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

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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!

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