Doug’s 40th

July 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm (Doug Stuff, Family, Food)

Doug and his siblings (Mike, Susan, Amy & Bryan)

Doug always likes to celebrate his birthday in a big way. One year we did turkey drumsticks, last year we did the gigantic pizza, but this year required something extraordinary. This year Doug was turning 40. The only glitch in my party plans was that Charles’ arrival was supposed to be around the 10th of May, and Doug’s birthday is the 13th.

Me on the ladder

In order to work around this scheduling conflict, I decided to start planning way in advance. I booked our local rec center in January, and I ordered the invitations in February (of course, I neglected to put the time on them!). I was planning a surprise party, and whenever Doug would ask me about what we were going to do for his birthday, I told him we would just have to wait to see how I was feeling after the baby. Having a baby is pretty much the perfect cover for a surprise party!

The baby chillin' while we were working!

The theme for the party was an all out geek celebration. It all started with a door mat that I found at Kohl’s for $5. After that, there was no turning back. I had geek glasses and Nerds for party favors. I even had an awesome playlist (think, She Blinded Me With Science). Unfortunately you couldn’t hear the music above the crowd! I had beakers and wind up robots. My sister made molecules out of Styrofoam balls and bamboo skewers. I think my crowning achievement had to be the Periodic Table of Cookies. My sister and I baked 100 cookies the day before and laid them out to form the Periodic Table of Elements.

Dixie and Christina with the helium tanks

The best part was that people came from far and wide. Greg flew in from Utah, and Doug’s siblings came from Washington, Minnesota, Florida and Dallas. Plus Doug’s parents came. My dad and sister were here too. We even had friends drive in from Ft. Hood. I think the whole thing was a huge success, but I’m a little biased!

The Periodic Table of Cookies

I was a little worried that Doug was on to my plan. When He asked me again what we were doing for his birthday, I told him that my family was going to watch the kids so that we could go out to dinner. I wanted to get to the rec center at about 7:15, and we had finished dinner at about 6:45. On our way home Doug suggested taking the long way, so I was sure he knew what was up. Then his dad called to wish him a happy birthday, and so he pulled over to talk to him for a few minutes. The timing was perfect when we got to the party. I asked him to pull over, and he thought it was because there was a friend in the parking lot. He didn’t find it strange at all that there were lots of friends in the parking lot! That’s when he finally asked if it was a surprise party.


When he walked in the real surprise came. Everywhere he looked he would see someone else who had traveled a long way just to celebrate his birthday. When he first walked in, Tommy came running up to him with the biggest hug ever!  The party was a great success, and Doug got to have some great family time.

Doug and Afton

I have to give a huge shout out to my sister Jessica who watched my kids, and to Christina and Dixie who hung out with me all day decorating the rec center. Those things always take longer than you think. My dad was also a huge help. He pretty much ran all of the last-minute errands, like going to Costco for the drinks and veggies. It was a crazy day, and there was no way that I would have been able to do it by myself!

Doug and Bryan with the kids

Another awesome thing: with all the family and friends, clean up was a snap. Am I the only one who gets depressed that something that takes hours to set up can be torn down in 30 minutes?!

Taking the balloons home at the end of the night.


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Another Week-end in Baton Rouge

July 15, 2010 at 5:56 pm (Family, Food, Road Trips)

After some snowballs!

You know I love me a road trip!! I just wish that we could do these for five days instead of just the week-end. We had to leave before the shrimp boil this time, and it was a little sad! Of course, 4 out of 6 people got sick on this trip, so it was probably time to head home!

Andrew at the Country Club

This was by far the best drive we have ever had through Houston. I was grumbling a little bit about having to leave at 4:30, but everything worked out really well. We even went to the Houston Aquarium for dinner. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. It’s right off the freeway and it’s outside of the Aquarium so you don’t have to pay admission, but there are huge tanks in the restaurant. If only we had known that Doug’s sister and family were also in Houston that night, we could have made a group trip!!

Doug and his Mom

We arrived in Baton Rouge on Friday morning and hung out with the family and grandma and grand-dad’s house. We went for a swim in the pool and then checked ourselves into the hotel before dinner at the BRCC.

Afton with the absolute favorite toy at the great-grandparents

Ah… the country club. I have oft lamented that we didn’t get to go to the country club very much, but now I know why. My kids do not do particularly well in that environment! We had our room because there were so many of us, and there were children doing somersaults on the dance floor, hiding under the piano, knocking over giant divider screens, and throwing up (the last two were mine, in case you were wondering!).

Ben blowing out someone else's candles

After dinner my darling husband took the kids, and the ladies and I went to go see whatever Twilight movie is out right now. A shout out to my brother-in-law, Dan who knew someone at the movie theater and got us passes! I’m just going to say that these movies make me feel old and unromantic, but am I the only one who says go with the hottie werewolf instead of the slightly creepy 150 year old vampire?! Also there were a couple of guys in the row in front of us making fun of us while texting on their phones. I think if you’re two teenage guys going to see Twilight by yourselves on a Friday night, maybe you shouldn’t be making fun of other people!

All the kids and great-grandma waiting out the lightning

On Saturday we had a fun birthday celebration for my niece Julianna and all the other July birthday people. There was lots of yummy food and an almost swim party. Unfortunately it started to thunder and lightning once everyone got their swimsuits on!

I know it's blurry, but I just want to show that I do brush my hair sometimes!

Saturday night some of the group went to see the Sound of  Music and some of us stayed back to visit. After the play Doug and his brother Mike went to see the Last Airbender while Ingrid and I chatted in the hotel hallway. I’m trying to convince Mike and Ingrid to move to San Antonio, but so far I’ve come up lacking!

Cousins working on the craft that Aunt Ingrid organized

On Sunday we had church and then a quick visit before we started the drive home. I had just read about a BBQ place in Houston, so we stopped to try it out. It was a little out of the way, and Doug still hasn’t found a place in Houston that he likes better that Goode & Co.

The birthday girls

So, now we’re home sweet home preparing for the next adventure, which will probably be sometime during football season!

Afton's newest skill!

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Doug’s Big Day!

May 28, 2010 at 6:59 am (Doug Stuff, Food, Fun Stuff, Uncategorized)

I don’t know what it is about my husband; he’s not the most social of people, yet every year he wants to throw a big party for his birthday. One year we did fajitas and another year we did Turkey Legs. Last year we did something small at home because Doug was still using the cane, but this year we made up for it!

Back in August we watched a Man Vs. Food episode from San Antonio. This involved a 6lb cinnamon roll, and a 30 lb pizza! That’s right, a 30lb pizza! Obviously you know where I’m going with this! We got 8 people together and headed over to Big Lou’s for 42″ of dough,  meat, and a few veggies! We also had breadsticks just in case we were worried about not getting enough carbs! We definitely could have used two more people to finish off the pizza in the restaurant. It’s hard to imagine that a pizza that takes an hour to cook is going to taste good, but it really was yummy … once you got over the massive size! I don’t know if 42″ pizza is something that I could ever do again, but it was definitely a fun night!

I think everyone should do a little research into what the Food Network says  is fun to do in their town! I check them out a lot when we’re about to make a road trip so that we don’t just end up stopping at McDonald’s when we’re ready to eat!

I will say though, that I didn’t understand the restaurant’s bathroom situation. There were two toilets in one room. There was one door to the hallway, but no doors inside the bathroom. I’m pretty sure you were supposed to lock the door. I don’t care if there were people waiting when I got out!

What was left!

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April 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm (Food, Fun Stuff, Uncategorized)

Girls' Night Out!

Tina and her Brighton helpers

Well it’s been a little while, but you all know how busy my life is! If I’m not changing diapers then I’m watching t.v. and eating bonbons! I feel like I should be a bit more exciting so that I can have more exciting things to write. So, wouldn’t you know that last week I did something pretty exciting.

The throngs of people!

It was Fiesta here in San Antonio, and I participated in my first official Fiesta event. It wasn’t Battle of the Flowers (I’m not brave enough to head downtown during the madness), but it was Taste of the Northside. It’s a great fundraiser for the Brighton Center, which is a group that helps developmentally delayed children. A friend of mine has received a lot of support from this group, and if we can give back by taste testing awesome food, then who am I to argue?!

The Drunken Strawberries

As a bonus, this event was filled with inappropriate clothing and inappropriate displays of public affection (I’m not judging, but once you reach a certain age, making out gets creepy!)!

Fiesta hats

The food was great. There were truffles, chocolate chip cookies, lettuce wraps, frozen lemonade, and much more. I think a motivator for some people may have been all of the drink tickets that came with your admission, but I used those for chocolate shakes from Cheesy Jane’s.

Who knew this was back in style?

I'm putting that stomach on my visualization board!

It just seems wrong!

Towards the end of the night I may have had one too many shakes because I was getting a little silly, but really, I wasn’t nearly as silly as half of the people on the bus ride back to the parking lot! If you’re in town for Fiesta next year, you should definitely attend.

Fiesta buttons

Don't forget a flower for your hair.

Right before she fell down!

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Like Manna from Heaven

March 31, 2010 at 7:18 am (Food, Makes me Smile, Uncategorized)

A couple of weeks ago I posted about my love for a certain Canadian margarine. Look what arrived in the mail yesterday:

Postal goodness from Canada


My dad sent this off to me before I wrote that post. It’s as if he is completely in tune but my margarine needs. For a split second I thought that I was getting some environmentally friendly boxed wine

What's hiding in th box?

, but then behold what to my wandering eyes appeared:

This should get me through the next year. There shall be toast in our home again … at least for me!

Thanks Dad!

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Master Class

February 1, 2010 at 10:02 pm (Food, Makes me Smile, Things I love)

Me, Doug H. and Dixie


I really should have written about this whole thing on Friday. I feel my excitement has died down a little bit, but hopefully you’ll get what an amazing experience this was. 

From time to time I head down to the Central Market to take cooking classes. I’ve learned about make ahead meals, all kinds of lobster, and southern specialties. Last Thursday was all about bread. I was so excited when I saw the class description that I really didn’t even research the instructor all that much. Dixie told me that she bought the book, and that was about it. 

Well, it turns out that the instruct or was Peter Reinhart. This man is amazing. By far the best class I’ve taken at Central Market. If he’s coming to a Central Market or a Sur La Table near you, it is well worth the money. He gave some very practical advice (like keeping a bowl of water nearby to dip your hands in when working with sticky dough), and he gave some very technical insights. He went a mile a minute and never lost track of anything. At one point he had 6 loaves of bread in three different ovens, and he still managed to explain the benefit of slurries. 

sitting next to Peter Reinhart

One of the keys to this particular class was the process of delayed fermentation. I’m no expert, but it has to do with activating all the components over time. On Saturday I made a beautiful chocolate babka. Well, it was beautiful all day long … until I burned it beyond recognition! That’s okay though. I was only depressed all night Saturday and most of Sunday, but I’m over it now, and ready to try again! 

As if the experience of the class wasn’t enough we also met a local celebrity. Well, celebrity to culinary geeks like me and Dixie. There is a pizzeria in San Antonio called Dough. It’s authentic Italian. They have a special wood burning oven that cooks the pizzas in 90 seconds. We first discovered this restaurant almost two years ago. I cannot accurately describe the joy that this food brings to me. Anyway, attending the class  Thursday night was Doug, the owner of Dough. 

At the beginning of the class, the instructor told everyone that he would be going to Dough after the class, and that we were more than welcome to join them. Once the class was over Dixie and I were very excited about the idea of eating at the restaurant with Mr. Dough and Mr. Reinhart, but we weren’t really sure if the invitation at the beginning of class was sincere. So, we went up to Doug, took a picture (because we’re stalkers that way), and tried to ascertain how serious the invitation was, because, at that point, the restaurant had closed. 

No worries. Doug said that if the restaurant was going to be open for him it would be open for all of us! After all, he said, we’re part of the Dough family! I wonder if I can use that line to cut down the hour-long wait on the week-end! 

We figured there’d be a half-dozen or so students from the class, but it was just us. There was me, Dixie, Doug, his wife, Peter, Jay (a fascinating person who I hope to meet again), and two chefs from Central Market. It was an amazing evening. It was fascinating to hear Doug ask Peter about different ways to perfect his craft. I’ve worked in a lot of kitchens, and chefs have certain reputation, but these two men were very humble about their craft. 

The after party

I learned so much. I felt like a celebrity. Sitting at a table after the restaurant closes with the owner and a world-renowned baker. This post in no way does this experience justice! I am so glad that I went to the class, and that we went to the dinner after the class. I stepped a little bit out of my comfort zone and because of that I wasn’t saying, “what if” on Friday morning. 

It was so perfect before it went into the oven!

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To Julia, With Love

January 14, 2010 at 9:41 pm (Food)

In a french pot, no less!

I, along with millions of other people, recently watched Julie and Julia. We watched before Christmas, and I was very inspired and a little depressed. Inspired, because who wouldn’t love to be living in Paris, and who wouldn’t love their little blog to be made into a book and  then a movie. A little depressed because I’m not living in Paris, nor is Ellen Page about to play me in a movie (ah the irony!).

Anywho, it made me pull out my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I’ve had it for a good long while, and it easily could have been me who came up with the Julie/ Julia Project, except that my name is Sarah. Whatever, I have skills, and I have a blog, and I’m just biding my time right now!

On to my main point. For Christmas this year Doug bought me some Beef Bourguignonne Braising Base from Williams Sonoma. I’m sure Doug knows that I could make the sauce on my own, but I’m all for expediency. All I can say is, sixteen dollars well spent. It was an amazing jar of sauce.  I probably could have eaten it without adding the beef. It’s a wonderful dish for company, but it probably  would have been better for our dinner guests had they not been a half an hour late, but it was still warm while we ate!

The secret ingredient

Maybe I could try a year’s worth of Canadian cooking. Day 1: poutine, day 2: pickled herring…

p.s. If you haven’t read Julia Child’s, My Life in France, you don’t know what you’re missing.

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Were You There?

August 18, 2009 at 11:40 am (Food, Fun Stuff) ()


Part of the invite

Part of the invite

I don’t want to over-hype my coolness, but the place to be a couple of weeks ago was Dixie’s shower! I can do no bragging, because everyone was super helpful. Even though this was, by far, the biggest shower I’ve ever thrown, it was also the easiest.

Dixie and her Mom (I mader her wear the boa and crown!)

Dixie and her Mom (I mader her wear the boa and crown!)

The nicest thing about the guest of honor being the Relief Society President is that everybody wants to help. The nice thing about all the craziness that’s happened to us this year is that I now have no problem accepting help! I think I’ve done away with the notion of having to do everything myself. For example, the invitations came from a wonderful little Etsy shop Lil’ Sprout Greetings. This girl did a great job, very reasonably priced, and super quick service. She also came up with the design. I just gave her the basic concept and she ran with it.



more guests

more guests

My other big revelation was to use the neighborhood clubhouse instead of my house. My usual big stress is cleaning the house, but using the clubhouse was wonderful. A big empty space with a lot of parking and lots of chairs and tables. I also didn’t have to worry about my kids running around or cooling off my living room for 30 people in the one hundred degree heat.

Diane and Anna hanging the lanterns and flower balls

Diane and Anna hanging the lanterns and flower balls

So, what do you do for a woman who is about to have her fourth boy? I went back and forth between many ideas, but the winner actually came from Dixie’s mother. Queen Dixie seemed like a very appropriate theme!

My Co-host Anna

My Co-host Anna

We also went very simple on the food: cookies, cupcakes, fruit trays and veggie trays. This is another place where we had a lot of help. Anna and I worked on the sweets, and then took other people up on their offers of help for the other things. I ran out of time to organize the game, but I don’t really think anyone noticed that.




Baby lemon pound cakes

Baby lemon pound cakes

Crown and onesie cookies

Crown and onesie cookies


A couple of weeks before the shower I was reading a BHG article that featured a company called Bake it Pretty, and they were the source for the super cute cupcake liners and cookie cutters, edible glitter and candy buttons. This is a wonderful source and they are very reasonable.

Bake it Pretty's pretty packaging!

Bake it Pretty's pretty packaging!

I was also very proud of the party favors: little packages of blue gummy bears. You can buy bulk gummy bears from many places, but the best place I found after much searching was Amazon. There price for 10 lbs. of blue bummy bears was half as much as anywhere else, and the shipping was only 99 cents for two day. A deal at twice the price!Dixie and her family have been calling the baby a gummy bear since the very beginning, so even if no one else got the joke, I know that appreciated it!

Sewing on paper was another time saver!

Sewing on paper was another time saver!

I don’t know if there’s really any more to report about this shower. I think it was a great time, and hopefully Dixie does too! The moral of this story it; don’t make things more difficult than they need to be!

The gift table

The gift table

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Just that kind of day

March 12, 2009 at 4:19 pm (Food, recipes, Things I love)

Last week it was in the 90’s here. In fact, I’m still suffering the effects of my first sunburn since since high school!Today, however is a different story. It’s about fifty degrees and rainy. I love this kind of weather, and because it’s rare to have this kind of day where we live, I’m trying my best to live it up. So, I thought I’d share a couple of things that this kind of weather puts me in the mood for:

1. Hot Chocolate

Best invention ever!!

Best invention ever!!

I know what you’re thinking, that is the most ridiculous thing ever. Who in their right mind would pay good money for something that you can get by just boiling water in the microwave? Trust me, I know where you’re coming from. I thought the same thing the first time I saw this in the Bed Bath and Beyond circular, but then we tried it out at Doug’s sister’s house.  So, before you get all judgemental, hear me out. The Cocoa Latte works not only with water, but also with milk. This makes a much better hot chocolate, in my opinion. Also, there’s no pesky stirring involved. You put in the milk and cocoa and you turn it on. That’s it. The thing starts spinning and heating. It turns off when it gets to the rght temperature, and if it starts to get too cool, it turns right back on. There’s also a froth feature so you can feel like you paid $3.00 for that cocoa at Starbucks!

Many people mocked my attachment to the Cocoa Latte, but a lot of those same people went on to purchase their own after sampling the joy at our house!

#2. The Homemade Marshmallow:

Nothing beats homemade!

Nothing beats homemade!

The hot shocolate is just fine on its own, but if you’re looking for a little something extra, go ahead and try making your own marshmallows. It’s not difficult, and the results are very rewarding. I usually just google for a recipe, but I really like this site. Feel free to embellish your marshmallows with different colors and different flavors. You may not want to make them every time, but if you’re looking for something special, I’d give it a try.

* In the interest of full disclosure, we took these pictures a couple of months ago. This is what I’m in the mood for today, but I didn’t actually get around to it today!

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Grape Truffles

September 22, 2008 at 2:06 pm (Food, recipes)

They are almost healthy!

They are almost healthy!


Another week-end, another cooking class. This time it was just me and Andrea, because apparently the idea of a class devoted completely to lobster was repulsive to Dixie! Oh well, her loss. The lobster was great, but I think the best part of this class was the grape truffles. They are very easy and very tasty.

Grape Truffles:

Red Grapes (don’t use green because the color shows through)

Melted chocolate (buy something nice, it will make a difference)

Cocoa powder (again, try something nice)


– wash and thouroughly dry the grapes, and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes.

– melt the chocolate and let it cool slightly.

– pour the chocolate over the grapes and mix by hand

– place the chocolate covered grapes on a cookie sheet and cover in cocoa. Shake the cookie sheet around so that the grapes are completely covered. Place in the fridge until ready to serve. They should last in the fridge for about five days.

– These need to be served chilled because that’s what keeps the chocolate hard.



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