Monday, June 30, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

Howdy all! My new friend Fabi from Not Just Baked invited me and Meagan along on this neat post, and I was excited to accept. Blogging is definitely something that look VASTLY different between each blogger, so it’s very interesting to read about each person’s process.

Fabi and I met at the Blog Her Food convention this past May in Miami, and boy did we tear it up. We met at the Sabra party late one night, and laughed till we cried over some silly game on the iPad, that I can’t remember for the life of me what it was…. guess you had to be there.  It was like a Catch Phrase of sorts where you had to speak in accents and quote movies, and.. and.. we laughed so hard at 1 am that someone may or may not have fallen over the back of a couch.

NO, it was not me.

The cool small world effect comes when Fabi and I realize we both are from Sacramento, but now live in different places, and went to neighboring high schools, know some of the same people -ish, graduated the same year. It was an awesome convo… guess you had to be there. Heh.

Ok, onto to the writing process tour. Here are the Ms. America-styled four required questions:

*water, please. Ahem.*

1) What am I working on?

That’s a big question. I’m working on posting more regularly. I’m not sure what’s holding me back, I still love food, cook all the time, still love taking pictures, still love telling stories about it…. but the whole plugging the camera into the computer and putting it all together thing has really got me stuck this past year… I went through some major life changes a year ago, but this year has been filled a great job, I love where I live, great friends and relationships, I have absolutely nothing to complain about, and have fallen into a rhythm and routine – so now I just need to add blogging back into that. Great things happen when you put the time and energy into it, so I need to get back into it!

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I would say my quirky, conversational tone in my writing style sets me apart from other bloggers. I like to think my niche includes some  small town, quirky charm, filled with old stained, vintage recipes, but I’m not afraid to throw in some quinoa every now and again.

We all come from different backgrounds, and have different stories to tell. Cooking is definitely something that has been passed down from generation to generation in my family, and it’s part of what builds our relationships. I have many great memories watching my mother and grandmother cook, and my grandma letting me roll out crooked pie dough and calling it BEAUTIFUL!

3) Why do I write what I do?

I write what I do because I love telling a story! Depending on who you ask, their answer may differ in how actually funny they think the story is, but I love, love, love reading an old recipe and wondering what story is that went along with it. Take for example, my Great Aunt Dororthy’s coconut cake. Every time she talks about that dang cake, she tells me about working in the fields, picking cotton and cucumbers, and how Momma made them that sweet cake, and they tied it up in a pillowcase and hung it from a tree branch, saving it for their after lunch snack. Well come to find out, many hot and sweaty hours later, the HORSE had gotten into that cake, had cake and coconut smeared all his furry face. And every single time she tells me that dang story, I crack up laughing, picturing my ol’ granny and her two crazy sisters going crazy over this horse that just ate their cake.

It’s those kinds of kitchen stories that keep me coming back for more, that keep me sharing recipes between friends and readers. Food is all about relationships. And love. And life.

4) How does your writing process work?

I don’t think I have a process, and that’s probably part of my problem. I would probably, no, most definitely be categorized as one of those creative types, that isn’t so good at managing the business side of their business. Every one has room for growth, right? That would explain why I always discover a recipe I want to cook for Valentine’s Day in JULY, and I’ll post it anyways. It’s quirky, sheesh. *winks*

Typically, though, I just cook or bake what I’m in the mood for, snap a picture of it if or when I get time, and post it, sometimes weeks later. Again, I realize this process could use some polishing. I do, though, have a notes page on my phone of dishes I want to make from past trips, or a great meal I want to recreate from going out…. WHICH, by the way, I’m going to Thailand here in a couple weeks, so stay tuned for THOSE pictures and meals. IMSOEXCITED I can hardly breathe.

I hope y’all enjoyed  this insight into a blogger’s life, and keep your eyes peeled for other great bloggers on the tour!

~Peace, Love, and Writing Y’all!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Baklava

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GAAAHHHH!!!!

I’ve been wanting to make Baklava FOR-EVER y’all!!

So, my *framily* – you’ve all seen the Sprint commercials, right? These are technically my friends, but like family.
We straight?

So. My framily and I meet every month or so for a movie night, or fondue night, or pedi party, or whatever excuse really we need to hang out, drink wine, and be lazy. I convinced my favorite mother and daughter team to make baklava with me – it was a BLASTY-BLAST! Thank you Lauren, for that.

Check out my full post here on Shaina’s site for directions. IS. SO. GOOD.

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But wait, there’s more!!!!

Linn and her daughter Brinn love me SO MUCH, they decided to surprise me with a BAKLAVA WITH A TWIST party, too!!

They knew I had been dying to try those Painting With a Twist parties, so we made our own! Brinn made pallet sugar cookies, finger painted cake balls, and decorated with confetti, balloons, and pennant banners! I LOVE THEM.

I DIE.

I DIE AGAIN.

ITWASSOMUCHFUN now that I think about it again.

Never mind that they told me they had a surprise for me, and I was really hoping for a puppy, but hey, this works.

HA.

Kidding. The last thing I need is *another* animal to pee in the house.

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Grab your friend.

Coerce them into helping you.

Promise them flaky layers of honey in return.
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~Peace, Love, and Phyllo Dough, y’all!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

BlogHer Food ’14: Miami Edition

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Wow.

It’s taken me a whole week to recover from Miami, y’all.
And no, not from too many mojitos.

More like a jaw-flapping, rib-tickling good time.

Yes, amongst all the salivating, mouth watering food we ate, we did learn some important blogging skills, but mainly we ate.
Our schedules were made around food.

We’re food bloggers. #SorryNotSorry

Definitely ate my way through Miami and I’m doing enough cardio this week to prove it.

This was my first time to the Sunshine State, and I WILL MOST DEFINITELY be coming back. Miami, in itself, is like being in another country.
CUBA to be exact. Prepare yourself for all the Cuban food I now must make.

This Texan may or may not have obnoxiously shouted out “We’re in Cuba, y’all!” at one time or five.

While I was greeted by tornadoes (YES TORNADOES, AND NO I WASN’T IN KANSAS, OR TEXAS, OR OKLAHOMA, or anywhere in Tornado Alley), the sun eventually came out, and I was able to flip out over the blue green water, white sand beaches, and inconspicuously people watch through my uber-dark $9 shades.

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If you’d like to see a photographical diary of the WHOLE journey, check out my Instagram, but here is a pretty good summary.
But yes, on second thought, check it out, because I want to tell you about ALL THE THINGS, and all the people, and all the food I ate.

On Thursday night, upon arrival, after the funnel clouds left us alone, I met up with a wonderful bunch of local bloggers who took a few of us non-locals to a REAL Cuban place. THE REAL DEAL y’all.

As in, if you have someone important in town, you take them here. Renee and Marni were so gracious, and explained everything on the menu to Nicole and I. When I asked if someone could help me choose some Cuban cigars from the counter up front, Marni was my girl. When asked to identify the thirty-seven different plants and sea grapes and mangoes and coconut trees growing along the roads, Renee named each and every one.

Onto the food. I’m left speechless. Get yourself here. Stat. When the mojito arrived with fresh mint and a REAL sugar cane, I was done for.
Then the waiter brought my Ropa Vieja with fried plantains.

Yup, Ropa Vieja is Spanish for “old clothes.” But let me start by saying I read about this dish on some long, dry, dehydrated, stomach grumbling flight. While flipping through that Southwest Spirit magazine, I was enthralled by the story behind the author’s experience with a good Ropa Vieja. I cannot describe it to you other than saying there is something magical about a good Ropa Vieja, slow-cooked, shredded beef with cumin, bell peppers, and onions… served over rice, and with those fried up plantains that come on every cuban dish…. Man, oh man. I was transported.

I think I left my heart in Cuba.

Cafe Versailles also has “la ventanita,” or walk-up coffee window. I didn’t know Cubans were so proud of their coffee, but luckily I read this post before coming to Miami. The author, Lilia, also ate with us. I knew she was good as gold when I discovered our shared love of beagles, and all things red.

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The next day, after we did some learning, we ate. Again.

Can we stop eating yet?

Nope.

This is where Meaghan, Erin, Lauren, Megan, Annalise (and a whole bunch of my other favorite friends) and I ate so much fried chicken and pork belly, we had to roll ourselves on out of there. And walk home. Not true.

Perhaps all the adrenalin from the terrifying cab rides we took burned off all that food.
Yes. Yes it did. *wide eyes*

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Hop on over to Yardbird so you can just read their menu. I could never explain the shrimp and grits to you in all its glory. Nor could I explain the creamy macaroni, with that perfect crunchy topping, all served in a hot cast iron pot. The pork belly fried green tomato with pimento spread? The buttermilk soaked salty fried chicken, topped with a thin glaze of honey sitting atop a fluffy, FLUFFY buttermilk biscuit?

I could never.

Believe it or not, we could *not* save room for dessert.
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That night, after a costume change, more socializing and networking took place; I am so grateful for this opportunity. I was able to learn so much from my fellow blogging women – inspired by their determination, fortitude, and moxie (my new favorite word), my brain is once again flooded with ideas, brimming over the top with recipes and stories to share with y’all.

Just because I have to mention it, the top left picture is a reunion of our #CondoCurse ladies from BlogHer ’13: Austin edition.
Our condo was haunted. It was all kinds of awesome.

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On our last day, we hitched a cab (*oooOOoo woozy*) to South Beach and explored Espanola Way, ate more cuban food, drank more cuban coffee, dug our toes into smooth white sand, obsessed over more crispy plantain chips with garlic sauce, and people watched *some more.*

Never a shortage of people watching in Miami.

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Look at that weather. No words needed. Yes, that’s Annalise’s perfect hair blowing in the wind.
Yes that’s really the color of the water.
Yes I wanted to live there forever.
Yes, I’m going back.

The keys are calling me home.

You know that shirt, “I left my heart in too many places”?
I need that.

~Peace, Love, and Wanderlust Y’all.