On My New Obsession with The Pioneer Woman

I totally realize I am late to this game.

I’m sure she’s been around and everyone has been on to her for years.

HOWEVER… I’ve only recently uncovered the goodness of The Pioneer Woman.

It started earlier this year when I was looking for an alternative to the frozen vegetable hamburger/cowboy stew.  I even blogged about her yummy goodness.

Then I went on my merry way.

Until recently.  When everything I have made of hers has turned to gold.

First up, take my hubby’s birthday Tres Leches cake.  Mercy me.  He loves this cake and is in the restaurant business, so he can be a fairly particular audience.

He thought my rendition was delicious!

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The great thing is, if I don’t have time to do her full blown rendition, which on the more sophisticated recipes I often don’t, I can sub out a base and still use the remainder of the recipe.  For example, on the Tres Leches, while I’m sure her homemade base cake was far better, my store bought yellow cake mix worked just fine as a base.  But her glaze to pour over the cake and simple icing was absolutely spectacular (I left only about a half a cup of the three milks because we like our version juicy).

Just this weekend I was in a pinch for a recipe I could make for both my friend who had a baby and my own family for dinner.  I needed something easy to transport and to make double portions.

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Her green chili enchiladas were perfection.  I didn’t even have to double it.  I just added a chicken breast, a little more onion, and a little more sauce (which I didn’t have to do because I had leftovers).  I have a delicious chicken enchilada recipe but it is incredibly complicated and pretty high in calories, but this version was easy to execute and healthier because it is simply chicken, caramelized onions, verde sauce and corn tortillas.

Sunday night dinner was incredible.  My husband had seconds (which he almost never does because he has more self control than I do) and the kids scarfed the whole thing down.  I would never have guessed that such a simple recipe would be perfection.

I have never found a more helpful recipe website.  She goes step by step by step, with photographs, so there’s no confusion.  You may be a dab of this and splash of this cooker, but I far prefer recipes.  So not only do her recipes TURN OUT (something that doesn’t always happen), they are easy to follow.

What am I cooking next?  Well, I’m going to work through most of her “easy” dinner recipes.  Including her best lasagna ever recipe (because while I’m sure her turkey tetrazzini is awesome, I already have a go to recipe for that, but I don’t have a lasagna that I love).  After I cook those, while I’m dieting, I’m going to serve up a tastier version of my high school potato skin addiction to my kids.

Do you have a favorite chef?  What’s your favorite recipe these days?

Photos Credit: The Pioneer Woman.

Fashion Fridays: S.W.A.P., Speaking Up

A good friend of mine hasn’t been in the business work force for a few years.  In addition to being an active mom and volunteer, she’s a writer and has been asked for a few speaking engagements this month.  They are during the day (super hot in Houston) to exclusively female audiences.  She mentioned her wardrobe hadn’t been refreshed recently and asked what to wear.  She specifically asked “what kind of dress?”

So all you speakers out there, today’s Shopping With A Purpose is how to refresh your wardrobe when asked to speak.

While a dress is certainly a good option, my friend has broader shoulders and narrow hips, so dresses can be a bit trickier to fit.  My first recommendation is separates.  Easy, polished, fitted, and transitions easily to different audiences (business versus non business, etc.).    I also note, that if your audiences will be more faith based like hers and less business audiences, that come fall you have a zillion more options.  Knee high boots with dark denim and a cool vest or sweater are perfect for daytime audiences.

For summer separates, think pretty blouse with any number of bottoms.  I recently acquired a gorgeous blouse that would look stunning with my friend’s coloring and figure.  Now this blouse was pricey, and I only bought it because I had store credit, but it’s a great example of a top for her engagement because of it’s rich color and simple style.

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For a bottom, try a neutral pant or a dark denim trouser jean.  Keep them long enough to pair with a wedge or heeled sandal.  I like these dove gray trousers, a great color for summer, or even in ivory (if you DARE!).  Or if you can stand the heat, these simple dark denim jeans are only $25 at Old Navy.  And you can always bring your pant hemline up a bit and go for the ankle pant with flats look which is cute and comfortable.

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Pair this base with a lightweight cardigan for something more informal or a blazer if she wants to formalize the look.  These two staple pieces make a very versatile base.  Then add a cool tassle necklace with simple earrings and you’re all set.

However, a dress is definitely still a solid choice for summer.  And a wrap dress, with flexibility to cinch at the waist, is a great option for different top and bottom sizes.

This selection is VERY style dependent.  Here are a couple of lovely options from Nordstrom’s, but it’s really up to the speaker to know her audience and whether to go for something bright and patterned or more subdued.  The key is to buy the dress is a quality, heavier, fabric to cover any areas you might feel less comfortable about.

I personally like this wrap dress, it feels interesting to me, but I’d be nervous because it says “lightweight fabric:”
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From a “best in style” perspective, look at all of Diane von Furstenberg’s dresses and get one that looks like that as most don’t have a full price DVF in our budget – seriously, everything she does is so perfect (maybe you can search eBay or ThredUp and get lucky):
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The most critical component is to TRY out your outfit!  Try it standing and sitting down.  Try it moving around a pretend stage.  Stand in your shoes a while to see if they hurt.  Wear your necklace around to see if it itches or moves too much.

You must be comfortable in front of the audience or else you’ll twitch and tug.  I know because I have twitched and tugged after selecting the wrong speaking outfits.  I almost always go with blazers and trousers now simply because I feel the most comfortable and confident in that pairing.  So do what feels right for you as well as your audience.

Have fun and look as gorgeous as you are!

Or or And?

Must it all be either less or more,
Either plain or grand?
Is it always “or?”
Is it never “and?”

Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods

I heard these lyrics and thought how apt they are for leadership lessons.

For years, the buzz phrase in women’s leadership circles was “Work – Life Balance.”

I can’t even utter the words without cracking up now.

There is no balance.  But there can be BOTH. 

Or is often the enemy of progress or passion.

What if companies asked, I can make money or I can give back to my community, instead of I can make money and I can give back to my community.

What if women asked, I can have a successful career or I can raise a happy family, instead of I can have a successful career and I can raise a happy family.

What if dreamers asked, I can have a job that pays the bills or I can follow my dreams and write/act/ sculpt/cook, instead of  I can have a job that pays the bills and I can follow my dreams and write/act/ sculpt/cook.

Saying and opens doors.  Saying and allows you to do things you love while you function as a responsible adult.  Saying and allows you lead effectively by example.

No one should think saying and means you do the things on both sides of the and equation perfectly.  But heck, even if you chose or your choices wouldn’t always be perfect.

What does and mean?  It means having a good handle on your priorities.

If you add too many ands to the equation, then all of them take a turn for the worse.  For me, that means if I want to take speaking engagements and write another book, then I have to make sure each yes response specifically furthers that goal because I do have two more BIG ands : my family (at the beginning of my and sentence) and my work.

If I had said or it would have looked like, I can have a husband and three kids OR I can have a successful legal career OR I can speak and write professionally.  Ugh!  Think how much I would miss out on if I chose or over and!

So next time you’re confronted with an and versus an or, don’t be afraid of choosing AND!

 

Artwork by Susanne Vincent

 

Birthdays

Today happens to be my handsome hubby’s birthday.

We took a vacation day so we could spend a three day weekend at the farm.

July is a big birthday month for his family.  His mom kicks us off at the beginning of the month.  Luckily, this year we were at the farm earlier this month to celebrate with her too.

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We have a niece and nephew with a July birthday.  Then his dad’s birthday hits and finally his!

I’ve come to love farm birthdays.

Now I love to throw a big party, and Lord knows the trio have had their fair share, but there’s something about birthdays with dirt smeared blue jeans and summer-hot-cheeks and homemade cakes served up with an ample scoop of ice cream.

I love to bake.  I don’t have nearly the time at home.  But almost every time I’m at the farm I get to bake.  Bake and write.  Two of the best things ever.

So after an easy lunch of sandwiches, chips and fruit, the whole crew, save two of the three five year olds, took naps in the heat of the day and woke to celebrate my father-in-law’s (belatedly) and husband’s birthday with coffee, cake and ice cream.

I tried my hand at Tres Leches again because it is Bray’s favorite dessert and it really turned out.  I had baked it in the morning while the crew were out fishing, Lord help us they caught an alligator (I may never adjust to the bayou), so it had plenty of time to chill.

We lit four candles, to represent the last digit of his age, and sang happy birthday.  After we cut big slices of the yummy goodness, we sat around the well worn table eating and talking while it was too hot to venture out.  Grandpa opened his birthday presents, and daddy asked to wait until his birthday rolled around this morning to unwrap his (it killed the kids who LOVE to open daddy and mommy’s presents…).

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Talk turned to their various plans and while two ran to check on the peppers they’d picked earlier to use for supper, dad and grandpa and the eldest ran to town for boat supplies.

I loaded dishes and then watched the beautiful summer storm roll in.

This is a life I could never have envisioned.  I had none of this growing up.  My clothes were always pressed and my hair was always fixed.  I read instead of catching frogs behind the shutters.  I took piano lessons instead of baiting hooks and baling hay.

It’s still stops me in my tracks: the space my kids have access to and the bravery they show working cows and holding a line with an alligator at the end.  They dream bigger and plan fearlessly and adventure more because they see a big world and know the grandeur of God.

They’ve still got a momma that screams when the frog jumps on her sandal and begs them to back further from the dock, but I’m learning and letting go a little more every time.  And I’m certainly  embracing every moment of our stripped down birthday parties – the beauty of a handmade cake, the birthday song sung off key with gusto, and a celebration filled with those you hold most dear in life.

Fashion Fridays: S.W.A.P., The Beach Wedding

brandy4Ahhh, back to our summer wedding theme installment of Shopping with a Purpose (SWAP)!   Y’all – this one is SO MUCH FUN.  And since I was totally plagiarizing from my fashion back and forth with my girlfriend who recently renewed her vows in Hawaii for their TWENTY YEAR ANNIVERSARY (she was a child bride), I asked her to write the S.W.A.P. instead.

She’s been featured here once before writing about leadership, but I think we can all agree that the chance to wear a wedding gown again is way more fun.  (Anyone want to talk my hubby into letting ME renew our vows on our ten year anniversary next spring???)

So here’s my buddy Brandy with her S.W.A.P. perspective: Tips from a beach wedding at Shipwreck Beach, Kauai.

1.        THE GOWN!!!

Get a loose, flowy gown, and not a big stiff or heavy gown.  Why? Many reasons.

One, you gotta fly it there. Do you really want one entire suitcase taken up by your gown?

Two, beaches have wind.  A breezy gown looks nicer in the photos and gives you a bit of motion around your ankles.

Three, ahem, beaches can be warm.  My gown from 20 years ago still fit (Gindi note – how cool is that?), but it was hot and heavy and made for an indoor ballroom wedding.  I’d have been sweaty and uncomfortable outdoors in it. No one wants a sweaty pink faced bride.  Not to mention my fashion sensibilities have changed over the years.

Four, a heavy dress will literally drag you down if you do in the water or “trash the dress” shots (more about that below). Many designers have a specific destination wedding or beach wedding gown collection, and my gown was one of those.

2.       SHOES!

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This is harder than the dress. Do not wear normal high heels. You will sink into the grass and fall over in the sand. Promise, I tried it out to check.

Also don’t wear flip flops. As we all know, they tend to kick sand up the back of your legs and in a long gown you’ll be throwing sand onto and under your dress and on your guy. Not comfy, plus it doesn’t look good in the pics!

You need pretty wedges. And lucky you they are all the rage right now.  They still give you some height, if you want it, and you do not sink in the sand or kick it up. After much looking, I got mine at DSW for $40!  If you simply must have stilettos, get your wedding planner to build you a little wooden “aisle” to walk down, and then scatter sand over it so no one can tell.

3.       HAIR!

This tip applies to any family beach photo shoot also.  Get the local salon to do your hair.  They know what products will hold up to the level of wind and humidity at your particular beach. Why sit there stressing for an hour over getting it right when the pro can make it perfect and make it last while you sip tea and chill!

Also, wear your hair up.  You’d hate to have your perfect shot ruined by wild hair in your face, lipstick, etc. An up do is cooler as well and, in the case of my wedding, having an up do kept it from getting tangled in my lei.  Finally, skip the veil.  They just tend to fly away and get in the way of your photos.

4.       THOSE WATER SHOTS (and the undergarment shopping)!

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You really should do water shots.

First, they are SO fun! When else would I get to splash around the Pacific in a wedding gown!?! I felt like a mermaid.

Next, the photos looks stunning and are so much more memorable then standard posed wedding pics.

Finally, contrary to the phrase trash the dress, the dress doesn’t get ruined! At least mine didn’t, nor did my friend Patricia’s dress. I just rinsed it out after, then sent it to the cleaner, and you would never know!

I will recommend you ask your wedding planner or beach photographer how crowded the beaches are and go with the lightly trafficked one.  We had no one in our shots which was really nice and private.

And in a related crucial fashion tip, you need very like-color-matching underthings. If your gown turns a bit see through when wet, that’s ok (as you can see, it actually looks good around the calves –  you can tell the fabric is a bit sheer when wet which makes it look real), but the color of your undergarments must match perfectly.  And it’s better if they’re minimal.  Spanx or the like would really show when wet.  (I dieted before hitting the water in my wedding gown…)

5.       The Groom’s Clothes (I mean it does take two to vow renew).

We went local, meaning I got my hubby and son matching Aloha shirts, linen pants, and sandals.  They were so comfy and happy, and they looked great!  And revisiting the comments about being hot and sweaty; the same goes for your man, if not more so.

Why stuff your guy in a suit? If you are doing a beach wedding, I say look like you are at the beach! Hilo Hattie online sells tons of grooms and kids matching beach wedding attire for men.

6.       The Second Dress/Clothes.

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If you are going to do in the water shots, you might want a second DRY dress to go out dinner or the reception after.  That’s what I did.  It also gives you a fun excuse to buy TWO wedding gowns. My second one only cost $70 so it was less than a festive sundress.  And don’t forget to buy the love of your life two sets of clothes too because he’s going to want to be fresh and dry.

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So who’s ready for a beach wedding?  Whether it’s vow renewals or your first time around, this S.W.A.P. will have you saying I, Do in style!