Add to Cart: Cyber Monday Sale Roundup

holiday sale

Let’s just get right down to it: today is about spending quality time at work and at home with the ones we love. And also about spending time on your computer shopping for fantastic Cyber Monday deals. We live for today, don’t we? So without further ado, here’s a list of all the Cyber Monday sales I could find, but feel free to add more in the comments.

Happy shopping!

Clothing, Beauty & Accessories
Stuart Weitzman: 30% off first item, 40% off additional items (no code needed!)
Anthropologie: 25% off entire order + free shipping (use code XTRAGOOD)
Kate Spade: 30% off entire order (use code SHINE)
Gigi New York: Spend more, save more, between 20% – 35% (no code needed!)
Banana Republic: 40% off absolutely everything (use code BESTCYBER)
J.Crew: 30% off your entire order (no code needed!)
J. Crew Factory: 50% off everything (use code SHIPGIFTS)
Gap: 40% off absolutely everything (use code BESTCYBER)
Ann Taylor: 50% off everything + free shipping (use code EVERYTHING)
Ralph Lauren: Save up to $275 off your purchase (use code CYBER15)
Alice + Olivia: 25% off site wide (no code needed!)
Billy Reid: 25% off entire order (no code needed!)
Tory Burch: Spend $250, Get 30% off (use code THANKS)
Cole Haan: 40% off everything (no code needed!)
Talbots: 50% off one item + 40% off everything else (no code needed!)
J. Jill: 30% off entire purchase + free shipping (use code FREESHIP) Related: Best. Layering. T-shirts. Ever.
Madewell: 25% off entire order (promo code CALMDOWN)
Ulta: $10 off $50 online purchase (use code 303711) + a whole bunch of other stuff
Bath & Body Works: 25% off entire order (use code BEST25EVER)
White House Black Market: 35% off entire order (use code 97729)

Gifts, Stationery & Home
May Designs: 40% off all notebooks, stationery, desk calendars and photo books + free shipping (no code needed!) 
Smythson: up to 35% off select items (no code needed!)
Emily McCarthy: 20% off site wide (use code MONDAY20)
Haute Papier: 35% off your entire order, except foil stamped gift tags, gift certificates and Haute Box (use code CYBERMONDAY)
Design Darling: 20% off everything (use code THANKFUL)
Lulu & Georgia: Save 20% on $250/25% on $500/30% on $1,000 (use codes GIVEME20, GIVEME25 OR GIVEME30)
Jonathan Adler: 20% off site wide + free shipping (use code BESTMONDAY)
Truffle: 25% off everything, and this sale only happens once/year! (use code GIFTING25)
Southern Proper Monograms: 20% off entire purchase (use code HOLLY20)
Sugar Paper LA: 25% off everything (use code HOHOHO)
Ballard Designs: 10% off site wide + free shipping (no code needed!)
Wisteria: 20% off everything (use code EVERYTHING20)
Tiny Prints: Up to 50% off on holiday cards (use code CYBERMON50)
Gray Malin: 30% off prints site wide (use code TURKEY30)
Parker Thatch: Get a Large Classic Tote for $98 instead of $168
Horchow: 30% off on gifts + free shipping (use code HOLIDAY)
Williams-Sonoma: Buy more, save more + free shipping (use code SAVEMORE) + up to 40% off on Nespresso machines! #holla
West Elm: Buy more, save more + free shipping (use code SURPRISE)
Target: 15% off site wide (use code CYBER15)



Houston, We Have a Rodeo

There are literally thousands of reasons that millions of people pile into the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo each year. There are the big name concerts that bring the likes of Brad Paisley, Usher, Maroon 5 (Adam Levine!), Keith Urban and Blake Shelton to play to sold out shows (did I mention Adam Levine?). There is the actual rodeo where good looking cowboys and cowgirls rope, race and ride their way to the top of the BP Super Series (think barrel racing, bareback riding, steer wrestling, ). There are the livestock shows that brings thousands of Texas 4-H and FFA students between 9 and 18 to compete at the world’s largest livestock show and the subsequent livestock auctions that bring in millions of dollars in scholarship monies. Think poultry and pigs to school art, lambs and steer, all hoping to win the title of “Grand Champion”. There are hundreds of exhibitors selling every kind of Western item you could ever want or imagine. There is the Carnival and the Parade1 and a livestock birthing center in Agventure. There is so much to see and do during the three weeks each year in which Houstonians turn our city into the beer-swilling, cowboy hat and boots-wearing, two-step dancing it truly is at heart. Let’s be honest, though: the real reason we all brave the pocket-emptying parking lots and bipolar Spring weather is, of course, the food.

The cowboys aren’t the only winners during rodeo. The Gold Buckle Foodie Awards have celebrated the best of Rodeo Houston’s food for the last six years. Local micro-celebrities are invited to judge the Top 8 best of the best of the fair food where they impart their food wisdom for the benefit of all the Carnival-goers. This year’s “Best of the Best” in each of eight categories were:

     Best Breakfast: Big stone breakfast sandwich from Stubby’s Cinnamon Roll

     Best Value Food: Barbecue baked potato from Triple J’s Smokehouse (for a mere $13)

     Best Classic Fair Food: Pulled pork stuffed baked potato from Saltgrass Steakhouse

     Best Food on a Stick: Grilled chicken kabob from Saltgrass Steakhouse

     Best Fried Food: Fried pie from Kettle Corn

     Most Creative Food: Frosty bite lemon cream cupcake from Custom Confections

     Best New Taste: Cinnamon roll pancakes from Stubby’s Cinnamon Roll

     Best Dessert: Cookie dough parfait from Aunt Edmoe’s

This year, rodeo organizers introduced the genius “I Ate All Eight” — a program where, depending on the number of “Best” foods eaten, the person receives a button (two stamps); a koozie (five stamps); or a t-shirt (all eight!). Sadly, I managed to eat eight foods at this year’s rodeo, but only one from the “Best of” list. Plus, there were two things not on any list, but that sure should be: Fried Peeps (!) from Fried What? and the Fried Pickle Dog from Get Pickled. I guess there’s always next year.

So what did I eat or want to eat? Prepare your eyes and palate for the goodness!



Frozen cookie dough on a stick dipped in chocolate and rolled in pecans from Aunt Edmoe’s! #sogood


Vanilla Bean Frosty Bite -- a cupcake stuffed with vanilla ice cream. Yes, it's true.

Vanilla Bean Frosty Bite from Custom Creations — a cupcake stuffed with vanilla ice cream. Yes, this exists.


Cinnamon Roll from Stubby's.

Cinnamon Roll from Stubby’s. It was DELICIOUS! Except for the pecans because they were pecan bits and got stuck in my teeth.

Crawfish Etouffee from Cajun Unlimited. I later read they showed up on the "food infractions" list from the City for food at the wrong temp. That's what it tasted like, too.

Crawfish Etouffee from Cajun Unlimited. I later read they showed up on the “food infractions” list from the City for food at the wrong temp. That’s what it tasted like, too.

The Gold Buckle Foodie Dessert winning Cookie Dough Parfait from Aunt Edmoe's. I'm unable to articulate how excellent this was -- unable!

The Gold Buckle Foodie Dessert winning Cookie Dough Parfait from Aunt Edmoe’s. I do not have the words to articulate how excellent tasted!

I didn't eat these Cookie Slabs, but can I get an "Oh My Gosh" about this?!

I didn’t eat these Cookie Slabs from Aunt Edmoe’s, but can I get an “Oh My Gosh” about this?!

Curly Fry Loaf that we paired with the Bacon-topped Jalapeno Burger from Holmes Steakhouse.

Curly Fry Loaf that we paired with the Bacon-topped Jalapeno Burger from Holmes Steakhouse.

The obligatory turkey leg. Because it's the rodeo and you just have to go for it.

The obligatory turkey leg. Because it’s the rodeo and you just have to go for it.

Now that I’m looking back at this, it appears that I ate nothing but sweets for three weeks. No one would argue I have a sweet tooth, but I also ate a Corn Dog from Fletcher’s and a Corn on a Stick. My waist line is more than thankful rodeo does not start again for another 320 days and now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to hit the gym.


1Full disclosure: I’m a member of the HLSR Parade Committee. And it’s the best damn committee in the whole damn rodeo if you ask me.

Food on a Stick

There’s just nothing better than food on a stick. It’s portable, doesn’t require utensils and, if you’re at a fair of any kind, likely fried. What other food group can beat that with a stick1? As I chowed down on my first and only corn dog I’ve had in my entire life, my dining partner snapped a photo to preserve the moment for all of eternity. And wouldn’t you know? The girl behind me went all McKayla Maroney and was clearly not impressed. Proof that a picture really is worth a thousand words.


1See what I did there?

The Chillest Wine Bar in Town

Just on the edge of the point where midtown meets downtown and just before it hits EaDo1, there sits the chillest wine bar I ever did see. 13 Celsius seems to be at once a hipster mecca with a lounge-ish vibe while at the same time packed with business people who know a great bottle of wine when they see one and wine newbies cutting their baby teeth on those slick glass corks. How I have not been to 13 Celsius before today is mind-boggling. And it’s a shame because this is definitely my kinda place.IMG_5904

The interior is bathed in an industrial-modern feel that is very on-trend. Everybody’s doing the industrial thing but, for some reason, 13 Celsius makes it feel authentic and real. The bar itself is a giant block of white marble (my personal fave) that screams cool and buttoned up all at the same time. And they have purse hooks! Praise the purse hooks gods! The mismatched club chairs paired with sleek leather sofas in small sitting areas make you want to sit and stay a while, which we did. And did I mention the patio? Oh, the precious patio. Perfect on a bright sunny day with friends or with its twinkly lights at night that’s perfect for you and your date’s first kiss.IMG_5908


The staff…oh, let’s talk about the staff! The staff at 13 Celsius looks as if they stepped straight out of the latest Billy Reid catalogue. They are perfectly hipster coiffed from the beards to the large plastic-framed glasses to the plaid flannel button downs and the well-loved Converse. With the look and feel of the place, you’d think the bartenders might not give you the time of day, but nothing could be further from the truth. They were all very warm and genuine, and could pretty much tell you something about every one of the wines in the tome they call their wine list. It was quite impressive. Not only can they tell you something about each of their wines, but they’ll happily let you taste any of their wines, too. I think I’m in love.IMG_5907

So let’s talk wine. As I was at a work event, I could not be my usual party animal self; rather, I had to be my semi-reformed party animal self and take it easy. I had two glasses of a 2010 Mt. Beautiful Riesling, a North Canterbury, New Zealand Riesling that was outstanding; it was dry and petrol-y on the nose, but had a honeysuckle citrusy finish that I love in a good Riesling. It was fantastic and a steal at only $11 for a full pour. Let me reiterate that, were I not at a work function, I would have likely downed the entire bottle. One of the neatest parts of the wine menu was  the “Most Unique” category. Being the adventurous person I am, I had to ask. Rosso Contadino 8 (2010) is an Italian wine by Belgian-born winemaker Frank Cornelissen. His philosophy is to avoid using any kind of man-made interference on his land or vines whether “chemical, organic or biodynamic.” It sounds like he may or may not stomp the grapes himself. On the nose, Contadino smelled of black cherry, licorice and terroir, with a finish that was smoky and meaty, sort of like drinking a piece of beef jerky. It really was the most unique wine I’ve ever tasted and I’m glad I went for it because what is life if it isn’t a food adventure?IMG_5899IMG_5903

Now let’s talk food. The menu at 13 Celsius is wonderful. The owner’s grandfather, Joseph, apparently had a butcher shop that was the inspiration behind the menu. The 13 Celsius menu is filled with wonderful cheeses — soft and pliable ones; firm and hard ones; and my personal fave, triple cream ones. The combinations, or “Combinazioni”, allow you to choose several cheeses and are served with sliced baguette, fruit (sliced Granny Smith apples!), nuts (Marcona almonds!) and strong, grainy mustards. The boards they were putting out were simply beautiful and simply delicious. I wanted to move in and eat every morsel on those boards! They also serve panini with meats sliced to order; the basil was fresh and, like the meats, chopped in front of my very own eyes.  I tried a little bit of everything on the boards but really wanted to try a panini, so I settled on the Mortadella. The Mortadella panini was like warm chocolate cake for my soul. Served warm, it was bathed in grilled mortadella, tomato, provolone, chopped cornichons, mustard and a fried egg all on a pretzel bun. And served with house made chips. Seriously. It was stupendous.



Lastly, I love when they think of the little things and one of the little things I loved at 13 Celsius was the little lights they sit on the mini clipboards they give you with your bill. As it’s a bar, it is obviously dimly lit and the little light avoids the need for people to blind everyone within a five foot radius by breaking out iTorch, because no one needs to lose their eyesight when they’re simply enjoying a night out. Thanks to the owners of my new favorite bar, though, because they have simply thought of everything.20140316-234207.jpg

Being that I live a bit away from downtown, 13 Celsius won’t be a neighborhood joint for me personally. However, I will go back as often as possible because it’s fantastic and because I love supporting awesome local merchants who are creative and have a passion for their craft. My advice is to get out your iCalendar and schedule yourself a night at 13 Celsius as soon as humanly possible. You can thank me later. IMG_5911

1Is this really what we call this area now? That’s so NYC Tribeca, NoDo and SoHo of us.

Let’s Dish. Or Not.


I wanted to love this restaurant. I really did. But I just didn’t and here’s why.

Ever since my days in Toronto when I ate brunch as often as humanly possible at Lady Marmalade, I have been searching for a brunch spot in Houston that was even marginally as awesome, but without any luck. In fact, I was SURE I had blogged about the other-worldliness of Lady Marmalade’s eggs bennys on my beloved Canadian blog, but after a quick search, my blog tells me I’ve only made very brief mentions of it. I guess I’ve just been chatting with people about it IRL. Imagine that. No matter, though. Just know that Lady Marmalade’s mango and bacon eggs benedict was literally the only food group I ate for weekend brunch for nearly three years — I stood in line outside their teeny tiny digs in snow, ice, blizzards, thunder snow, heat waves, humidity1, and every other kind of weather situation just to have the mango eggs benny. I don’t know if this says more about me or the dish, but I’m going with the latter.

I first learned about Houston’s newest brunch spot on Instagram. My fingers nearly caught fire from googling it so fast. I liked the concept of Dish Society. I read a couple of articles about it and it sounded like the owner/proprietor had done his homework around what people, specifically Texans, wanted in their comfort food, so I had high hopes.


First of all, Dish Society is on the ground level of an apartment complex. This is not uncommon in “walking” cities like New York, Chicago, and Toronto, where there were three restaurants in the bottom of my building. But as we all know, Houston is anything but a walking city (did I tell you about the time my friend drove from the Chick-fil-a at Richmond and 610 to a new parking spot at Best Buy at Richmond and 610?), so it felt odd to park in the parking garage of an apartment complex and enter the restaurant through the complex’s atrium area. The nice part about that, though, is that there is plenty of parking which is one of my main complaints about so many restaurants in Houston.


Once inside, the build out is open and airy. Its look-and-feel is like so many other trendy farm-to-table restaurants — lots of concrete and metal finishes. And, my biggest restaurant pet peeve also makes an appearance at Dish Society in the form of lightweight aluminum chairs. I HATE THOSE CHAIRS! Granted, they are only used outside, but that is where I ate because there was no room inside. My other favorite brunch spot, Adair Kitchen, uses them too, and I re-loathe them every time I go. Those chairs are so cold and hard that I want to eat and leave as quickly as possible. Sidebar: obvs, not every one feels this way because every time I eat at Adair, we have to stand in the back and wait for people to stop their incessant chatting and GET UP SO THOSE OF US WHO HAVEN’T EATEN CAN SIT DOWN. But I digress. I just can’t imagine how a restaurant owner can test chairs and settle on those cold chairs? How can they say “ooooh, I like this one! It’s warm and inviting and comfortable!” They are anything but. So I was disappointed when I saw them repeated at Dish Society.

I fully acknowledge that these things are my own personal issues. It may not bother anyone else that they have to sit on those ding dang cold, hard chairs in their shorts they’ll end up wearing nine months out of the year in Houston’s godforsken heat after they’ve had to park in an apartment complex parking garage! Clearly, I have specific environmental needs when it comes to dining out that not everyone may have. I GET IT! But this is my blog and five — FIVE — of my readers demanded I write this review and what my readers want, my readers get. Please and thank you.


Let’s move on to the reason we all go out anyway — le cuisine. I wanted to compare the breakfast I normally get at Adair to Dish, so I ordered migas and (tried to order) a bowl of granola and milk. Their menu referenced “house granola” as an oatmeal topping, so I asked if I could get it in a bowl with milk. Yes, they are newly open, but you would have thought I had asked if they could send me to the moon and back. Good lord, it was tough. The manager even had to come over to enter it into their system.


The food was cold when it got to me. This was good for the granola and milk, but bad for the eggs. I am an adventurous eater, but I like my food to be temperature appropriate. I hate cold food that should be hot; hot food that should be cold; and, most of all, lukewarm food. Yuck. The migas were bland, although the salsa was tasty. In fact, I should have just gotten a bowl of salsa. The granola, which is pretty hard to mess up, was terrible. I kept chewing it trying to figure out what it was, but the best way I can describe it is that it was overly seedy and kind of overcooked. You know how overcooked pieces of rice get really hard and almost breaks your tooth? That’s how the granola was — as if I kept biting into rocks. The flavor was very date-ish2 and there were no chunks at all. I personally prefer chunky granola. I didn’t finish the bowl and I usually always finish a bowl of granola. #wompwomp


The Cliff’s Notes version of what I liked about Dish Society are:

  • the yellow and white gingham shirts worn by the staff
  • and how said shirts matched the yellow coffee cups and yellow painted bar. Definitely a cheery touch.
  • they serve Maine Root soda. I like to mix the Mexican Diet Cola with the Mexican Cola and off to Heaven I go.
  • free wi-fi!

The Cliff’s Notes version of what I didn’t like about Dish Society are:

  • pretty much everything else.


I really wanted to like this place. I really wanted a new place to meet my girlfriends for brunch! But it was not to be…at least in week one. I will go back  because I am a helper and a lover, and I want Houston to have great brunch places! I am crossing my fingers and toes and legs and eyes that they do make some quick improvements. Quickly.

1Yes, Toronto has humidity. And tons of it, too. #lotsofbadhairdays

2The things you eat, not the things you go on.

Fusion Food That’s Not Fusion. But That’s Really Really Good.

IMG_5519It’s fair to say I was somewhere near a retail center last Saturday when hunger pangs struck. Knowing it was National Margarita Day, a holiday that is less “time honored tradition” and more “spirit industry at work”, I ran down the list of mexican restaurants in the area. If you’re like me, you don’t need an excuse to lift a margarita but, still, the only restaurants I could think of were a) overpriced and b) probably overcrowded. It just wasn’t going to work out.

Last year, I was lucky enough to get two tickets to the Houston Culinary Tour of Long Point Road with Chris Shepherd of Underbelly fame and Bryan Caswell of Reef fame as our tour guides. Let me just say that if you have never been on a Houston Culinary Tour, finish reading my blog and, only after you’ve finished reading my blog, click through to the site via the link love above. Run, do not walk to get tickets, because they usually sell out within minutes of going on sale, unless it’s the Vegetarian tour and then it doesn’t. Yes, the tours are just. that. good. 

I remembered a place the chefs mentioned on Gessner near Long Point called Vietnam Poblano, a random fusion of names from Vietnam (obvs) and the interior-Mexican city Poblano. I thought “what better to do on National Margarita Day than eat Vietnamese Mexican food”?! So I did.

There are tens of thousands of hole-in-the-wall restaurants on Long Point. Adventurous foodies could spend weeks hitting the diverse, exciting and delicious restaurants along this stretch of Spring Branch north of I-10. The best part about these holes-in-the-wall is that they’re affordable — heck, I’d say they’re downright cheap! — so even if you stop at some taco truck or Korean barbecue house and hate your food, you’ll still probably only be out a ten spot. Vietnam Poblano is one of these places. It sits at the end of the Royal Oaks strip center next to Tony’s Multiservices and an empty parking lot. IMG_5515

I fully expected to find some kind of viet-tex fusion but instead found a fairly typical Vietnamese sandwich shop. I asked what was good and the guy behind the counter told me they are known for their banh mi, a meat-filled sandwich on — you guessed it — banh mi, or french bread. Sidebar: Vietnam was a French colony for about 90 years and influenced the country not only in its cuisine, but in its religious beliefs, architecture, and broader social culture, as well. I ordered the BBQ pork banh mi (#1), the Gogi Beef fried rice (#10), Thai tea, and a delightfully-wrapped package of four tiny pastel macarons. I always over order when trying a new place so I can get the flavor of more than just one dish. I usually take at least half of everything home or, in the instance it’s really, really good, I don’t. 

The verdict of Vietnam Poblano? It was sublime. The BBQ pork was very thinly sliced with a hint of sweetness. I later learned this is because they add honey to their BBQ sauce. The sweetness of the honey partnered with the biting flavor of the fresh cilantro2 and deliciously pithy jalapenos on the crusty, fresh french bread nearly brought me to tears. I asked if they made their own bread and was told that they focus on the “guts” of their sandwiches and leave the bread baking to the bread bakers. Wise move, in my opinion — their meats and vegetables are cut in-house daily; they pickle their own vegetables; and their butter is made in-house daily, too. Without a doubt, it was the best banh mi I’ve ever had.

IMG_5517The Gogi Beef fried rice was very different but was delicious nonetheless. The meat had a smoky flavor to it and the fried rice was not greasy in any way. The dish was served with julienned pickled carrots into which I could have put my face. Like the banh mi, it was topped with a giant mound of fresh cilantro. They were outstanding and I was assured that they use only the finest of vinegars to pickle their veggies — you know, Heinz. Bottom line: soy sauce, so often needed to add flavor to bland fried rice was not required in any way, shape or form at Vietnam Poblano. It was also served with an egg roll, but it was flavorless and dry; clearly, the egg roll is not made in-house daily. My advice is to skip it and save your stomach space.

Rounding out my dinner was Thai tea and the bag of baby macarons. They were good, but at $5.99 for four macarons the size of a quarter, I can do without.

The service was great, the restaurant was clean and the prices (save the macarons) were very reasonable. In fact, their daily special that includes a banh mi, a side and a drink is a mere $4.99. You can’t beat that with a stick. Like I said, even if you go and hate the food (which you won’t), you’ll still only be out a five spot.

My suggestion? Run, do not walk, to Vietnam Poblano. I can’t wait to know what you think but I think you’re going to love it.


1The foodie word everybody has come to hate. Yours truly included.
2I love cilantro. I mean, I LOVE cilantro. I know that you either love it or you hate it, but I love it. The End.

Healing My Heart By Pounding My Feet

You know the old saying “kindness is the new manliness”? Well, that was definitely not the case with the last person I dated.

I was pretty heavily in love with him. He told me he loved me. He said we had a connection…”there’s just something between us” he said. He told me I was the person he confided in. He said he couldn’t imagine not ever talking to me again. We hung out with each other’s families. We went on the ultimate road trip date to the church that is Tiger Stadium for the LSU/Florida game. I started the process of buying a new house and we looked at them together. We chatted about which knobs would look best in the kitchen and how to utilize the outside space and which mattress would go where. In total, we dated for ten months and off-and-on again1 for another eight.

But as it turns out, he lied to me. A lot. About a lot. Pretty much about everything. And lying is never cute. He was seeing other people the entire time we “dated”, just like he continued seeing me when he was dating other people. He told me he wanted to see me exclusively, yet still had frequent “investor meetings” I came to find out were really dates with other girls. I knew something was up but, when I asked, he turned things around by making me out to be a nag. He sold some things for me on eBay and only paid me back for part of what he owed me; the other part was used to buy his next girlfriend her birthday present. Ergo, I like to think of him as the Bernie Madoff of the dating world. I could go on and on and on with a list of his lies, hurts, and indiscretions, but I’ll spare you. Two weeks after I was invited to his family’s ranch where we talked about living together, he decided he didn’t want to see me anymore. Like ever. He let me know via a yelling match on the phone while I was at work and then cut off all communication with me. He never responded to my pleas to talk — not a single time — and I didn’t hear from him again other than on occasion when he called at 10 p.m. to see what I was doing. Shortly after, I learned he’d started seeing someone else a couple of weeks before our trip to his ranch.

All of it, needless to say, took its toll. I withdrew from my friends. I stopped working out. My food habits were shot l and I gained 20 pounds (why can’t I be the girl who loses weight in times of stress?). None of the fallout was his fault; I’d just never been around an extreme narcissist before, much less involved with one, and didn’t manage it very well. I was stuck in a rut, suddenly trusted very few people and needed an outlet besides Whataburger single patty melts. My hurt was deep, but it had gone on long enough. The $60,000 question, though, was how I was going to recover.

That’s when I got down on my knees and thanked the Internet gods for the invention that is Facebook. One of my friends, Mark, had been a workout fiend for the past two years. He was the most focused and dedicated person I’d ever seen where eating habits and working out were concerned; he just did not let anything get in his way and managed to lose ~125 lbs in about 18 months. As someone who is not, and never will be, a stick figure, I was inspired. So when he posted a message on Facebook that entry for the Houston Half Marathon lottery was closing the following day, a light bulb went off — I was going to run a race.

I asked my dear friend Jody, also an avid runner, if he thought I could do it; he said yes without missing a beat. I asked my inspiring friend Mark if he thought I could do it and he said I could do anything I set my mind to. I believed him. I asked my girlfriends and they were so proud I thought they were going to cry. I asked my trainer and she was behind me 100%. So I entered the lottery and told myself that if I got in, it was meant to be.

The verdict? I got in. IMG_1080

I’ve been psyching myself up ever since. It was long past time for me to buy some new running shoes — the treads on my old trainers were literally non-existent — so I splurged and paid a visit to Luke’s Locker. I treated myself to some fancy new socks. I plunked down $280 for a 23-week training course with The Kenyan Way, one of Houston’s premier running clubs (or so I’m told). All of this in an effort to prepare my body, mind, knees and feet for a 13.1 mile trek through Houston.

Truth be told, I’m scared to death. I work out every week with a trainer and actually enjoy it, but I’ve never been a “true” runner. As I’m fond of saying, God didn’t intend for apples to run! But I’ve decided that I’m going to heal my heart and get over the way this person treated me by pounding my feet. It’s time to stop focusing on what he “did to me” and focus on the fact that I’m a pretty great person and deserve to have healthy, trustworthy relationships. Plus, it’s a goal to work towards and I figure 13.1 miles isn’t really that long — technically, my commute is half that distance and I am pretty sure I could walk from my house to work and back again in <4 hours, couldn’t I? On January 19, 2014, we’re sure going to find out. It will be a Forrest Gump-style running adventure of epic proportion.

I just keep reminding myself of this: it’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it.

Wish me luck, y’all.

1i.e., when he was seeing other people

The Joys of Home Ownership

My house is exactly one year old today! Happy Birthday, house! Well, technically, my house was built in 1956, so it’s really 57 years old, but who’s counting? It’s a year old to me and I love it as much today as I did when I stepped into it 13 months ago and had to mow down the other five people trying to buy it. Victory!

Since I moved in, I’ve made a few updates. I’ve painted every inch of it (ceilings, walls, trim, base boards, cabinets, doors, and the entire exterior). I’ve installed new hardware on my doors and cabinets. I’ve installed a new water heater (not by my choosing), put in an awesome new Hansgrohe faucet in my kitchen and Santec faucet in my bathroom, installed marble on my bathroom vanity, and a few other odds and ends. I’m still working on decorating it, with the help of Kristina Wilson of Kristina Wilson Design, but that’s the fun part.

BranchesSo what’s the not-so-fun part? I’ll tell you: my 60-year old water oak trees. If it’s not the leaves falling by the bag-full, it’s the acorns dropping by the ton; and if it’s not the acorns dropping by the ton, it’s the very, very, VERY large branches falling and littering up my yard. I was sweeping and scooping in the fall (hi acorns!), raking in the winter (hi leaves!) and am now building small bonfires in the summer (hi branches!). It looks something like this on the daily.

Don’t get me wrong — I adore every square inch of my house and yard. There is literally nothing I’d change. Nothing! But it’s true what they say: there really is always something to do when you own a home. I have had more than a few moments where I’ve wished I was back in my no-maintenance condo rather than logging trees in my backyard. That or wishing I had a really, really cute yard boy. Either or.


Conserve This

I am not a car flipper by any stretch of the imagination. I had a very un-Carmen-like car flipping episode a little more than a year ago when my beloved Acura TSX that got me through seven years — three — THREE! — of which were Canadian winters — began to have issues, I forced myself to face the reality that I needed to buy a new car. I searched and searched, trying with great might to stay within my monthly affordability price range, and even toyed with going outside my monthly affordability price range when I took home a Mercedes GLK SUV overnight (and that I promptly took back and dropped off at the Service department at 7:15am the next morning, wrote the salesman a nice note something to the effect of “thanks, but no thanks”, picked up my Acura and left). I really wanted an SUV so I could more easily cart around my non-dogs, non-children, and because I like to pay for premium gas, and  and ultimately bought my third Acura — and fifth Acura owned in my family — a 2011 Acura RDX Sport Edition. It was a brand I was familiar with and a brand I dearly loved.

Some things, though, just don’t feel right. It felt like I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. While the sound and navigation systems were awesome, the drive was extremely bumpy, so much so that when my friends would ride with me, I could hear their voice “bounce” as we hit bumps. Granted, the car was supposed to be “sporty”, but it got to be uncomfortable. Plus, the tailgate was really heavy and was difficult to close with just one hand…not ideal when you live in a condo and usually have your hands full of crap that needed to be lugged upstairs. I took that car on several road trips and, every time I did, I disliked it more and more. So after just a year of ownership, I decided to trade it in.

Fast forward to February 2012. I’d fully returned to my Texas roots after moving back to Houston and determined I needed a giant SUV. I’d always loved the Chevy Tahoe. And I mean, what single girl doesn’t need a huge, gas-guzzling SUV? Amirite? So after about 752 hours of negotiating at MacHaik, I was the proud owner of a black 2012 Chevy Tahoe. And, true to form, I only bumped into two things from the giantness of it in the first three months — a concrete post at the Galleria, for which I kept taped on my car with clear duct tape until I shelled out $500 to replace it (!) and a dent in the hood when I was testing out the garage of a house I was looking to buy, drove too far forward, and barely tapped a piece of wood sticking out that caused a tiny dent. It’s still there. More on that later. Ahem.

I used to have personalized license plates, but gave them up years ago. Although small, it was an expense I didn’t really need or care to have. But after seeing all the cool new specialty plates on, the itch became too much to scratch. First I wanted the State of the Arts plates, but when everybody and their sister got them, I balked. As an avid animal rescue advocate, I considered the Animal Friendly plates, but decided they were too juvenile for me; plus, being singel and spoiler of a 14-lb Canadian Tabby cat, I thought those plates might make me borderline “crazy animal lady”, so I balked again. I like the Hunt Texas plates, but I’m not actually a hunter; I really liked the “Come and Take It” plates but was told by more than one person that they weren’t at all “ladylike”. Right. And then I saw them — on a white BMW driving through West U, I saw the Ducks Unlimited Blue Heron plates. And I was in love.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 10.04.11 PMI am a huge fan of bird prints, especially Audubon. And Herons have always been a favorite. Plus, I’m an avid conservationist — of dogs, anyway — so the Wetlands Conservation plates were perfect for me. Once I figured out those are the ones I wanted, I ordered them so quickly, I practically blew up my keyboard.

So it was all fun and games until my work-husband and I went out for lunch recently. He noticed my new plates and said “oh yes, Ducks Unlimited — they’re the group who protects the birds along the coast so they’ll be plentiful for hunting.” Um, exsqueeze me? THEY PROTECT THE BIRDS ALONG THE COAST SO HUNTERS CAN SWOOP IN AND KILL THEM?! My work-husband witnessed the launch of “Operation Shock & Awe” right then and there. I called a friend who is a big hunter and he too confirmed this was the truth. Oh. Em. Gee.

Don’t get me wrong, y’all…I’m not opposed to hunting. In fact, I am a bonafide CHL holder and took Riflery for two semesters as my kinesiology credit at Texas A&M (whoop!), so I can handle a gun and *will* one day hunt an animal. However. I was none too pleased that I was now driving around Houston promoting the death of birds the world over. So I did what any smart girl would do: I consulted the Google. And, I have good and positive news to report; not only does Ducks Unlimited promote conservation of areas so there will be plentiful flocks for hunting, but they ALSO promote conservation so waterfowl habitats can flourish.

Now, these two things may or may not be nearly identical, but no matter — I’m sticking to the idea that the $30 “donation” I made to get my over-thought-about-fancy-license plates is going to helping the birds along the Texas coast rather than kill them. The point of this overly-long and drawn out story is this: if any of you think anything contrary to what I’ve just said, then my message to you is conserve this! Please and thank you.