Mom & Dad visited Dallas this past weekend and I was so caught up in our fun plans that I neglected to post a Week & End recap on Friday – whoops! I guess that shows that I’m really taking this post to heart and keeping my focus on life’s sweet moments instead of being distracted by life’s list of to-dos. We had so, so much fun spending time together and, clearly, as this photo suggests, we spent a lot of time enjoying one of our favorite mutual hobbies – eating! I can’t wait to post a recap soon, so stay tuned…

 

Balance

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Is it just me or has this summer been absolutely flying by? Life feels so fast-paced these days, and in many ways, that’s a great thing. Work is stimulating and fulfilling, and our social calendar is filled to the brim with dinners with friends and church commitments and family visits and weekend trips and volunteer work, all beautiful things that I really and truly could not live without. I relish having a full calendar with lots of fun activities on it, and I can never return home from a trip without starting to plan the next one. This is who I am, someone who embraces (and craves!) the fullness and richness of a schedule filled with diverse, meaningful work, events, relationships, and travel opportunities.

But sometimes this fast-paced speed isn’t all that great, mostly because I find myself overlooking the tiny joys that are inherent in each and every day. I had to get some vaccinations recently for my upcoming trip to Ghana (since this will be my 12th visit to West Africa, some of my shots were outdated) and when I called my nurse after my appointment to clarify a few things, she gently mentioned that we had discussed those items during my visit to the doctor’s office. I cannot, for the life of me, remember that conversation. Of course it’s possible that we didn’t have the chat that she referenced (maybe she told another patient?), but this information came on the coattails of me ending up at the bank without the check I needed to deposit, at the grocery store without my list of goodies to purchase, and several other instances that forced me to wonder if maybe I’m moving a bit too fast. Not only am I overlooking some things in my life that need to be checked off of my to-do list (which comes as a shock to such a detail-oriented person), but I am also not taking the time to soak up the little things that I am grateful for because I don’t have the capacity to take all of them in.

I want to redirect my focus, allowing me to fully appreciate every single moment of this beautiful life. That means not checking my e-mail while engaged in a conversation with someone I love, enjoying a relaxing pose during my yoga class instead of contemplating my to-do list, and savoring my lunch at work away from my computer, amongst other things. This means practicing gratitude for the tiny joys in life, the things that can be easily overlooked, things like cuddling with Callie, reading a great book, or feeling the sun on my face.

Ultimately, this is about balance, about celebrating the sweetness that is the proverbial full plate (which includes copious amounts of interesting work assignments, beautiful time with family and friends, delicious food, and the exploration of new places) and savoring the peacefulness in the little moments (those nearly imperceptible things that are so easy to miss if you’re hustling and bustling a bit too much). This is about finding the sacred space in between busy and bored that is equal parts fulfilling and restful.

Image via wifeefiw.tumblr.com