Thursday, April 29, 2010

The One Where I Get Deep About a TV Network

I found this article yesterday from the New York Times on Scripps Networks' newest venture- the Cooking Channel- and thought I would share.

Personally, I am very excited. My love for Food Network is fairly obvious around here and I am excited to have another source to feed my addiction. I've known this was coming for awhile- I attended a marketing seminar back in December on the state of the cable industry in which the Senior Vice President of Sales for The Food Network was a speaker. Naturally, I went to hunt her down resume in-hand speak with her after the presentation. During our conversation she told me that the Cooking Channel was being created to go back to the roots that I can only assume FN started with.

I read a lot of food blogs and it seems like there are quite a few people out there that enjoy voicing their negative opinions on what Food Network has become. I'm all for everyone expressing their opinion, but I personally don't get this. I will agree that, at times, the food takes a backseat to the entertainment, but without the entertainment aspect of it, it's highly doubtful that FN would have ever come close to the success they have today. I strongly believe that whether you hate FN or love it, you must admit that they are a significant part of what brought the culinary world to a whole different level. Never has there been this much focus on food in mainstream media. Which in turn, drastically effects our everyday lives.

Food in mainstream media increases our exposure. We see ingredients that we wouldn't otherwise, we see techniques that we wouldn't otherwise, and it takes the intimidation factor out of cooking. Exposure drives curiosity which drives experimentation. You can talk to any person a few generations older and they will tell you that the selection you see in grocery stores today is vastly different than it was 30 years ago. And yes, unfortunately the selection of processed crap* has grown probably twice as fast as the "good stuff", but you know what-- I'll take it if it means that I can find amazing cuts of meat, ginger root, and exotic peppers within walking distance of my house. The demand for these products is obviously coming from somewhere, and you can't deny the FN influence.

Not to mention the social impact of things like Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. I can't comment on the specifics of this first-hand since I haven't watched it, but I have heard a lot about it. I applaud him for taking the initiative to try to do something about the childhood obesity epidemic. It truly frightens me to think that there are children that go to school every day with nothing but bags of chips and candy in their lunchboxes.

If there is one complaint I would have about the network, it would be the plethora of culinary smack-down type shows (I know that's probably surprising since, ya know, I tried out for one), but to me it's all about learning something that I didn't know before. I feel like I get a lot more out of watching renowned chefs show me how to make carefully selected recipes than I do watching someone frantically run around the kitchen trying to make something impressive out of garbanzo beans, mangos, cognac, and nutella-- in 15 minutes. Just not my thing. Classic FN has been, and continues to be, my culinary training wheels, and I sincerely appreciate that.

According to the NYT article, the Cooking Channel "is lining up low-key programs targeted at a hipper crowd interested in the grass roots of food culture". That I can definitely get on board with.

No kitchen stadiums, just real food.

May 31st can't come soon enough.


*Processed Crap technically includes these. But c'mon.... everyone needs a little dose of high fructose corn syrup in their diet, right? Right?!?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Girls, Girls, Girls*

I finally got to meet the newest member of my family, little Cameron Sloan last night. She was born last Sunday on my cousin's wife's birthday. Quite the birthday present! I'm sure my cousin is loving the fact that it's one less day to remember, although if he forgets that day he's now in twice the amount of trouble. However, something tells me he won't be forgetting anytime soon.

She's absolutely beautiful and such a relaxed little girl. I was there for a good three hours and didn't hear her cry once. And trust me she did a number on at least one diaper during that time.
Just hangin' with the girls- Cameron and proud big sister, Kinley.
Kinley is two and a half and quite the little ham, as you can see.

My cousin is a South Texas, Beer-Drinking, Guys-Guy, Deer-Hunting, Aggie so it is quite hilarious to see him surrounded by girls. I'm fairly certain we used to tease him growing up that this would happen. He's a great dad though and I'm sure he wouldn't have it any other way!

Congratulations guys! She's gorgeous!!

*JV, my apologies for using a Motley Crue song to title a post which references to your adorable offspring, but it was simply the wittiest title I could come up with.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Marketing Fail!

Dear Petsmart VP of Marketing,

As a member of your loyalty program as well as a marketing professional, I would like to gently suggest that you use your purchasing data to perhaps more efficiently communicate with your core customer base.

I do not and will not ever care to hear about your specials on "fancy rats". Moreover, I am greatly opposed to you insulting my intelligence by attempting to gussy up the species by making it into an oxymoron. Rats are not fancy. Anything that lives in the sewers of New York City cannot possibly be considered fancy. Yes, we all loved the movie Ratatouille, but that is where the line is drawn.

And while we're on the subject, I most likely will not ever again own anything requiring a "Habitat" so please refrain from sending me 15% off coupons for such pet residences as well*.

Invest a little cash into segmenting your online marketing campaigns. I'm sure it would get you much further than your current plan of advertising chew toys to those creepy snake people.

Sincerely,
N

*Yes, I do realize that Frank Sinatra probably lived in what was considered a turtle "habitat", but he was cute and I got suckered in by a combination of feelings of responsibility regarding animal cruelty, peer pressure, and Chinatown haggling.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Weekend Recap

As wedding season spools up, my free weekends are about to get very few and far between. In the next month or so I'll be helping to throw two showers, a bachelorette party, and a birthday party as well as traveling to San Diego, twice. Whew... just thinking of it makes me panic a little to get my day-to-day stuff done so I'm not discombobulated for the next month.

This weekend was one that I didn't have any set plans for and it was fabulous! Friday night, I went out with some college friends and happened to run into a crush from Fort Worth that I don't see very often. It's always fun to see him, but it also always reminds me that I should probably run the other way if I knew what was good for me. He is one of those that is incredibly good looking and I'm fairly certain that he knows it-- but in an unobnoxious way, if that's possible.

Saturday, E and I made plans to have a girl's night out. Her husband was out of town and everyone else had other stuff going on, so we planned a night outside of our usual little uptown/knox-henderson bubble and we had so much fun:

I have been dying to go to the Bishop Arts District pretty much since I moved back to Dallas, but just never seemed to make it down there even though it's only about three miles away. We did dinner at Tillman's Roadhouse and an after-dinner martini at Hattie's. Then we went to The Belmont Hotel to have a drink and see the view of downtown Dallas that the hotel is known for.

Tillman's was wonderful. Three words: goat. cheese. tater-tots. So delicious. And from now on, all popcorn that is made at our house will be misted with truffle oil and sprinkled with pepper. In addition to the great food, Tillman's also has a really cool atmosphere- kind of like a hunting lodge gone glam. It's a bit odd, but stunning just the same.
Inside
Mmm.... ribs.

Hattie's makes a mean dirty martini (and chocolate martini, although I would not reccommend tasting those one right after the other, blech). Their menu had a lot more options than Tillman's and looked amazing-- jalapeno stuffed quail with a balsamic demi-glaze, yes please! I can't wait to go back for dinner.
Horrible quality iphone pic of E with her chocolate martini at Hattie's.

While we were at the Hattie's bar, a friend of my dad's walked in. I went to say hi and when introducing me to the others in his party, he said "this is Natalie.... it used to be *insertmylastnamehere*, but what is your new last name?" Ha... always fun. Luckily, 1) I'm used to it and 2) I'm over it. I have found the best way to deal with these situations is with humor- no sense in making everyone feel all awkward about it since I certainly don't. So I just laughed, held up my left, ringless hand and said "I gave it back- I decided that wasn't such a great plan". Thankfully, it worked- everyone laughed and zero awkwardness.

The Belmont was not exactly what I expected, but it was still fun and different-- and packed! There was only one open table on the patio when we got there. They make a really delicious cocktail that I'm going to attempt at home that's a mix between an iced tea and a mojito. And they also have a restaurant called Smoke that I've added to my list of spots to try.

While we were still in Dallas proper for the entire evening, it was so nice to venture out of our neighborhood. We kept saying that we felt like we were on vacation somewhere because we always seem to go to the same bars, restaurants, and hang-outs every. single. weekend. It was a such a refreshing change of pace!
The view from the patio at The Belmont. {Photo Credit}

Today was gorgeous so I went to the dogpark with moose. We hung out there for awhile until he started to get a bit "amorous" with some of the other dogs. Apparently Spring makes him a bit frisky. Nothing like being shamed into leaving the dogpark when your wiener dog can't keep it to himself.

This evening I'm headed out for a late dinner at Neighborhood Services Tavern*. I've been reading about this new location of a Dallas favorite for awhile so I'm excited to try it out!

This week: date on Monday, potential Rangers game on Wednesday, a mexican fiesta birthday/pool party on Saturday, and hopefully a family dinner sometime to meet Cameron, my newest cousin who is one-week old today!

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

*ETA: For all you Dallasites, apparently Neighborhood Services is closed on Sundays. So we were forced to put that idea on hold and headed to Woodfire Grill instead. We're going to give it a shot next Friday so I'll report back then.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Gardening Blogs?

Hello all! I need some friendly advice from you: my brother and his fiancé just bought their first house and they are moving this week. He saw my post about my plants and asked if I had any good resource blogs for landscape/gardening.

My reader is full of friends, food, fashion, and funny people-- no gardening of any kind.

Anyone have some good blogs/sites/resources?

Thanks in advance!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Wedding Countdown & Pretty Shoes

With only three months to go, plans are quickly being finalized for my brother and Whitney's wedding. We're attempting to get the rehearsal dinner planned. The shower is coming up in two weeks and the bachelorette party shortly after. It will be here before we know it!

My brother's bachelor party was last weekend in New Orleans and he made it back on Sunday. Honestly, I was a little bit worried knowing the rowdy group of FIFTY guys he was going with. My brother is 6'4", so it's doubtful anyone would mess with him, but I have spent many Fourth of July weekends in San Diego and even vacationed with this group in the past and they don't mess around. Needless to say, it's always a lot of fun. I think my brother was pretty worn out on Monday.

But enough about the boys... onto the pretty, girly things!

The wedding is outdoors on Coronado Island and Whitney chose grey, flowy dresses for the bridesmaids. The flowers will be hot pink/fuchsia. These were her inspiration pics from the knot:
The dresses: J. Crew "Juliet" in Graphite:
And, the part that I'm really excited about... my SHOES:
Being on somewhat of a strict budget these days, I rarely purchase new "fun" shoes. Apparently I have more important priorities.. you know, like cheese. So I was very excited about the idea of "having" to purchase new shoes. Especially super girly, unnecessary, non-work shoes. They don't look like it here for some reason, but they're satin. And the d'orsay style is my favorite for dressy shoes. Love it!

Can't wait to sport these babies in July! It's going to be hard to keep them in their box with aaaall the showers, bachelorette parties and weddings I have coming up!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Flowers and Cocktails and Spring... oh my!

I should preface this post by saying that I have always been atrocious when it comes to caring for plants of any kind. House plants, flowers, herbs... it really doesn't matter. If they were in my care, they would most likely end up looking like this in two months (sans icicles):
However, I think I may have turned over a new leaf! {pun absolutely intended} I kept my herbs alive all through last summer (a few even making it through the winter and coming back!) and the pansies that were up on the third floor (out of reach of neighborhood hooligans) made it all through the winter. Yes, I just used the word hooligan. I am 28 now, it's only a matter of time before my hip starts to give out and I have 32 cats.

Anyways, on to my Neil-Sperry-caliber green thumb:
My front porch with two pots of yellow begonias with potato vine.
Balcony off my kitchen: window box with mint (which survived from last year), red geraniums, and rosemary (which survived from last year, barely).

Last summer I planted only herbs in this planter and I have to say that I love addition of the flowers. I mainly did it to create a barrier to separate the mint from the rosemary since mint will try to take over any pot you put it in, but the flowers definitely provide a nice pop of color to break up the green.
Cilantro with potato vine for decoration. I already hacked into the cilantro to make chicken tequila burgers on Monday which is why it looks a little sparse and sad.
Parsley, basil, and (behind moose's head) thyme. The parsley and thyme both survived from last year, but the basil had to be replanted. I use thyme a lot and while it survived and is starting to come back, it looked like it might take awhile, so I went ahead and planted a new, bushier one in the other pot.
Jalapeno plant, the new thyme, and chives.
I love spicy food and this is my first year to try my hand at growing anything other than herbs. Apparently pepper plants are fairly hearty, so we'll see. I got really, really excited when I went out yesterday and saw a little bud that appears to be the start of a baby jalapeno.
And finally, upstairs, two pink bougainvillea bushes. They will eventually trail down and hang over the edge of the flower box so you'll be able to see them from below. These are on the third floor so I wanted something that didn't just grow straight up. Hopefully, they will flourish under my care and look like something you would see on the French Rivera:

Lofty goal considering my aspirations for any and all plants last year was "don't die" but hey, shoot for the stars, right?
Urban gardening is a lot of work.
As such, urban gardening calls for cocktails utilizing the fruits of your labor:

Natty's Strawberry Basil Summer Cocktail
  • 3 strawberries
  • 3 basil leaves*
  • 1 oz. orange juice
  • 1 oz. sprite
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 3 oz. prosecco/champagne
  1. Put strawberries & basil in the bottom of a shaker and muddle into a paste.
  2. Add ice and pour in remaining ingredients.
  3. Shake, shake, shake señora, shake your body line.
  4. Pour and enjoy.
*My roommate is not as big of a basil fan as I am and made the suggestion to use mint instead. I was attempting to recreate one of my favorite cocktails- a Fraise Tarte from The Porch, so I stuck with the basil. However, I will definitely be trying mint in the future and shall report back. The things I do for the sake of this blog! It's tough work, people!

Friday, April 9, 2010

March in Pictures

March was definitely a fun one, but apparently I wasn't very camera happy. So I'm kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel but here we go:Gorgeous sunset that I caught on loop 12 on my way to see Jodi and Matt's new digs. Forgive the blurriness, this is what you get when I try to be Ansel Adams while driving.
Found this on a recent trip to Central Market... I mean, really? White wine sauce in a carton?? That can't possibly taste remotely as good as making it yourself.
Moose enjoying the fact that spring has sprung.
Me enjoying my newest kitchen toy! Can't wait to test this sucker out on some marinara sauce!
Me, Alex, and E on one of my favorite days of the year in my neighborhood... St. Patty's Day!!
Ha... I should be embarrassed that we did this, buuuut I'm not. This poor guy was probably wondering why two old ladies wanted a picture of his sorority shirt.
Moose in his leprechaun hat that the roomie got him.
It's a well known fact that I love the teenage vamps, but really?? This was (no surprise?) a mom in her 40's. (If you can't read it, it says "I drive like a Cullen".) There should be no Twilight paraphernalia stuck to motor vehicles, ever. If you are old enough to drive, you are old enough to realize that this is taking creepiness to another level. Just a thought.
Me and sweet Kinley during a family dinner when my brother and Whit were in town. Kinley will be welcoming a baby sister any minute now!
Tuckered out on our road trip south! He was great in the car, as always, and slept pretty much the entire time.
The boy on the beach in Galveston.
On the 17th hole at the Shell Houston Open.

Hope everyone had a fantastic March. I'm so excited it's finally warming up, although I definitely need to get to the gym since pool season is upon us!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Surgery Update

This picture of Bossdad was taken last year in Hawaii. Unfortunately, he's temporarily on the wagon and banned from the mai tai's because he is in the hospital. He went in this morning to have back surgery. Scary stuff, but the great news is, he's out, everything went great, and he's already on his way to a speedy recovery!

I am holding down the fort at the agency while he rests up, but I did get a chance to talk to him a few hours ago which was quite the experience! Those of you who know him will agree that he is naturally very boisterous. He loves to have fun and is usually the life of the party. Combine that feisty personality with morphine-- good stuff, people.

He was fresh out of surgery when I talked to him, but that didn't stop him from asking me to bring him a cheeseburger and chicken wings to the hospital. Of course, that wasn't going to happen which he apparently already knew by the loopy, giggly tone in which he made the request. He had to settle for Jello. My mom said that when they brought it to him, he asked if it was a jello shot. I've heard Baylor Plano is quite the hospital, but I'm thinking they draw the line at jello shots...

Before surgery, he was told to shower and wash his entire back with some sort of pre-op scrub. He had been lobbying my mom for days for "help" with this task. When I talked to him, he happily informed me that this morning he had convinced her and followed the statement with "yabba dabba dooooo". So funny...

He'll be back on his feet tomorrow afternoon. Until then, I'm sure my mom is in for quite the entertaining, morphine-induced 24 hours. After this afternoon's conversation, I'm convinced he's going to be that old man that all the nurses talk about in the hall because he's gotten in trouble for making loopy off-hand comments. Gotta love him.

Get better soon, Bossdad!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Moose Monday - Happy Birthday!

Moose turned three last Thursday and we celebrated in the manner that appears to be a tradition- with a birthday Whataburger Jr. (dry, with cheese).
Attempting to free the grub from my mom's grasp.
Almost there.
Finally!

I really don't think he even tasted it since he wolfed it down so quickly, but who I am I to judge the way in which one enjoys their birthday meal?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Road Trip!

I try to refrain from talking about the male persuasion around here for lots of reasons- including- but not limited to:
  1. The fact that several of my ex's know about m&l (although I'm by no means flattering myself to the point that I assume they are readers).
  2. With my two-week dating expiration, I feel no need to further jinx myself. And let's face it- two weeks doesn't give much time for blog fodder so it's kind of pointless to even bring them up.
  3. My day-to-day life is usually far more entertaining than anything involving a boy (unless, you know, I'm getting shat on during lunch on a first date- repeatedly. That was a pretty good one...)
However, I'm leaving today on a little roadtrip to Houston to see the new one and I'm really excited. Excited to see him, of course. BUT, also excited because I will hopefully get to see this fabulous girl:

As well as excited for the opportunity to make a pitstop in The Woodlands to go to one of my favorites that closed its Dallas store a few years back, Oil & Vinegar. Yes, it's a retail store with a primary focus on olive oil.

**insert angelic singing here**
I go through olive oil by the gallon.

Literally.

I use the "normal" stuff to cook with and the fancy stuff for things where I am able to highlight the flavor of the oil without overpowering it with other ingredients. A few months ago my mom brought me a bottle of chili infused olive oil from O&V and I fell in love with it. While these designer olive oils aren't cheap, you can definitely taste the difference. My aunt just brought me a refill bottle of the chili oil as an early Easter gift, so I'm planning on picking up a bottle of garlic olive oil while I'm there and maybe a few herb mixes.

Leave it to me to start a post about a boy and end it with food. My poor mother probably thought she was going to actually get a little dirt on him. Maybe next time. Or maybe if he lasts another two weeks... {knock on wood}.