Saturday, March 27, 2010


After a long process, I've taken my oral defense of my qualifying exams and passed! This means I've "qualified" to finish my coursework and register for dissertation credits. With some paperwork, I'll be considered a "Ph.D. Candidate" instead of a plain old student. It's a significant hurdle but there is still a lot of work to go. I have to write my diss proposal and have another oral exam to defend it, actually do my study, then write the diss, then have an oral defense of the dissertation. So. We're talking a few more years here which wasn't unexpected to us. Good thing we like living here so much and aren't in a hurry to leave.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Zilker Botanical Garden

Last year when the fam was here, we checked out the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. It was quite lovely but shortly after, we had more guests and they highly recommended the (free) botanical garden. We checked it out and it is a place we now force almost all of our guests to check out. We had great weather when we went there this week; here are some photos Mike snapped.




Spring Break: Project Time!

Last year Austin and Mike installed a new garbage disposal. This year, we got a pressure washer! Woot! The pergola over our patio is white and has some sort of funk on it that resembles algae so the men set out to correct this blemish. Austin is looking forward to pressure washing more stuff, especially on warm days.

Father-Son Project

Spring Break: A Visit From the Fam

Austin's parents came to visit during the second half of my spring break which worked out wonderfully (no need to skip classes or find someone to cover my teaching). It is the annual South By South West music/tech/cool stuff fest in Austin so they flew in with all the instrument toting hipsters and we decided to avoid the SXSW hot spots.

For the first night, we planned to do some grilling to (finally) utilize our new patio furniture and take advantage of the gorgeous weather. Here is how the menu unfolded.

Green Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
(Yeah, it looks like a regular salad, but I am obsessed with my Lenox Vibe Serveware so indulge me.)

Parent Dinner

Orange Fennel Shallot Salad made by my ma-in-law, so refreshing and delicious.

Parent Dinner

The spread including grilled swordfish with pineapple salsa and grilled pineapple circles.

Parent Dinner

And for dessert, inspired Cousin K who was vacationing in Florida, Key Lime Pie.

Parent Dinner

We paired the meal with a Torrontes, a recommendation that was perfect and arrived via a circuitous route involving my undergrad French adviser. The meal, the company, and the conversation were fantastique.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Break: Out for BBQ

We've got some fam in town and, after a gorgeous visit to the botanical garden, headed out of town to a bbq dive.

Some pics Mike took:




Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Feels Like Spring

Actually, it kinda feels like late spring. It's currently 78 degrees. Stinky is hanging out around a few plants we picked up this weekend that are in limbo at the moment.

Springtime Stinky

We're going to make mahi mahi tacos for dinner tonight and dine al fresco, finally able to use our patio furniture for the first time. Who knew you could find such a perfect day on a Tuesday?

Adventures in Cooking: Poulet au Pot

A few times when we've talked about taking on a more involved cooking project, Austin has suggested the classic coq au vin (a dish that transports me to back to my college French Civ courses, Henri IV, poulet au pot...) but we only got around to making it this past weekend. The recipe we used required making the base a day ahead of actually finishing the dish so on Saturday evening, we began the process.

The pearl onions smelled so good sauteing in, um, let's call it foie de lardon.

Coq au vin

We threw in and browned a few chicken breasts then deglazed with Pinot Noir.

Coq au vin

We tossed in some veg and poured in a lot more wine and then our El Creuset* pot was tucked into the fridge.

Coq au vin

The next day, our pot-o-stew simmered merrily on the stove and our house smelled a-freaking-mazing.

Coq au vin

As recommended, and 'cuz we had some on hand, we served it over egg noodles. I had a bite of the chicken breast and decided I'd just stick with the pasta and sauce.

Coq au vin

Our big project tasted... drum roll... well, just sorta "meh." We were underwhelmed. We were not, however, put out in any way. The process of making the dish was enjoyable and fun and not everything turns out great. We were not at all deflated, just pragmatic, but then we tried the side.

Coq au vin

I got the recipe from Pioneer Woman, a blog that some friends of mine swear by but that I hadn't looked in to too much. Well. Was I wrong. These were dinner rolls! Made from frozen dough! But if you follow her instructions, wow, they were fantastic. We keep talking about them days later. Yeah, that good.

*We call it "El Creuset" since it is a Le Creuset knock-off but hey, it was highly recommended in Cooks Illustrated, works great, and was inexpensive.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Adventures in Cooking: Sherried Sardine Toasts

Isn't that a lovely recipe name? It sounds so elegant and interesting. Austin's guru, Alton Brown, devised the recipe to combine the healthy oils in fish and avocados. Great concept, I'm intrigued, and the majority of the reviews made it sound so promising. So we dive into our first can of sardines.

Sardine Toasts

Then we make this slurry and the lemon zest and fresh parsley almost smell good enough to cover up how unappealing this mixture becomes.

Sardine Toasts

And the finished product. We ate half a toast and we were finished. You win some, you lose some, and it was fun to try something different.

Sardine Toasts

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Weekend Theme: Cooking Dangerously

Austin and I decided to try some things a little out of our comfort zone this weekend. Round one was grilling tuna steaks. The patio was so peaceful and cozy I just had to take a picture.


The reason this was a little on the edge for us was that we've only had tuna at restaurants, at least the seared kind that is rare in the middle. We got a beautiful steak at Whole Foods and the guy at the fish counter told us to just grill it hot and fast then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. I was skeptical about not marinating it but the result was fantastic, the flavor of the tuna spoke for itself. We'll definitely do this again with the one minor addition of sesame seeds.


Home Improvement

If you take a walk through the aisles of Home Depot, you'll find the cheapest and ugliest of any line of fixtures seems to be what the frugal builders chose for our house. We're currently attempting to remove any and all brass fixtures and one big project was replacing the doorknobs. Yesterday, we pulled the trigger and made a haul of brushed nickel knobs with a Xmas gift card. Here is the before and after.




Friday, March 5, 2010

Lunch Guests

I was coming home with lunch today and saw a herd of cows right behind our house. We back up against a ranch and saw some critters when we first moved in but none since then (though we hear an angry donkey from time to time). Here were the lunch guests, good thing I got sushi and not a hamburger.

Lunch Guests

While traipsing in the empty field, I also saw the first wild flowers poking through the dead, brown undergrowth. Signs of spring!


Monday, March 1, 2010


This is a meal in our regular rotation, the Spanish tortilla that we made at a cooking class on our honeymoon in Barcelona at Cook and Taste, a fantastic place that still sends us holiday greetings every year.

So easy, so good.