Friday, January 31

Lunchtime In Paris

I miss Paris, and I find myself missing the most unlikely things. The cobbled streets of the Marais, St. Germain and the Latin Quarter. Zinc rooftops in the rain. Wandering street markets. The intoxicating perfume of the boulangeries. Late afternoon light glancing off the honey-colored stones of the Place de la Concorde's facades. That magical interlude between daylight and darkness, anywhere along the Seine as you watch the lights of the city come alive. Sitting on the steps of the Sacre Coure and looking down from the hills of Montemare as you take in all the City of Lights has to offer. Being whisked past iconic architecture and historic monuments on a night tour of the most beautiful city in the world. Catching glimpses of the Hôtel de Ville, the Palais de Chaillot, the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais, the Louvre, the Conciergerie, and the Gothic towers of Notre Dame before coming to rest at the feet of the Eiffel Tower - it was and IS so spine-tingling. 

But most of all, I miss lingering over meals in the quaint bistros, sidewalk cafés. and brasseries of Paris. In France, a meal is so much more than a meal - it is an experience, leisurely and refined, whether an impromptu picnic at one of Paris’ pleasant parks or a multiple-course meal at one of the city’s three-star restaurants. We abandoned our American fast-service, fast-food expectations and embraced the Parisian's view of dining. In Paris you are expected to linger over your meal among friends and strangers, savoring every flavor, good conversation and enjoying life as a precious gift to be appreciated, rather than a race to be won. And, after all, isn't that the way it should be? Below are pictures of such a meal. We sat at this wonderful sidewalk cafe, over-looking the Seine, for over two hours and not once did we feel the need to rush and the astonishing fact was the waiters didn't seem to notice!

Lunching in the heart of Paris, truly divine!
Brasserie de L'Isle Saint Louis
Brasserie de L'Isle Saint Louis sits next to the pedestrian bridge that leads to Ile de la Cité.
Plat du Jour - 24 Euros
Elizabeth, enjoying Paris.
Ms.E watching these terrific musicians. 
They rolled a piano out on to the bridge over the Seine, it was amazing. 
People watching.
Parisians enjoying their leisurely meal.
House wine is always a good choice in Paris.
We had the Plat du Jour, Steak Frites - oh so good!
The Béarnaise sauce was out of this world.
Me and Mr.P, tired but having a wonderful afternoon.
Our very friendly Parisian waiter.
Mr.P's selfie as he contemplates our little corner of Paris.
E and Mr.P visiting with the waiter, trying out their limited French.

The Parisians have got it right - they know how to appreciate life with luxurious, sumptuous meals.


Mr.P took a good picture of the Tour Eiffel!

Paris, France, leisure, slow, enjoy, twilight, meal, linger, quaint, bistros, cafes, brasseries, savoring, conversation, appreciate, the-good-life

Thursday, January 30

America's Beloved Roadside Attractions

Growing up in my family, the road trip was an annual ritual. My parents would load down the trunk with our luggage, pack a small cooler with snacks, fill the tank up, grab a map, throw my sister and I in the backseat, say a prayer and hit the road to discover America. Our road trips were memorable for sure and the reason I still love to travel today. But not everyday of every trip was wonderful - especially when my sister and I became teenagers - go figure. I remember demanding water in Pecos, TX, refusing to get out of the car in the Redwood Forest of California - because don't ya know if you've seen one tree you've seen them all, or complaining about how bad the seals smelled on the coast of Oregon. Yes, I admit, I was shameful. So what are parents to do with ungrateful children? Well, my parents broke up those long days of driving America's highways with stops at bizarre roadside attractions and every historical marker, from here to Kalamazoo, something every American should experience. Roadside attractions, those quirky, often over-sized icons, are entertaining places to stop, stretch your legs and take a photo. You’ll find them in every state, giant teapots, hot dog stands resembling hot dogs, Muffler Men holding mufflers…it all makes a weird kind of sense. Ordinary highway retailers creating giant oddities hoping to take motorist by surprise so they'll stop, take a closer look and maybe spend a little cash in their place of business. While most people will not drive long distances to see a giant lobster, they just might stop if they see it on the side of the highway. So what are the best roadside attractions America has to offer? Here are just a few of my favorites.

Cadillac Ranch - Amarillo, TX

Just west of Amarillo, Texas, 10 classic graffiti-covered Cadillac tail fins stand as a tribute to the American dream. The art installation, known as Cadillac Ranch, features the cars, half buried nose first. Although originally intended as a temporary display, the monument has been an iconic tourist attraction in the Lone Star State's panhandle since 1974.  Located in a cow pasture not far from the I-40 and the historic Route 66, visitors are encouraged to visit and spray paint the cars.

The Blue Whale - Catoosa, OK

As you drive along Route 66 in Oklahoma you're bound to come across a bizarre sight: a famous beached whale. Built in the 1970s as an anniversary gift from one man to his wife, Oklahoma's grinning Blue Whale is 80 feet long, and rests in a pond outside of Catoosa. Big Blue has since become a favorite watering hole for locals and passing travelers. The toothy whale has been refurbished and tourists can stop and enjoy the park and picnic area before getting back on the road.

The World's Largest Ball Of Twine - Cawker City, KS

Frank Stoeber, of Cawker City, Kansas, started winding twine in his basement in 1953. Determined to outdo the mighty 12-foot-wide Johnson Twine Ball in Darwin, MN, he labored tirelessly until his death in 1974, finishing one foot short of his goal. Since then, residents and tourists visiting Cawker City have been adding to Stoeber’s ball in the annual Twineathon held every August. It now weighs a hefty nine tons and measures 40 feet in diameter and continues to grow.

Lucy The Elephant - Margate, NJ

An architect named James V. Lafferty built Lucy the Elephant in 1882 and was used to sell real estate. Lucy stands in Margate, New Jersey and is 65 feet tall, 60 feet long, and 18 feet wide. She is made out of wood and pieces of flat tin - over 1,000,000 pieces of wood! She's made to look like an Asian elephant, with tusks, causing many people to think Lucy is a boy, because only male elephants have tusks. Even so people still call Lucy a girl. Over the years, Lucy has served as a restaurant, office, summer house and a bar. She is a major tourist attraction in Jersey and you can still tour her today. 

Walk The Dinosaur - Murdo, SD

Near Murdo, S.D., travelers can find this dinosaur skeleton sculpture, quite simply a sculpture of a dinosaur skeleton being walked on a leash. It is right near the 1880 town, basically a town right off the interstate made to look like it is in the late 19th century. Travelers and truck drivers alike will surely slow down for this, keeping everyone alert and attentive! I think it's awesome!

Coral Castle - Homestead, FL

This may well be America’s answer to the Taj Mahal. Located on U.S. 1, this home and monument was the work of Edward Leedskalnin over a period of 28 years (1923–1951) in honor of his young bride, Agnes Scuffs, who jilted him at the altar. While the Taj Mahal may be more beautiful, Coral Castle has its own - quirks. Using only basic tools, Leedskalnin worked alone carving and manipulating the 10-ton limestone blocks with all the stone masonry precision of the ancient Egyptians. To this day no one can figure out how he did it. 

Shrine To The Anglers - Hayward, WI

The world's largest fiberglass sculpture is also the world's largest fish, a fearsome muskie, and the centerpiece of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Located in Hayward, WI, the great muskie is over four stories tall and as long as a Boeing 757, it is the biggest thing in a very small town. A door in the tail of the muskie offers visitors entry to its innards. Inside is the Shrine to Anglers, whose walls are lined with the names of thousands of the Hall's charter members. In the head, up a flight of stairs, there is an observation platform offering up to 20 people at a time a view out over the whole complex. It's definitely a great place to stretch your legs after a long drive.

Longaberger Basket Headquarters, Newark, OH

For 500 lucky employees of Longaberger Basket Co., every day is a picnic! Between 1995 and 1997, the Ohio-based company spent $30 million to build a new home office modeled after one of its baskets. The structure is 160 times longer, wider and taller than its Medium Market Basket. The seven-story replica, which sits on 25 acres of land, even features 150-ton handles and two 725-lb. gold-leaf-painted tags. Not surprisingly, it is considered the world's largest basket. Recognizing the sightseeing appeal, Longaberger offers tour.

Giant Gorilla Holding A VW Bug - Leicester, VT

Meet Queen Connie, the enormous concrete gorilla stationed along Route 7 in Leicester, Vermont, where she proudly hoists a rusting Volkswagen Bug high above her head. Erected in 1987, Connie was the brainchild of sculptor T.J. Neil. He pitched the gorilla as an advertising ploy to attract attention to Pioneer Auto Sales, the used-car lot over which Connie presides. Neil promised “a sculpture that would get world recognition,” recalls Pioneer’s owner, Joan O’Neil-Gittens. The stunt worked: Over the next two and a half decades, Connie lured in visitors by the busload. She has served her purpose, Connie has put the dealership on the map.

Paul Bunyan Statue - Bemidji, MN

As the mythical hero of lumberjack camps nationwide, many Paul Bunyan statues dot roadsides across the U.S. But there is one that stands out among the pack. The boxy Bunyan in Bemidji, Minnesota is rumored to be the first in the nation. The 18-ft.-tall, 2.5-ton shrine, erected in 1937, honors the mythic man who became a symbol of strength and vitality from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin to the Western frontier. And what Bunyan statue would be complete without his trusty sidekick Babe the Blue Ox? Babe joined Paul in Bemidji in 1939 after an illustrious career as a traveling carnival star.

What better way to celebrate Summer than by taking a road trip? Nestled between Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, Alcatraz Island and dozens of other destinations are these nostalgic, gaudy, run-down and kitschy locations. Roadside statues and monuments that have become landmarks drawing tourists from miles around to have their pictures taken standing next to them. It is all apart of the American Dream - come and join in the fun!


This giant lobster sits roadside down in the Florida Keys. As we flew by, doing a double take, we couldn't resist - we stopped, took pictures and of course spent money. Just what the owners were counting on!

roadside, attractions, American dream, economy, fun, family, road trips, giant statues, quirky, oddities, summer, beloved

Wednesday, January 29

'DARK' Hot Chocolate Pudding - A WINTERTIME DELIGHT!

Some of man’s greatest discoveries have been made entirely by accident. If it weren’t for many of these mistakes, life would be very different for us. Take for instance Mrs. Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn. One day as she was making chocolate cookies she ran out of regular baker’s chocolate, so she substituted it with broken pieces of semi-sweet chocolate. She thought the pieces would melt and mix into the batter. They clearly did not, and the chocolate chip cookie was born. Happy accidents happen every day, and when that fated moment comes do we embrace the mistake for what it is or do we eliminate it? 

I experienced my own happy accident a few days ago and while it was NOT a life changing - penicillin moment, it put a smile on my face. A month or so ago, I shared one of our family's favorite recipes, Hot Chocolate Pudding. It's good, it's real good. Last week as North Texas was experiencing another cold snap I decided to make a small pot of chocolate for the fam. And of course, as I'm adding ingredients into my small saucepan, I was clearly NOT paying attention. I placed it over the burning and began to stir and I notice how incredibly dark the liquid was. I kept looking at it thinking, 'something's not right', but did I stop to check into it? - no. I poured it into bowls and as Mr.P and E begin eating, they look up and ask, 'what did you do?' I took a bite and it was DIVINE, what did I do? I had used my high priced European dark chocolate instead of the regular cocoa. And with that simple mistake DARK Hot Chocolate Pudding was born and it's sinfully rich. Both versions are a must try, but being a lover of dark chocolate, I don't know if I can ever go back. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!

Most of the time I cut this recipe in half. It's more than plenty for two to three people.
Serves 4 to 6
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  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 4 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons good vanilla
  • Add dry ingredients to a saucepan; mix well.
  • Slowly stir in milk to avoid lumps.
  • Place over a medium-high heat and cook until thickened; stirring OFTEN. I don't leave the stove.
  • Add butter and vanilla; stirring until butter melts.
  • Serve hot!
I had read about Callebaut chocolate in Cook's Illustrated a few years back. They rated it number one in their blind taste test and I have never been disappointed in any of their findings.  While we were in Paris this last year I came across Callebaut in a small exclusive market and SPLURGED, not knowing for sure if I would be able to get it through customs. As you can see, my little bag of chocolate gold made it safely home to Dallas and I use it sparingly!


chocolate, pudding, European, Callebaut, dark, hot, comfort, easy, quick, delightful, treat, wintertime

Tuesday, January 28

Ladies Lemony Cricket Cake

Hello, my name is Ronda, and I'm addicted to lemons. Seriously. I will eat them on or in just about anything and sometimes all by themselves, I even added a squirt of lemon juice to my bowl of oatmeal this morning. I received my new Southern Living magazine yesterday in the mail, and the cover proclaimed 'easy Lemon dessert recipes'. With the promises of lemony delights inside, I tore into that puppy quick. Reading through the recipes and seeing those mouthwatering photos appealed to my inner lemon-lover and inspired me to make one of my favorite made-from-scratch lemon desserts. It's a simple small cake, just the right size for a couple of empty nesters - who happen to be having the time of their lives! It's extremely light and tart with a velvety texture. So I say, MORE EVERYTHING - AND I'LL HAVE MINE WITH LEMON ON TOP! It puts a zing in my step!

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For Cake
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
  • grated peel of 1 lemon
For Glaze
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup sugar

For Cake
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  • Either grease and flour a 9" X 5" loaf pan OR line it with non-stick foil.
  • In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder and baking soda and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Reduce speed, and add eggs one at a time, just until blended. 
  • On low add flour mixture alternately with sour cream, beating until well mixed. Add lemon peel, mix in.
  • Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

For Glaze
  • Mix all three ingredients in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. 
  • Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer 5-7 minutes, or until glaze coats the back of spoon.
  • Spoon glaze over hot cake. It will look like a lot of glaze, but pour all of it over the cake - it's what makes this cake ALL LEMON!

There are some great recipes to be found in the new Southern Living, 
if you are a lover of lemon as well pick up a copy today, you'll be glad ya did!


lemon, tart, dessert, cake, sour cream. light, easy, quick. glaze, butter, mouthwatering

Thursday, January 23

Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps with Texas Rio Star Grapefruit

Let me just start by saying: I LOVE GRAPEFRUIT! It is my Wintertime obsession and I could eat it several times a day and never tire of it's sweet-tart juicy delights. A week ago Mr.P was headed to the store for his daily diet coke fix and in passing I asked him to pick up a few Texas Rio Star grapefruit - my personal favorite. On occasion Mr.P has been known to 'overbuy' - that's one of his many quirks that make him twinkle. So it was no surprise, on this particular day, that he arrived home with a CRATE of Rios in the back of his truck. As I counted to 10, and tried to focus on his twinkle, I asked him how in the world were we going to be able to consume a crate of grapefruit - it's down to the two of us at home. Soon after we ate our fill, I began to scour the web for recipes using grapefruit and I'm thrilled to say there are many sites to choose from. Texas Sweet is a website using our very own Texas Rio Star Grapefruits. Grown in the South Texas sub-tropical climate, the origin of the Rio Star comes from none other than a Texas Aggie! A little cross-breeding here, a little mutation there and voila the Rio Star was born in 1984 and it's been a Texas obsession ever since. It's sweet, juicy red interior is a thing of beauty. Try them and if your husband comes home with a crate-full here's a fantastic recipe to try! It's a dandy!

Asian Pork Lettuce Wraps with Texas Rio Star Grapefruit

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  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened coconut, shredded
  • 1 Texas Rio Star Grapefruit
  • 3 tablespoons roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh mint, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sriracha sauce
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ lb lean ground pork
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • Romaine or butter lettuce leaves, I used Romaine

  • Mix fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar in a bowl, set aside.
  • Lightly toast the coconut in a skillet over medium heat; cool.
  • With a sharp knife, peel and sections grapefruit.
  • Toss sections in a bowl with coconut, peanuts, mint, chili sauce and green onions.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the pork and cook, breaking it up, 4-5 minutes (do not brown).
  • Transfer the meat to a bowl, and drain any excess liquid; set aside.
  • Raise the heat to high, add remaining 1 tablespoons of oil to the skillet, then add ginger and red onion; cook to soften, about 1 minute.  Add the onion to the pork, pour into the fish sauce mixture and gently toss.
  • Divide the pork mixture among the lettuce leaves and top each with grapefruit salad.
Recipe & Pictures via Texas Sweet.

I just happened to have ALL of these ingredients in my pantry, some left over from Christmas, and this dish came together quick and easy. It has that great Asian taste we P's love and the grapefruit put it over the top! I'm not sure how long our grapefruit will last, but I know one thing for sure - we won't come down with scurvy!


Texas, rio star, ruby red, juicy, pork, lettuce wraps, Asian, fish sauce, chili sauce, peanuts, coconut, light, healthy, easy, quick, lime, brown sugar

Wednesday, January 22

The Art Of Snow Days

Much of North America is under snow, but not so in Texas and most of the South. But who says you have to have snow to enjoy a good old fashioned snow day? There's no reason why you can't take a day just for you. Here are a few ways to enjoy it:

Make a pot of soup ~ awesome Winter comfort food. Let it simmer while you sit in front of the fire, listen to your favorite music and write in your journal. Eat a hot bowl of soup and then take a nap! No one can say you're lazy on a snow day!

Get your coziest blanket, a good book and a cup of cocoa. Spend the afternoon in front of the fire reading, drinking cocoa and even doze a bit.

Why does it seem like I’ve watched some of the best movies when there's been bad weather outside? Not sure if it’s coincidence or not but it sure does seem true. Make yourself a grilled cheese sandwich, a bowl of tomato soup, grab a box of Kleenex and warm throw ~ position yourself in front of the television for an afternoon of uninterrupted movie watching.

My favorite January activity is to be a homebody, I try not to come out until the groundhog makes his appearance. Spend time indoors working on a favorite craft, putting together a puzzle, playing cards, drinking tea, if you enjoy it ~ do it!

Now we all know there’s something super special about a warm pie on a cold day. For those of you who bake, even if just barely, bake away! Bake a pie, muffins or cookies. Just don’t get distracted by other snowy day things to do while your pie is in the oven.

IF there is snow in your neck of the woods get out and be creative. You NEVER get too old to build a snowman, snow castle or even participate in a little fun snow ball fighting with your family! Be creative and have fun!

An 'aroma bath' can be a soothing retreat and a wonderful way to pass a cold afternoon. The addition of essential oils to a regular bath can enhance its ability to act as a therapeutic and sensual experience. Other benefits from an aromatherapy bath include softer skin through moisturizing, opening the pores and detoxifying your body. Turn on your favorite tunes, lay back and enjoy!

An honest to goodness old fashioned letter. Remember those? I LOVE getting snail mail and I'm sure your friends and family would enjoy opening up their mail boxes to something other than bills and junk mail. Using your prettiest paper and best pen, find a warm spot in your house where there is a soft spot to sit and write a letter. I GUARANTEE you, you will get many thanks for your effort. If you can't think of anyone to write, send a few letters to our service men and women.

Take the time to sit down at your computer, with a warm cup of coffee, and organize your photos. Flickr is a good site to organize and share your photos online with your family and friends. This is a great way to relive some good memories.

January is usually the month we start thinking about our yearly vacation. Take a day, even if it's a snow day, sit back and cruise the web for your favorite destination. Make sure to look for the best deals online, booking airfare and hotel together can be a big money saver. 

Whatever you do on your snow day, remember to enjoy. Take delight in the day, being alone or with your family and take the time to do something JUST for yourself ~ you'll be glad ya did!


snow days, fun, relax, soup, bake, nap, read, old movies, photos, vacation planning, writing letters, 
aromatherapy, baths, comfort, snowman, homebody, playing cards, making tea, grilled cheese

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Monday, January 20

Bacon Cheeseburger Soup

It's been kind of a lazy day over here at the Porter household. E has been studying and digging through her brother's closet - aka the guest bedroom - for her scrubs. Micro-biology lab awaits her. Mr.P has come in early from meeting with clients and I have, well I have been washing the college students dirty laundry - she's heading back to school after dinner. Being such a quiet lazy day, I decided to cook up some of our favorite soup, Bacon Cheeseburger. I haven't made this soup since last winter and totally forgot how amazing it is. This soup makes quite a bit and is enough to feed a crowd. Since I don't have a crowd, it will be feeding my freezer and Mr.P and me for weeks to come. This is a must make soup during the cooler months of the year. It is absolutely delicious and creamy with bacon. Did I mention that it has bacon in it? I love anything with bacon and cheese! It is such a hearty soup that the entire family will love! 


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  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup shredded or diced carrots
  • ¾ cup diced celery
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups peeled and diced potatoes
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup sour cream

  • Brown the ground beef in 3 quart saucepan. Drain and set aside.
  • In the same saucepan add 1 T butter and add onion, garlic, shredded carrots, parsley flakes, basil and celery. Saute until tender.
  • Add the broth, potatoes and beef and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  • In small skillet melt remaining butter (3 T) and add the flour. Cook and stir for 3-5 minutes or until bubbly. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low.
  • Stir in the cheese, milk, heavy cream salt and pepper. Cook and stir until cheese melts. Stir in the cooked and crumbled bacon. Remove from heat and blend in sour cream.
Make a pot of this Bacon Cheeseburger Soup on a Saturday. Keep it warm in your Crock-Pot and you won't have to cook another thing the rest of the weekend!


bacon, cheese, beef, potatoes, carrots, celery, soup, hearty, warm comfort, crock-pot, easy