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I’ll spare you the huge post about my vacation to OK and TN (Oklahoma was COLD! It snowed in TN! I love my family! The end.)  But I will share a few pictures and why they’re awesome to me. You can view the entire set here.

Me, Alan and Mandy at some Route-66 state park thing off of I-40. Go figure! I love this picture because it’s got all of us in it and it does a fairly good job of helping you imagine how cold it really was. That wind just went STRAIGHT through you! Yikes!

This one you really need to see the bigger version, but this is right outside where my in-laws are staying. They were out shooting skeet. Everyone was super excited about shooting guns, and for the most part they did pretty good. We did get a few crazy looks from people driving by though 🙂


This is Justin’s grandparents. This was as they were arriving for their 50th wedding anniversary celebration and vow renewal. I took this picture to keep them from going inside the church while they were putting the finishing touches on a few things, the least of which was Cory and Austin singing a song together. They had to practice ONE more time and it fell to me to delay them. They were VERY cold, but good sports! And the picture turned out great!

Brian, Cory, Justin, Me, David and Sherry. Happy family 😀

Now for some less family-oriented pictures…


I don’t know where to start this post, because every time I start to think about it I get all giddy and grateful and probably over-emotional.

Yesterday, you see, I met my bread hero.

I guess I’ll start in the beginning. I found Heidi over at 101Cookbooks several years ago, and love her blog. By far the most used recipe of hers was an adaptation of Peter Reinhart’s Napoletana Pizza Dough. She turned it whole wheat, but kept a lot of the spirit of his bread baking techniques intact. I was intrigued by his overnight fermentation, knowing a little bit of bread baking from watching my Dad as a child. I’d only seen him make bread a few times, but I remember more than anything the smell of hot, fresh baked bread. It was magical.

Anyways. I read her pizza dough recipe back in September of 2006. For over 2 years I made that recipe faithfully as the only pizza dough worth making. I saw how the overnight ferment made a difference, and how by the third day the dough itself had taken on a new depth of flavor.

About a month after I lost my parents, I bought the Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I knew I needed something to do with my hands. I started reading and highlighting and feeling amazed at how much there was to learn. I was absolutely fascinated by how much the author loved to bake bread. It was obvious that he was passionate about it.

I joined the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge a few weeks later and since then have had some of the best moments in my kitchen. I’ve baked bread that didn’t turn out as good as I’d hoped, bread that amazed me with it’s depth of flavor, and bread that turned my kitchen into a small slice of heaven.

I eventually found Peter Reinhart’s blog and through it learned he was going to be coming to Texas to teach a class with Central Markets. Of course I would go. I didn’t care how far away it was, but luckily there was a class here, in Austin!

The class was yesterday. And it was amazing.

I got there early, partially because I’m obsessive about being late, but mostly because I wanted a good seat. I brought my book and my camera. Is it silly to ask a chef for his autograph? I didn’t know, but I knew I wanted documentation, proof of this moment. I’ve never, ever been the type of person to get all silly over famous people, but this man didn’t just write a good cookbook, he completely revolutionized the way I look at bread.

I was one of the first people in the class and the first person to get his autograph. He’s really not a celebrity, just a guy who loves bread. We talked, I told him I was part of the BBA Challenge (which he’s aware of) and told him how much I enjoyed his breads. He signed my book. I sat down for class and silently squealed to myself.

The class itself was really informative and amazingly great. He focused on sweeter breads, using the same basic dough he made multiple things. It was my first time tasting sticky buns, which I will now have to make. His coffee cake was out of this WORLD. Seriously, I don’t even like coffee cake and I wanted more! He included recipes for all the stuff he made, and I can’t wait to try some of them! Especially the coffee cake, that’s one of Justin’s favorite things.

One of the most significant things for me though, was the basic rustic dough he used. He got the basic ingredients together and instead of kneading them, or letting them rest for a few minutes before kneading, he didn’t knead it at ALL!

I was shocked! No kneading?! But he did the stretch/fold method on the dough one time, then placed a big bowl over it and let it rest for a few minutes. About 5 minutes later he came back to it, stretched and folder again, and put it back under the bowl. Repeated that about 5 times. At the end of the class the basic, rustic dough that had ingredients barely mixed together and not kneaded at all had been transformed into this beautiful dough that was soft and supple and tacky and not sticky and just… beautiful. He said he’d found that for simple doughs like that it tended to work better than kneading because it helped keep the gluten from becoming overworked and over bonded. I could certainly see how it worked out – he started with a very wet dough and by the simple process of stretch and fold vs. kneading the water incorporated itself nicely without the need for added flour. That bread, had it been baked with us there, would have produced amazing holes and I’m sure great flavor. I can’t wait to try that technique at home!

A lot of the things in the class that he talked about were things that I learned from reading/re-reading and highlighting the first hundred or so pages of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice. But hearing his logic behind it, hearing his thoughts, was an amazing experience.

Oh! The other thing he said was that he’d found in the course of creating sweet breads that the flavor developed more if you added the yeast to warm water before adding it to the flour. Most other dough he said it didn’t matter, but that in the case of sweet breads, it did make a negligible difference. He said it was little things like realizing that information that helped to create better loaves of bread. And each little thing adds on top of the other things in the quest for the perfect loaf of bread.

One of the most important things to me that he talked about was the transformation process of dough. He talked about how bread is basically flour that has been transformed into dough that has been transformed into bread. He said that bread was used across religions throughout the world. I can’t name many, but off the top of my head Challah bread and the Holy Eucharist are two great examples from the Jewish and Christian faiths. Those breads are integrated into both of those religions, essential to the symbolism that expresses their faith. Bread is pretty amazing stuff. He only briefly talked about it, because it probably isn’t the most practical way to talk about bread, but I can totally relate in my own life. I can see my own transformation as I became more familiar baking bread, I can see the healing that occurred as I kneaded and rested.

After class I went up and got my picture taken with him.

I wanted to tell him so many things. I wanted to tell him how his book got me through the toughest period of my life. I wanted to tell him that it had changed the way I look at and eat bread. I wanted to tell him that I got the whole transforming power of bread because I lived it and am still living it. I wanted to tell him that my family appreciates the work he’s done because of the impact it had on me. I wanted to tell him how much Justin loves his Casatiello (meat bread!). But I didn’t. Words would have been inadequate. I shook his hand and thanked him for the great class and went home, skipping as I went.

Me and Peter!

Lucky in the car

These pictures will be from day 3 of the trip, when I met the amazing and wonderful Maria (and her husband Lars).  I’ve known Maria for about 6 years online, and as she lives in Denmark I didn’t think we’d be able to meet this soon (or at all!) so it was SUCH a blessing to be in the city at the same time as her!!  Didn’t get nearly as many pictures of “us” as I would have liked, but I did get a TON of pictures of everything else.  As is usual for these posts, I’ll be showing my favorites from the day.  You can find the rest here.

One of the first stops we made was to the Swavorski store. Maria collects them, and my my I was tempted to start!! Such awesome stuff there!!! I did splurge and get a pair of earrings and a necklace, they’re SO much prettier in real life than online!!!

Funny story. So, years ago while working for HCSO dispatch I had a friend make me some headset covers for my headset. They’re pink, purple, yellow, blue, and beautiful. They are also crazy looking!! So I wore them there for years with no problems. Cue new job, new agency, and I wore them for the first time a few months ago. Every single person that walked into dispatch would start to say something and then say “OMG! What is on your ear!?!” or something to that effect. I told them it was a fraggle rock, I told them it was my pet, and eventually I ended up telling them that it was the money I could be saving with Geico. That one kind of stuck, and now I use that anytime someone comments on it. So imagine my surprise when I came to work the other day, and stuck to my monitor was a picture of the little geico money. When I saw this ad, I had to take a picture. Leave it to NYC to have a “different” kind of ad!!

*insert Chewbaca noise here*
I’m a HUGE star wars fan, so naturally when I saw this I had to take a picture!!! We went to FAO Schwartz, which I hadn’t really heard about but had SUCH a great time in there!!! It was like a huge playground!!! Most of the rest of the shots are from there…

Such awesomeness.

Oh yeah, standing next to batman. ❤

Harry potter and his friends!!!

Hagrid, one of my favorite characters of all the HP books!!!


I adore tiny houses. I don’t have the patience or money to invest in them myself, but tiny dollhouses have always been a fun thing to me. Maybe if I ever have a daughter I’ll get her into them so I can live vicariously through her. Heee! Here are a bunch of my favorites, I took them fast so the very nice lady working the area didn’t get completely sick of me (sorry if this is spam, but OMG CUTE!)

For the record, if I ever had the chance to design my own house, it would look almost exactly like this house. The windows, the curve, the porch…*drool*

Mmm…tiny food…

I can imagine shopping at the store for my own furniture the way I wanted to shop here!


Seriously, this was such a fun store to walk around. It didn’t matter that my feet were KILLING me and I wanted to curl up in a ball for a week. I was in New York! I was with Maria! I had beautiful scenery and funness around me! I was on cloud nine 😀

And there were smurfs. I heart smurfs!

I loved the way they had everything posed. It really made it look like you could just sit down, inside the glass cases, and start playing around!


They had this thing where you could make your own muppet. I’ve never been more tempted to spend 300 dollars on something completely useless….how awesome would it have been?!

Supplies for making your muppet…

The “Workshop”

This guy is made of jelly beans. I want to eat him up! :O

Maria and I after a lovely dinner with Justin and Lars. We had such a good time!!!

Once more with feeeeelllingg!!

Me and my amazing hubby!

Maria and Lars

It’s amazing how much fun it is to meet people from online after years of being friends! I’ll definitely never forget this trip, it was so awesome to meet Maria and Lars. Hopefully we can get them to Texas sometime.  Love you guys!

Continued from my previous post, more pictures of NYC.

The Strand has a particular smell, an attitude about it, that made me instantly feel at home.  It’s a magical kind of place. Imagine a waiting ground, where old books felt safe to wait for a new home. A sort of temporary purgatory where used books have left their previous homes to wait for new ones, and a place where new books feel the wisdom of the older ones seep into their bindings. The old books swayed you with their good prices and smell and the new books held the promise of memories to come.

It was so much more than a normal bookstore, the air was thick with nostalgia and a buzzing excitement of the next great find.

It felt a little bit like home.

Me, in NYC, at Broadway and 5th Ave. Exciting stuff. I am a little tired in that pictures, but overwhelmingly enamoured with the city!

We randomly ended up in a costume shop, where they had awesome masks and hats. We took these pictures before they told us we could take pictures in the shop, just not of us wearing anything. Oops!

This blog post wouldn’t be complete without a sleeping guy!

I took this in Little Italy. I didn’t realize my friend Tony had a shop there…

Beautiful church in town…

More of the church. Some of the architecture was the best part about NYC. You just don’t see that sort of created, classic, historical beauty down here in Texas.

Church again

So, funny story. Didn’t have much I wanted to do in China Town, but this is the oldest toy store in CT so I thought I’d give it a shot. We walked from lunch in Little Italy at Il Cortile(which was amazing!) over to Ting’s. It was about 3 blocks away. As soon as we entered China Town, I was propositioned by some guy crossing the street with us and Justin had a guy rub his shoulders and try to pick him up (while he was holding onto my very scared arm, as I had just been propositioned 10 feet before that). It was crazy. We didn’t stay – just took a picture, peeked in, and left. Note to readers: stick with China Town in San Francisco, CA. It’s WAY better.

Really cool randomly decorated pole on a street corner.

Bottom of the randomly decorated pole on the street corner.

City Hall Park (with the massive City Hall in the background)

City Hall Park Fountain

I took an amazing trip to New York City last month and yes, I fail, I’m just now getting around to uploading them.  I uploaded everything to flickr (the good and the bad) but wanted to showcase a few favorites here.

This was the first of several “sleeping in NYC” pictures I took. I was completely overwhelmed by the massive amount of stimulation from the outside world while I was in the city, so sleeping to me was a completely foreign idea. Most of the sleeping pictures taken were locals, as far as I could tell.

This is a massive playground in Central Park. One of the coolest parts about this playground? No adults allowed, unless you’re escorting a small child! Keeps the riff-raff out.

There is nothing spectacular about this picture, except that it’s two cop cars facing opposite directions so they can talk to each other. It happens in Houston, it happens in the city I work, it happens back in California….and now, proof that it happens in New York!

This is the hotel room we stayed in at the Belvedere. It ended up being an amazing hotel! A great value for the location (we stayed down the street from Times Square and Broadway) and the bed was amazingly comfortable. I think that was actually the thing I felt the most torn about on the trip; I couldn’t wait to get up and see the city, but I was absolutely in love with the bedding. It was a tough choice each day!

What follows is some of the scenery I saw the first full day I was there. That day we walked – litterally – up and down Manhattan, and probably put over 15 miles on our feet that day. I nearly died, but it was great stuff to look at. Enjoy!

Broadway mid-morning

We're a Target family

I know it's blurry, but I love this!

Lovely arcitecture

Ook, I have to commentary these two. This is, believe it or not, two sleeping people. Homeboy in the chair is obviously sleeping. But homeboy next to him, the guy hunched over like he’s digging in the bag? Yeah, he was doing that…until he fell asleep! Standing up! With his hand still in the bag! No joke. It was incredible.

Yeah, definitely going to have to split it up into two or three posts.  That wasn’t even all of day two! More to come.

I have utterly failed at posting non-food related things, and for that I apologize. But, it’s been a major part of my life the last few weeks (because I’m avoiding emotions??? hmmm????) so it’s pretty much all I have that doesn’t involve me talking about how much I miss my parents and how the estate handling is going (fairly well, finally got a court date!) and how frustrating it is not to be able to see the report until forensics gets back with the results of the…well, everything.  And DPS Crime lab, from what I understand, takes upwards of 6-9 months.  Especially for non-priority stuff where the people are already gone *sighs*.

Anyways. Sorry. I meant to post happier stuff.  See what happens when I try to not talk about food? I get depressing.  Although there is other good stuff going on in my life. Keegan (my new nephew) gets dedicated on Sunday! Yay! My church has kinda sorta given me a small task of responsibility which I’m excited about being able to serve and help. Yay! I still love my job. Yay! Yeah. Other than that, I got nothing. So I’ll leave you with some pictures of food. To be described better tomorrow, if I get a chance.

Oh yeah, happy fourth of july. Or whatever.

(note: see, I bet you thought I only made bread!!)

(note: mmm…cinnamon…)

That's poison ivy, folks

DH...I heart him!!

Ohh say can you seee....

I call this one my 'stalker' picture!