Thursday, November 19, 2009

NOT my child

... but boy, is he a cute one.

If you're having a blegh day like me, please take a second to watch this little tyke discover the wonders of lobsters.

A WaPo blogger wrote that he wants to make that kid's "Wow!" his ringtone. I second that motion.

This reminds me of the first time I encountered creamy, salty, sweet foie gras. I exuded all manner of "wows!" whoas!" and "nom nom noms."

Except I was 22, and in a nice bistro.

(Incidentally, this time of year reminds me of foie gras... For the past two years, a couple of weeks before Christmas, I have placed a special order with my favorite local market for a sizable mound of the pate goodness. It's a holiday treat for us.)

I really, truly hope that when Brad and I have kids, they are as fascinated by gourmet cuisine as this little boy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm Alive, Plus a Web Site Crush

A few of you have chastised me for not blogging about my recent trips. I know, I know. Scold me all you want, you're right. I was so busy catching up from travels that I didn't sit down to just write about them... and then wow, about a month has passed since I returned. I can't make excuses. Here are the ONLY photos I have edited (from Morocco... the souks and Majorelle Gardens).

I've been working up a post in my head with some really out-of-this-world recipes for you, including my variations on Anna's comforting, homey Sweet Nest "Sweet Buns" and Texas Oncology's Holly Jolly Biscotti (cute recipe card, nutrition and video demo). I have a little list going; in addition to my kitchen exploits, I plan to write a post on handwriting. Exciting, no?

Until I get it together and write about those, I encourage you to check out my newest Web site crush, the sweeterie, a "creative confectionery." It's brought to you by the t.ruffles girls, Karey Mackin and Mary Swenson. Gah, the talent these women have.

Since I've been talking about baking/cooking, I should warn you, you can't actually purchase bon bons from this sweeterie. You'll find a virtual display case of tantalizing photos and delectable wordplay. As a writer, I am floored by Karey's wordsmithery. Very jealous, actually, but in a "good for her" kind of way. And she lived in the Middle East before returning recently to the States. How cool is that?
{it's blurrier when I import it to Blogger, for some reason...}

Anyway, stop by for some visual and emotional indulgence. It may not make your taste buds sing the way a hand-rolled, 72-percent dark chocolate truffle will. But I, for one, could probably spare myself the calories and go for a bite of "candy for the soul," as the T.Ruffles girls call it.

Friday, October 30, 2009


I have many nicknames.

Some are affectionate -- Sweetheart, for example.

Some have to do with my name -- Kate, KEG, KEGgerator, Thorney (maiden name was Thorne).

Some are downright random -- Boogs, Boofer, Moose, to name a few.

And a handful are sort of teasing -- Gypsy, Bag Lady, and... Spiller.

Today I want to write about why I am known as Spiller.

I've never claimed to be graceful. I can be poised and gracious at weddings or cocktail parties, but graceful, smooth, naturally athletic, possessing a sense of balance? Those qualities, I lack.

I run into walls and door frames in my own house, frequently have to remind myself "swing your arms," and shuffle my feet when I walk, which often leads to epics tumbles. And yes, I blame it on the pavement. "Wow, that sidewalk is uneven!" I say to no one in particular, laughing nervously as I pick myself up off the ground. I bump my head about 50 percent of the time when getting in and out of cars, and I perpetually have curling iron burns on my neck, scalp, or forehead.

Basically, I'm clumsy.

Brad dubbed me "Spiller" after about the 12th or 13th time I knocked over a glass, mug, or bottle full of liquid.

I hate the nickname Spiller.

Inevitably, kitchen table flooding commences, and as I'm running to the drawer where I keep the rags, I hear "Spillllllleeerrrrrrrrrr," the end of the word rising in the same tone and tenor that Ricky Ricardo used to cry, "Lucccccyyyyyyyy."

And I shoot back with a, "Well you filled my glass up too high!" or "You shouldn't put your tea so close to the edge!"

But every now and then, I have to face the reality that this particular nickname is well-earned.

Exhibit A:

You may recognize that as a SEVERELY shattered iPhone screen. Frankly, I have never seen anything quite like it.

It's the result of a "freak" (I contend) purse-falling incident in an airport parking lot one evening. My purse "fell" from a height of about 18 inches, the phone seemed to tumble out in slow motion, and when I picked it up, it looked like it had been swathed in spider webs.

I really cannot understand how such carnage came from so little clumsiness. But there it is.

I was by myself, so I determined to conceal the damage from he-who-loves-to-call-me-Spiller. I did my research and found I could replace the phone for $250 (Apple doesn't fix screens; they just replace the phone if it's under warranty). Whew, okay, done. I made plans to go to Northpark the next day for the switcheroo.

But as I was lying (no pun intended) in bed, I started thinking about other, less expensive options.

K, sweetly: "Brad?"

B, sleepily: "Hmm."

K: "Do you remember what credit card we bought my iPhone with?" (I lost my original iPhone in May and paid Brad back in installments for a new one.)

B: "Umm, not really."

K: "Well... Can you think of it?"

B: "Why?"

K: "No reason, really... Just curious."


K: Hey Brad?

B (trying to sleep and growing frustrated): What.

K: Do you know if any of your credit cards insure purchases against loss or damage?

B: What did you do.

K: Nothing, I --

B: Katie, what did you do to your iPhone.

So I showed him. And he had the same reaction I did: "What's that on the screen?"

Yes, he called me Spiller. But he fixed my problem, too. After quite a bit of research the next morning, he found a place in Dallas that fixes iPhones in 15 minutes while you wait, for less than a third of what Apple would have charged. Their work is so good that they won't void the warranty; Apple will have no idea the parts aren't original or the phone was ever opened, supposedly.

My man delivered. I don't know why I was so hesitant to admit what happened. In fact, Brad bought me a gift.

A "Spiller-proof" iPhone case.

Monday, September 28, 2009

O Canada

{Vancouver in High Definition - From Kalamakia's Flickr photostream}

{Robson Street - From Wizard_of_Wonders' Flickr photostream}

I'm here in Vancouver, and this city is blowing my mind. I was surprised to find this is by far the most international city I have encountered. We're staying in the heart of downtown, so that may account for some of the multinational spirit, but everything is multiple languages and each person looks completely individual (race, manner of dress, personal expression via tattoos, piercings, dyed hair). I bought some Ritz cheese crackers at the nearest drug store, London Drug, and the flavor was "Vrai Cheddar" (French for "Real Cheddar"). Most of the store's snack food packaging was in French.

Vancouver embodies everything I love about the Northwest, with its subversive energy, art, music, color, gorgeous topography married with a real urban feeling... the list goes on. I'm in love.

I landed at 1 p.m. local time yesterday and wandered downtown amid the iconoclasts, bohemians and businesspeople. I ran across an Indian culture festival and a war protest. The Olympics will be here in February, and those five rings already adorn buildings and signs. On Robson Street, I ate a late lunch of sushi, then enjoyed a Boba tea with pearls while poking around in boutiques ranging from the quirky to the ultra-chic.

We drove from the airport through an island neighborhood called Granville Island. I hear that's a fun, funky place, but I doubt we'll have a chance to visit. I want to come back with Brad to explore for a week!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hotel Lust

The days whiz by as I prepare for my whirlwind jaunt across seven countries and four continents. Honestly, I've been focused on a thousand other things, so I have not yet had time to really get excited about the travel ahead of me.

My dear, sweet husband has done much of the legwork: buying adapters and voltage converters, calling our bank and credit card to alert them we'll be abroad, arranging for a house-sitter, and reserving hotels.

When he told me yesterday he had booked our last hotel, I felt a twinge of anticipation. The places we are staying are incredible, and he managed to get very good deals. (His company is paying for the bulk of the trip, as Brad will be working, but we're extending our stay a few days to explore.) He timed his school schedule with our travel well; he's taking "Master Negotiation," so I know I can count on him to haggle for us, whether it comes to hotels or Moroccan rugs.

In Barcelona, we'll be at the Costanza, a 4-star hotel with a sleek, minimalist aesthetic. From the Web site:
A recently built hotel, designed by the world-renown architects Rafael Moneo, Manuel de Solà-Morales y Lucho Marcial. Located at the Avenida Diagonal/Numancia axies, Barcelona's commercial and financial centre. Bright and spacious rooms; avant-garde interiors and contemporary art. All that backed up by NH's flawless styles for your visit to this capital city.


{breakfast area}

{rooftop pool and deck}

{Spanish sushi?}

{hotel restaurant}



{I don't know what this is, but doesn't it look refreshing?!}

We are staying in two different riads (hotels) in Marrakech, as October is one of the city's busier months and many locations were booked for all or part of our stay. Both have been highly recommended by previous guests, and the location couldn't be better. I'm amazed we were able to find vacancies at two such jewels within the Medina... These places are truly incredible. Not to mention that the innkeepers have been emailing with us at midnight, their time, with suggestions of places to visit and eat. They have already been so personal, accommodating, and hands-on, and we won't even arrive for another two weeks!

First, we'll stay at Riad El Mansour. I'm feeling giddy just typing this out. The food there is supposed to be amazing, and the decor is just what I would imagine for Morocco. Below are pictures of the hotel and our actual room. From the Web site:

Riad El Mansour is a six bedroomed boutique hotel, situated a short stroll from the vibrant and pulsating Place Jemaa el-Fna. This world heritage site is at the heart of the legendary 'Rose city' of Marrakech; one of Morocco’s most popular vacation destinations.

Designed for those seeking a more intimate and personalised luxury hotel break, Riad El Mansour offers authenticity and originality. The hotel has been recently refurbished, using a palate of traditional Moroccan colours, and an original mix of Moroccan and European art and furniture. We take pride on our high level of service and hospitality.

Located in the ancient Medina, setting us apart from other holiday villas in Morocco, Riad El Mansour provides a truly magical setting from which to explore the rich tapestry of the contrasting character of the Moroccan landscape - a landscape interwoven with the heady mixture of Arab, African and European cultures.

Ideal for a luxury weekend break, or longer stay, the Riad offers a Spa, Hamman, Gym and Jaccuzzi making a perfect choice for your Morocco holiday.

{bed in our suite}

{bathroom in our suite}

{our fireplace, ahhhh!}

{seating, art, etc.}

{shared spaces}

{more shared spaces, art, etc.}

Next, we'll go to Riad Dar Charkia. From their Web site:

Finished to the highest specifications of comfort and style reflecting the coming together of Africa and Asia, Dar Charkia is in an oasis of calm amidst the vibrant cacophony of the Marrakech medina.

After a 20 year love affair with Marrakech, Lisa and Michael, the Anglo-German owners have taken up residence in this magical city that assaults the senses. They are happy to share their tips and insider knowledge; helping to make your stay comfortable, memorable and inspiring.
Again, pictures of the hotel and our actual room:

{our room}

{wider view of our room}

{supposedly this is in our room, but it looks like
it might be by the pool, which is just outside our room}

{pool and other pretties}

{shared spaces}

The trips feel more real now that all of our arrangements are made! I'll try to blog along the way, but I can't make any guarantees of Internet access. Perhaps I'll do a travel guide upon my return.

Off to Vancouver day after tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

World Traveling

{cup of apple tea on my desk}

One of the hidden benefits of Brad's and my jobs is that we have the opportunity to scratch our itch for wanderlust by traversing the globe. We'll log plenty of miles over the next 30 days in particular... I'm leaving Sunday for a four-day trip to Vancouver for a meeting. The next day I head to Europe and Africa for two weeks with Brad for his job. A couple of days after I return from that trip, it's off to Chicago and then New York City, then I have my fingers crossed that I'll be able to go to Japan for a product launch.

While visions of four continents in 30 days dance in my head, I know I'll look forward to some quiet time in November. That time of year makes me crave pumpkin spice lattes, cable-knit blankets, hats... Trite, perhaps, but oh so satisfying during cozy autumn weather. Brad and I also celebrate our anniversary and his birthday during the fall, and we typically go to his parents' house in San Miguel de Allende for Thanksgiving.

What are your favorite fall traditions?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Beach Weekend

How did you celebrate the three-day weekend? Brad and I decided to sneak away to the beach house his aunt and uncle share with his grandparents. We have both been traveling quite a bit (separately) and needed some time to unwind and sit shoulder-to-shoulder. I brought a stack of books to read on the beach, but of course I ended up just enjoying the sun and waves instead.

My new camera made the trip with us as well. I'm attending a digital photography seminar on Saturday, since I want to get really special pictures on our upcoming trip to the Mediterranean. And yes, we decided on Morocco instead of Paris. "I'll always have Paris..." :)

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Growing the Movement

Image found here.

Just a quick blog from me today... Slow Food USA is doing a unique membership drive during the month of September (just another reason to be glad it's September!), wherein you may pay any cost you'd like to join. Memberships are usually $60, but in order to "grow the movement," they're offering a temporary promotion. Development director Kate Krauss provides a good explanation of their motives here (the link in her blog is broken though, so click here to join).

About Slow Food USA:

The word good can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For Slow Food, the idea of good means enjoying delicious food created with care from healthy plants and animals. The pleasures of good food can also help to build community and celebrate culture and regional diversity.

When we talk about clean food, we are talking about nutritious food that is as good for the planet as it is for our bodies. It is grown and harvested with methods that
have a positive impact on our local ecosystems and promotes biodiversity.

We believe that food is a universal right. Food that is fair should be accessible to all, regardless of income, and produced by people who are treated with dignity and justly compensated for their labor.

I just joined Slow Food Dallas. A big fan of Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and other slow food superstars, I'm looking forward to seeing how I can get involved and make a difference on a local level. (Barbara Kingsolver is a biggie in the slow food world, but she sort of rubs me the wrong way, actually. Probably because she never responded to the letter I wrote her after reading The Poisonwood Bible, or my request to interview her for a school project... but I digress.)

By the way, I received the most beautiful, hardback, cloth-covered copy of this book for my birthday in July, and I'm eager to read it over the long weekend. Maybe while sitting on a beach? We'll see.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Baking and New Beginnings

what would life be like if we had no courage to attempt anything?

vincent van gogh

Inspirational quote + a tie to my beloved discipline of art? Double whammy.

Alison, queen of giving good advice, throwing surprise parties, making Excel spreadsheets, choosing greeting cards, and other valuable skills, imparted these words via a killer Hallmark as I was packing up and leaving my first "grown-up" job two weeks ago. I didn't expect to cry, but...

A truly wonderful opportunity with a medical device company came my way, and I had to take it, leaving behind my good friends at the PR agency. (Or, as Alison says, not really leaving... just turning work friends into friend-friends.)

I showed my appreciation for all that I had learned during my years at the agency through one of my love languages, giving. Baking, to be exact, three days out of my last five in the office. Only thing is, it was one of my crazier weeks, what with school, leaving a job, preparing to travel out of town to start a new job the next Monday, going away happy hours and the like. So I committed a cardinal baking sin (for baking snobs like me, who, like Ina Garten, insist on using only good ingredients... "good olive oil," "good cocoa powder," "good vanilla" -- you get the picture): I used mixes. For every. single. baked good.

And they were really just as good as the from-scratch stuff that takes three times as long. (gasp)

* Sorry the format of the recipes isn't pretty. Blogger's formatting capes are, let's say, limited.
** All food photos are from my phone. The photos above are from Brad's "new job" present to me, a nice, new digital SLR. :)
*** Final caveat, I promise. I've been computerless and Photoshop-less for 2.5 weeks, but soon I promise you whimsical photo montages. Soon, friends.

Day 1: Mini Banana Muffin Cakes

Here's the thing about these muffin cakes (muffiny cupcakes). I sort of winged it. I adapted a recipe I picked up a long time ago that I break out whenever I have overripe bananas, and the freezer already has a loaf of banana bread. So here is generally what I did.

Muffin cakes:
1 pkg yellow cake mix
3 overripe bananas
1 cu. sour cream (reduced fat is fine)
1-1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 to 1 t. cinnamon, depending on your preference
1/4 t. nutmeg

Cream cheese frosting:
2 8 oz. pkg cream cheese (I use 1/3-less fat)
1 stick (1/2 cu.) butter
2 cu. confectioners' sugar
1 - 2 t. vanilla extract (depending on your preference... I tend toward more vanilla)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cake mix according to package directions (sub out the oil for applesauce if you want). Stir in mashed bananas, sour cream, baking soda, and spices. Spoon 1 T. of mixture into greased mini-muffin tins. (It makes a ton of mini muffins, but you could make regular muffins or even a cake if you wanted. You just have to adjust the baking times.)Bake for eight minutes or until they are puffed and just barely golden on top. Wait for them to cool completely before frosting.

To prepare frosting, beat together cream cheese and butter. Mix in the confectioners' sugar by hand (unless you want it all over your kitchen), and once it is mostly incorporated, turn the beater back on until it's a light texture, maybe 3-5 minutes. Right when you think it's ready, add the vanilla extract.

I used a Wilton cake decorator to make pretty blobs of frosting on top of the cooled cakes. I followed this template for the cupcake flags, found via How About Orange.

Day 2: Buttery Garlic Cheese Biscuits

You may recognize this recipe from a chain seafood restaurant.

4 cu. Bisquick
6 oz. Cheddar cheese, shredded (I like sharp Cheddar)
1-1/3 cu. water
1 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
1/4 t. dried parsley
1/8 t. Old Bay Seasoning (check the spice section or the seafood section of your grocery store)
... Plus a little flour.

Butter mixture:
1/2 cu. melted butter
2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. onion powder
1/4 t. dried parsley
1/4 t. Old Bay Seasoning

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Combine the baking mix, cheese, water and spices. Mix until dough is firm but sticky.
On a lightly floured surface (I use a cutting board), spread dough out to about 1/2-inch thickness. Flour the top of the dough a little bit too.
Use a biscuit cutter (I use the end of a champagne flute) to cut out rounds of dough. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, until golden brown.
Combine the melted butter and spices/herbs. Brush over baked biscuits immediately upon removing from oven.

I served them with brown sugar baked ham, horseradish mayo (prepared horseradish + mayo) and Dijon mustard for mini sandwiches (I was into "mini" that week, it appears).

Day 3: Toffee Nut Brownie Bites AND Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars

Toffee Nut Brownie Bites

These really could not be easier (Thanks, Virginia and Destiny, for the recipe!). I won't even bother typing it out in recipe format, because it's just this simple.

Take a box of plain brownie mix. No fancy stuff. I used Duncan Hines original mix. Prepare according to package directions. Pour half of the batter into pan lined inside with aluminum foil (size and preparation whatever is prescribed by the box). Layer toffee and almond Symphony bars over the top of that layer. Pour the rest of the batter over the top, covering the bars. Bake according to package directions. When COMPLETELY cooled (you really have to wait or the Symphony layer gets messy), pop the aluminum foil out of the pan, brownies and all. On a flat surface, cut into squares or tiny rounds (again, I used a champagne flute and froze the leftover scraps for a future ice cream recipe).

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bars

Technically I didn't use a mix, but I did use a prepared item, Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. So deliciously bad for you. I think these would be delicious with a layer of fruit... fresh strawberries or blueberry preserves. Mmm.

2 8 oz. cans Crescent Rolls
2 8 oz. packages cream cheese
1 cu. white sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 cu. butter, melted
1/4 cu. sugar
1 t. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 in. pan.
Press one can of the crescent rolls into the bottom of the prepared pan.
In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, 1 cup of sugar, cinnamon and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Spread over the crescent layer.
Unroll the second can of crescent rolls and lay them on top of the cream cheese layer.
Pour the melted butter over the entire pan. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is crisp and golden.
Cool on a counter, then chill overnight.
Cut into triangles (first cut into squares, then cut those diagonally).

Look for more bloggy updates from me soon. I'm resolving in my new routine to build in healthy habits, like exercising, reading regularly and BLOGGING. I have lots of ideas for posts, so stick with me. :)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I have a serious problem.

A France problem.

A typical French cafe-bar, via Rita Crane's Flickr photostream (with beautiful, thoughtful descriptions)

Most of you know about my love affair with La Belle France, which began in 2006 when I studied abroad in Paris. Click here to read my Paris blog, which is pretty amazing if I can say that about my own writing. I returned from the City of Light and shortly after began dating the man I would marry, but I never forgot my first love. Never.

Moi in front of... well, you know. 2006.

Sometimes I miss Paris so much my heart. literally. hurts. It's a little sick, actually. Whenever I hear about someone else* loving Paris, I become extremely indignant, like I have some sense of ownership over the city. I feel like a jealous lover who has discovered some awful adultery. "You can't love France. She was mine first." ::: clench jaw and fists ::: No really, I recognize that this is not normal behavior.
*Disclaimer: These feelings do not apply to Stephanie, who discovered Paris with me, and Abby, who also studied abroad in France and whose love for the motherland is pure and sincere.
I have shed tears over the fact that I’m losing my grasp on the French language, in which I was conversational – even near fluent – just a short three years ago (“Il y a trois ans,” as I tell fellow Francophiles who ask me when I was last in France).

Well the sickness is worsening, and I have SMU to blame.

I mentioned in my last blog that I was beginning a contemporary art history course this summer. We’re barely out of Realism and I can feel my heart simultaneously breaking and bursting with joy each night I’m in class. I’ll catch myself in the middle of the lecture, sitting on the second row, my chin cupped in both hands, elbows on the table, grinning and looking cow-eyed at mon professeur as she romances me with words like “Courbet,” “Daumier,” “Musée d’Orsay,” and “Déjeuner sur l’herbe.”

Déjeuner sur l’herbe, oil on canvas, 1863

Last night she said, “Those of you who know Paris well know that the book- and print-sellers even line the streets of the city.”

It was all I could do to keep myself from exclaiming, “Oui, je les connais! Les bouquinistes!”

Le sighhhh…

My second trip to Paris, 2006... Making a fool of myself in front of the Louvre.

I’m craving all things French. Carambars, le Métro, watching American movies with French subtitles in St.-Germain-des-Pres, drinking wine out of a baby bottle at Le Refuge des Fondues in Montmartre… I even tried to French braid my hair this morning, with less than spectacular results.

A classmate and I are pondering Monet's genius at his home of Giverny.

Brad’s company is treating us to a Mediterranean cruise in October, and we plan to stay an extra week to explore Morocco, which I have never visited before, or Paris, which has my heart. Morocco sounds sexy and exotic, and I would love to add Africa to the list of continents I have visited… but today I’m leaning toward Paris.