Thursday, January 28, 2010

Must Have Mexican

If you've met me for more than ten minutes, you know that my one true love is my husband, but my second true love is Mexican food. I mean, I LOOOOOOVE Mexican food. I will tell you, without hesitation, that my favorite food is fajitas, closely followed by tacos. I really can not overestimate my love for a good tex-mex meal. Moving to the North is simply out of the question for me. Not possible. Thankfully, I married a fellow Mexican food lover. Brent actually introduced me to fajitas, so we were obviously a match made in heaven. We eat Mexican food EVERY weekend - without fail. I know it's not the most healthy food for me, but I'm willing to eat healthy all week just so I can have Mexican once on the weekend. I will not give it up, no matter what. I lost 3 pounds last week, and I still had my fajitas! Take that, Weight Watchers!

Since eating fajitas twice a week is basically out of the question, I have to find other ways to satisfy my Mexican cravings without breaking the monetary or calorie bank. Tonight I had three of my absolute favorites, and my calorie count is none the wiser. If you love Mexican, you must have:

Wholly Salsa
You may have had Wholly Guacamole - it's an all natural brand of guacamole. They just came out with a salsa. It is also all natural and extremely delicious. It tastes fresh, tart, and homemade. Pair it with some baked chips and you're snacking healthy.

A Skinnygirl Margaria
I love me a margarita... who doesn't?? However, I actually don't love the syrupy-sweet versions that have as much calories as a whole meal. They don't even taste good to me. Enter Bethanny Frankel. Last summer, I blogged about her book Naturally Thin. In that book, she shares her recipe for the "skinnygirl margarita". Brent and I tried this margarita, and we have never looked back (even though Brent is clearly not a girl, so it works for men, too). It is made with crushed ice, tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and club soda. It's delicious!! Crisp, clean, and, um...strong. No sugar involved. Believe me, you won't miss it.

Tortilla Soup
First of all, I LOVE SOUP. It's close after tacos on my list. This tortilla soup is a recipe from my mom's old-school Joan Lunden cookbook. It is really, really good. It is also really, really easy. It is a weeknight soup if I ever saw one. You dump everything into one pot and cook it. Done and done. It is super healthy, but it gives you that Mexican taste I crave. I always put a bit of low fat sour cream and low fat cheese on top because... why not?? You can find a link to this healthy soup recipe here. ps: the leftovers are awesome for lunch the next day.

I love you, Mexican food. You are so good to me.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

All's Well That Ends With A Bath

I've taken a bath just about every night of my entire life. Seriously, there are few reasons why I would not take a bath. Growing up, I took a bath every night. We were definitely bath people and just took showers to wash our hair. When I went to college, I suffered through two terrible years of no baths. You must be kidding me if you think I took a bath in a DORM room or a sorority house. Several times, I felt desperate, and I walked down to look at the dorm bathtub, but I thought better of it and went back to my shower. I also do not take baths at ANY hotel unless it's VERY nice. Yes, I'm a snob, but I shudder to think about hotel bathtubs. Anyway, I digress... junior year of college - the joy! We moved into a town house that had a bathtub. My roommates teased me mercilessly, but no matter. Every night, I lit my candles, put in my bubble bath, and made a cup of tea.

After college, it was ON. I had a choice of where to live, and at the top of my priority list was a nice kitchen and a BIG bathtub. Brent & I first lived in a townhouse that had a jetted tub. Heaven! Since then,
every place we've lived has had a big, deep tub that Brent pretty much never sets foot in.

A bath is my nightly routine, and I sometimes look forward to it during the day. Even if I get home at midnight (as I did last Monday), I have to take a bath before getting in bed. No matter what has happened during the day, my bath will always be there and always be the same. It's my little corner of the world where everything is OK. My mind is usually going a mile a minute and sometimes I forget to breathe, so in the bath, I force my mind to empty and breathe for a solid 20 minutes or so. I don't save "special" baths for special occasions. Every night is a special bath - bubbles and candles. Life is too short, right?

I've become a bath connoisseur, if you will. Needless to say, Bath and Body Works is right up there with Hobby Lobby and Target as my favorite stores of all time. I've got some recommendations for you below, at every price range. I mostly stick with bubble bath, body wash, and some bath crystals. I am not a fan of those fizzy things or anything that makes you greasy. I mean, the point of the bath is to make you clean! One time I used one so icky I had to take a shower when I got out! But you can bank on the products below.

To start, you've gotta have a good candle. I am currently in love with Slatkin candles from Bath and Body Works. They are on sale often. I love the "Winter" scent from their holiday collection. It's not Christmas-y. It's just spicy and wonderful.
You don't have to spend a fortune on bath stuff - especially if you're going to use it every night! Suave is great. I love the toasted coconut body wash. I am also obsessed with their limited edition seasonal collection. This year they had toasted vanilla sugar and peppermint bliss. They were so limited edition that I couldn't even find a picture of them online! I found peppermint bliss at Wal-Mart for $1, and I may or may not have bought 5 of them.

If you want to splurge a little but still not break the bank, try Bath Junkie. You get to pick your product and pick your scent from like 100 choices. I had them whip up some lemongrass bath crystals for me. They were amazing.
Bath and Body Works pretty much never disappoints. I am in love with the aromatherapy line. The stress relief scents are particularly wonderful.

I particularly love "Energy" - a mix of orange and ginger. To me, this smells like the Four Seasons hotel. If I close my eyes, I can almost imagine I'm there.

I found this face wash at Kroger and now use it every night. It's a nighttime wash that smells like lavender, so you can relax even as you're washing your face!

After your bath, you're going to need some lotion. Forget the expensive stuff. You can find great stuff at CVS. I love this Suave cinnamon lotion. Feels expensive to me!

My new fave is this Johnson's "Melt Away Stress" lotion. Perfect right before bed.

Remember... no matter what your day was like, all's well that ends with a bath!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Out of My League

I’m still shaking my head in disbelief about my day. There are many days of my life where I feel like I’m living an out of body experience. It’s just not possible that I could have orchestrated anything in my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord for your loving direction. I can only point to you when things happen that are too crazy to explain any other way.

I’m currently sitting in the Atlanta airport awaiting my 10:00 pm flight home. I left Houston this morning at 5:30, so it’s been a looooong day. Despite the fact that it was a day off of school, I was nerding it up devoting my entire day to discussing the teaching of writing.

A few weeks ago, one of my bosses asked me if I would be interested in going to a “writing think tank” to discuss what could be done to improve writing instruction in middle schools. She had barely finished her sentence when I said YES. Then I started finding out more about what I would be doing and got a little nervous. I was to fly to Atlanta to a meeting of the SREB (Southern Region Educational Board). The SREB works with policymakers in all of the southern states and makes recommendations for public education. They are starting a new writing initiative and are creating a report for policymakers (think governors, senators, congressmen, state school board members, etc.) They wanted to gather a group of people together to discuss writing in middle school. Present at the meeting were: the President of SREB, the #1 educational researcher in the country, the #2 educational researcher in the country, the #3 educational researcher in the country, a 20 year veteran administrator, and the head education for the entire state of Alabama. Oh… and me. You can start laughing and/or shaking your head right about now.

So I hopped off the plane at ATL with a dream and my cardigan… (I really did have a cardigan….)

Right away, I was like: this is WAY over my head! And I had done my homework, too. I researched all of the researchers (irony there). I knew what they were famous for and even pored over about a hundred pages of their research. I investigated all of the acronyms I knew would be thrown around, and I still didn’t know like 50 of them. (I discreetly wrote some down to look up later.) I learned how studies are conducted – I can now explain effect size and what’s significant and explain meta-analysis of data. I knew a good bit… BUT NOWHERE NEAR WHAT THEY DID! The day was five hours around a board room table. No agenda. No notes. No presentations. We just talked for 5 hours.

It quickly became apparent that these people were not only very smart, they knew they were very smart. And they liked to hear themselves explain how smart they were. I’m not naturally an outgoing type, and these people never. stopped. talking. The last person was not even done with their sentence when someone else was jumping in. I could not get a word in edgewise. Finally I was like, OK… they flew me here, I’ve gotta say something… so I did try to jump in a few times. Thankfully, one of the ladies in charge knew I was having difficulty (as was another quiet guy), so she kept saying, “Now, Katie, tell us how this works on the ground.” My job was basically to say how we have done things at YES, and then make recommendations on how more people could do it on a larger scale. But I mostly listened a lot and learned a lot.

It was bizarre, being with all these old men talking in such academic terms about teaching. I’m almost never in a setting where the men outnumber the women in education, and I’m never in a situation where I’m the youngest by a good 25 years. But these people are the ones making policies and running things, essentially. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. I’m sure that every single person was thinking, “What is she doing here?” But oh well.

It gets better. When 5:00 came, the was meeting over. My flight didn't leave until 10:00, and everyone knew it. At that point, half of the people left for the airport to catch earlier flights. That left me with one older lady and four men… going to the hotel bar. I was giving myself a pep talk like, “You can do this! Network!” So I sat at the bar, ordered a glass of wine, and proceeded to talk about weather, colleges, and sports (yep… grasping at straws) with these men. So funny. One of the men is a professor at Vanderbilt (the #1 researcher guy). He and I randomly started talking at the end of our conversation, he said, “OK, well I take a few doctoral students a year, so if you’re looking to get a masters or PhD at Vanderbilt, just give me a call.” Just give you a call??? Um…OK? So then, all the men left for the airport, and I went, too. We got to the airport and had dinner together and just parted ways. We are maybe BFF now.

I will probably get to go back when the group meets again. I may even have my name on a report that gets sent to all of the southern states. Not that I deserve it for my 1.25 comments, but who knows. In summary: today was wild and crazy, and did that really happen??

Thank you Lord. You have amazed me yet again.

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