# tallis henry

This little guy just knew I was leaving town and made his grand entrance a bit early so I could kiss his sweet face!

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Welcome, little Tallis Henry, born Saturday at 1:29pm.

It was such a great day by Chris and Chilali’s side. They did so well, especially Chilali (!) and are such beaming first parents.

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Real friends bring a reuben sandwich, party tots and mac-and-cheese for the first meal post labor.

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I’m thrilled to be Auntie Marci to another beautiful baby!

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Friday Five: Expect the Unexpected

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

This week has been FULL of {mostly} unplanned hurdles—little tests in the form of daily speed bumps, not only for me, but also my family. Thought you might want to come along for the wild ride:

5. Happy Birthday, Gramps

Yesterday would have been Gramps’ 85th birthday. I thought of him all day long and remember so clearly many of the birthday calls I made to him in the past. Like last year, when he raved about Mimi cooking all the fixins’ for him and wasn’t I sad I wasn’t there (I was). And other years when they celebrated simply by grabbing a burger at Dairy Queen. I miss those conversations and hope he had a choir of angels sing to him yesterday.

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4. Minimal-Sugar Challenge

After last week’s froyo celebration, I went back to no sugar easily until today when I had my first (decaf, no whip) PSL. I really love Starbucks’ new “real-pumpkin” formula; I thought it tasted way better than the fake original, which I (at the time) loved as well. I savored it like the treat that it was and think a once-a-week splurge will be fine. Still feeling good and am up down to 14 pounds. Not all speed bumps are bad.  Shout outs to my friends now doing the challenge – you’ve got this!!

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3. Let it Snow… Just Not Yet!

Yes, this week’s rain storms brought snow to the mountains. This feels earlier than any year we’ve been here. I swear this stuff JUST melted, how can it already be cold enough for it to be back?! I guess I’ll be swapping out my summer clothes for winter this weekend.

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2. Water Woes

This past Monday morning, I noticed our water had been turned off and part of our yard was flooded. Insanely worried that a pipe burst outside our house, I called a slew of people only to find out that it was my neighbor’s sewer pipe that had burst underground and had flooded three people’s yards and caused 40…FORTY…homes to have their water shut off. To fix it, they had to rip up sidewalk and several trees (the 8-foot hole in the ground is still there). We ended up having no water for just shy of 31 hours. Joe had to shower at the gym and I…well… I was not a happy camper. Speaking of camping, this whole exercise has reminded me why I never want to do it. Running water is such a beautiful thing.

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1. Comeback-pain Kid

Yesterday morning I woke up to searing pain from my left leg’s lower back/hips to my ankle. I couldn’t even get out of bed and Joe woke up to me whimpering from the pain. I recognized it immediately from my ordeal two years ago…almost to the day. After icing it off and on for two hours, I was finally numb enough to get up, shower, and collapse into my desk chair to work. As soon as my last meeting was over, I was in my car driving to urgent care. I didn’t want to make the same mistake last time of waiting too long to treat my sciatica. To reward my efforts, doc said I didn’t need an xray or a steroid shot, but just a whopping dose of steroids to bring down the inflammation in my back. “Take these right away, like immediately when you pick them up at the pharmacy.” Um…okay, sure, why? “They have a tendency to cause horrible insomnia.” Okay, no problem. <<fast forward eight hours>> Okay, big problem. I tried everything last night to fall asleep, but I got maybe two hours total. I had to take another dose this morning, so luckily I’ve been wired all day, but I’m hoping for some rest tonight at least. The pain is almost all gone, which is the miracle I was hoping for.

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And that was my week.  And I’m ready to move on.

Friday Five: Travel Nightmares

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Soon you will hear all about my trials and tribulations in finding my way back to Utah after last week’s trip to Miami. It’s a doozy. One my back still hasn’t quite recovered from.

It left me thinking about all of the horrible things we’ve encountered in our travels. As we let the suspense settle, here are our top five travel nightmares in no particular order.

5.  The Sounds of Silence

When we traveled to Europe with our Chinese orchestra, we flew back from Paris. A 15 hour flight that should have been filled with several movies, TV options and radio. But upon boarding the plane they announced that the electrical system for the plane’s entertainment system was out. So we were left in silence for 15 hours and it was absolutely brutal. Especially when we couldn’t sleep.

4. Frolic and Detour

In flying to Italy for the first time, the fog over Pisa was so thick that they forced us to land in Genoa and take a hot, crowded bus through the mountains to get us back to Tuscany. It was not quite the way we pictured arriving in the country where we were to spend our summer. A little less glamorous and a lot more nauseous. Como se dice “the worst”?

3. The Wheels on the Bus

Our second summer in Italy had us traveling south to perform an outdoor concert in Mercogliano. It’s over five hours, especially by bus. But those five hours quickly turned sour when we realized the A/C was out. Italy + July = A/C. Always. This is a math rule for the books. We were so uncomfortable and I remember a fellow horn player and resident funny guy, Nathan, yelling out “This is San Girolamo on wheels!” (San Girolamo was one of our rehearsal spaces that didn’t have A/C. We all hated it.) The worst part of the trip was being stuck on the highway for hours and not knowing why. We even got off the bus and sat on the side of the highway for hours until we started moving again…only to realize that there had been a fatal accident causing the shutdown. We drove right by the burning car and saw their luggage (clothes, shoes, books) strewn across the highway. If we didn’t feel sick before, we certainly did then. Here are a few pics I found from the highway delay.

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2. Strike Out

Another Italy travel story! When we were heading home after that second summer, we stayed overnight in Pisa to be near the airport for our early flight. Our room phone started ringing in the middle of the night. It was the front desk telling us that all of the taxi drivers in Pisa just went on strike and wouldn’t be able to drive us to the airport. Cue absolute panic. We had instruments and we had luggage and now we had no way of getting across town. We were wide awake so we started seeing how long it would take us to walk if we started ASAP. The front desk called again when we were ready to go and said he had found us a driver. Crisis averted. Hearts pounding for hours after.

1. Hot(Mess)-Lanta

Spoiler Alert: I had to sleep in the DFW airport on Sunday and the only other time I’ve ever had to do that was in Atlanta. But that time I was with Joe and we were trying to get back to Miami after our Tulsa wedding reception. Our flight to Miami was cancelled three times before they made an announcement that there was ONE FLIGHT back to Miami that night and it was in a different terminal. They said a few spots were left to whoever could get to the desk first. Oh my god, Delta…why?! An entire plane worth of frantic people ran to the skyrail and when we were hustling up the escalator to get to the gate, this guy behind me knocked me down face first on the tile and left me there! Long story short: by the time we got to the gate it was too late; a woman from first class was sobbing and screaming that she should get priority over the minions in coach (b-word!); and I was completely bruised on wrists, elbows and knees. Upon realizing there were so many people stuck overnight, Delta dumped trash bags full of pillows and blankets and we had to fight for them Hunger Games style. Again, the madness! Joe made us a bed out of seats in a quiet terminal where we slept lay awake all night with our horns and bags between us. I have hated Delta ever since.

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# butter brickle cake

It has been so long since I blogged a recipe! Not since our Valentine’s Day meal?! Pitiful.

As you can imagine, we are gearing up for Easter brunch on Sunday. Cookbooks be a’flyin’ and I think we’ve finally settled on a pretty comprehensive menu, covering all Spring-like bases. All this thinking about food reminded me that I forgot to blog about a cake I made while at my Uncle Dick’s house. It was nice to revisit these photos and that wonderful night from about a month ago–our last night all together.

So, let’s do it. Let’s talk cake.

After celebrating my Aunt’s birthday that week with a classic sheath cake, we were also going to celebrate my {other side} Uncle’s birthday (a little early) that weekend. Unfortunately the ice storm had him turning around and heading back to Houston before he made it into Dallas, but we still enjoyed his favorite cake in his honor: Butter Brickle.

If you’ve never heard of Butter Brickle, you aren’t alone. I had to be schooled in all-things 1950-60s while going through old recipes with Bev and Memaw. Butter Brickle used to be a candy bar, and now is sold as “Bits of Brickle” by Hershey’s. It’s essentially toffee bits wrapped in a sea of butter.  A glorified buttered toffee flavor. What could be bad about this?

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I’ve heard Phil talk about this, his favorite, flavor for years, but it wasn’t until we were going through Bev’s recipe box that we unearthed Memaw’s old Brickle-based recipes. There were a few on hand, but she thought this was the one that Phil loved most.

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I like to think that what Phil liked most, as a child, was that Praline Liqueur in both cake and icing. It certainly had me on board pretty quickly.

If you look at that old recipe card, you’ll notice “liquid brown sugar” in the ingredients. When I first read it I thought surely it meant to read “light brown sugar”–a typo at the typewriter! But, if you read through the directions, it’s there again: liquid brown sugar. What? A quick google search revealed that Domino Sugar used to make a liquid brown sugar product! Crazy! The things you learn when baking from vintage recipes. Can we call this vintage yet?

The cake itself was an easy one, thanks to the cake mix base. (Which gave me another slight panic…cake mix boxes have changed their weight/amount over the years, but it turned out just fine.)

Here’s the beginnings of that homemade liquid brown sugar.

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I’m kind of a cake batter fanatic. And an icing fanatic.

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Gettin’ my brickle on.

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Praline Liqueur is everything. Pour it on thick!

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Ta-da! The finished product, minus Phil unfortunately, but the centerpiece of the sweetest goodbye.

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Bring a piece of the past back with this awesome cake. Do it for Phil, do it for Uncle Dick, do it because it’s delicious. {Phil, I promise to make this for you again soon!}

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Butter Brickle Cake (Praline Pecan Cake)

Source: Memaw

1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 small pkg. instant vanilla pudding (or butterscotch pudding mix for an even more buttery flavor)
4 large eggs at room temperature
½ c. cooking oil
¼ c. liquid brown sugar*
3/4 c. praline liqueur
½ c. bits of brickle (toffee pieces), plus more for topping
½ c. chopped pecans, plus more for topping

Glaze:
2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
2 Tbs. softened butter
3-6 Tbs. praline liqueur

Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees.

To make liquid brown sugar: Combine ¼ c. water and ¾ c. brown sugar in a small saucepan. Mix at medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Do not let it boil. Measure out ¼ c. for cake and save the rest for oatmeal or to pour over ice cream.

In a large bowl, blend cake mix and pudding mix. Add egg, oil, liquid brown sugar and praline liqueur. Beat at low speed until thoroughly mixed, then at medium speed for 4-5 minutes. Fold in bits of brickle and nuts.

Pour into well-greased and floured tube pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes, then turn out and let cool completely.

While cake is cooling, beat together powdered sugar and butter. Add liqueur and beat until desired consistency. Pour over cake and garnish with bits of brickle and nuts.

Serve with Butter Brickle ice cream, if you can find it. (*cough* Braum’s)

Friday Five: Birthday Sweets

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

Guys, I hate to sound like a broken record, but I just haven’t been 100% lately. If March is supposed to go out like a lamb, I need it to be a little more lamb-like. That lion is still roaring in my head. I’m looking forward to Easter to maybe re-charge my batteries and get excited about, and plan some, new posts.

The best part of the last week has been the sugar intake. Last Saturday we celebrated Chilali’s December birthday with a big ice cream party and on Tuesday, Chris turned another year older with a delicious triple-chocolate cake. There’s really no better way I can show someone how special they are to me than by cooking, and I’ve been wanting to throw an ice cream party for a while now. It was just as old-fashioned and fun as I envisioned. Sometimes I live for that stuff.

I thought you guys might want to see what we had on tap for the two events.

And, my apologies, these are the only {bad, phone} pictures I took away from both nights.

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5. Chocolate Cake

Chris, a non-lover of ice cream, requested a very chocolately cake for his celebration. This one was so. good. Especially the icing. I had migraine auras hit as I was baking it, so no pictures…I was lucky to get the icing on the cake! But trust me when I say it’s a total keeper.

Sally’s Triple Chocolate Cake

4. Sorbet

For the lactose intolerant in your life, or just a dang good summery pick, I’d go with this stunning, majorly tart recipe by Ice Cream God David Lebovitz.

The Perfect Scoop’s Lemon Sorbet

3. Sauces

Chilali picked all of the eats at her party and these two were perfect for the ice creams and sorbet available. One creamy, dreamy–the other tart and sweet. Instead of a traditional salted caramel, we made a salted version of this praline sauce, which is one of my favorites.

The Perfect Scoop’s Chunky Raspberry Sauce (scroll way down for recipe)

Joy the Baker’s Praline Sauce (or A Really Delicious Caramel Sauce)

2. Toppings

Remember when Chilali and I met Jeni, the Ice Cream Goddess? I made the Salty Graham Gravel we had at the book signing and holy cow, how have we not all had gravel on our ice cream from the very beginning. It’s a total game changer.

Jeni’s Salty Graham Gravel Topping

I also made chocolate covered potato chips, which are mentioned in Joy’s Homemade Decadence and couldn’t be easier. Melt some semi-sweet chocolate cubes in a double-boiler, remove from heat, dunk in some Ruffles and freeze for 8 minutes. Then crumble and store in the freezer. So easy, so addictive.

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1. Ice Cream!

The stars of the show! (Unless you’re Chris, then see #5.) Chilali’s favorite spice is Black Pepper, so she went wild with one of David’s creative concoctions. I thought it would be spicier, but it was actually a nice, warm heat.

The Perfect Scoop’s Black Pepper Ice Cream

Her other choice was another win: Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter. (I swear, she picked that on her own without any pressure from me!) The recipe was from the Ample Hills cookbook–a Brooklyn-based creamery whose secret to creamy bases is to include dry non-fat milk powder. It absorbs any excess water from other ingredients so there’s absolutely no graininess or ice crystals in the finished product. I was skeptical and there are definitely a lot more steps than I’m used to, but it was worth the effort. Everyone went absolutely nuts for this. Since it’s nowhere to be found online, here you go!

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Base:
¾ c. organic cane sugar
½ c. skim milk powder
1 2/3 c. whole milk
1 2/3 c. heavy cream
3 egg yolks

Chocolate Paste:
1 c. organic cane sugar
1 c. cocoa powder
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Swirl:
1 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. golden syrup or corn syrup
¼ c. organic cane sugar
1 c. natural peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.

Make the chocolate paste: In a medium saucepan, bring 1 c. water to boil over medium heat. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sugar and cocoa powder, whisking vigorously to combine. Add the chocolate and whisk until melted and combined. Set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, skim milk powder, and milk. Whisk until smooth. Make sure the skim milk powder is fully dissolved into the mixture and that no lumps remain. Stir in the cream.

Clip a candy thermometer to the saucepan and set the pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often with a rubber spatula and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking and burning, until the mixture reaches 110 degrees (F), 5-10 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl. While whisking, slowly pour in ½ c. of the hot milk mixture to temper the eggs. Continue to whisk slowly until the mixture is an even color and consistency, then whisk the egg mixture back into the remaining milk mixture.

Return the pan to the stovetop over medium heat and continue cooking the mixture, stirring often, until it reaches 165 degrees (F), 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate paste and vanilla.

Pour the ice cream base through a wire-mesh strainer into a storage container and place in the prepared ice bath and let cool for 30-40 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, syrup and sugar; cook over low heat stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved, but not a moment longer. Remove pan from heat, add peanut butter and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Set aside

Transfer the cooled base to your ice cream maker and churn it according to manufacturer instructions. Transfer to a container, stirring in the peanut butter swirl gently. Do not overmix. Freeze for 8-12 hours.

Friday Five: Christmas Countdown

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

The last Friday before Christmas! December always seems to whirl right on by, doesn’t it? When it gets this close, though, time can stand still and drag on to the holiday. The horse has seen the barn…and now it just wants to run. I’ve written about my favorite Christmas movies and music, baking, and even decorations, so I’ll just give you a list of what stands between me and Christmas Day. Let the countdown begin…

5. New Mexico Bowl

Joe is in ABQ getting ready for tomorrow’s bowl game. Tune in to ESPN at noon (mountain time) to *hopefully* see them in action! Right after the game ends, they’ll jump on the bus and head back to Utah. It was a short trip for them, but I’m ready to have him back.

4. Working Girl

Two and a half more days and I’m in the clear! it’s been great being back in the fold, but I’m ready to not have my 5:30 wake-up call for a few consecutive days. *yaouch*

3. Office Space

I’m 90% finished with a second-hand desk I have been working on in the garage. It’s time to bring it up to the office (with the help of my OGE friends tomorrow) and get my real work station set up. This is exciting, but still a bit stressful. This will get its own post soon enough!

2. Kitchen Knock-out

This is the fun part. After last week’s post, I have finally narrowed down which cookies I’m going to make, but of course there’s Christmas dinner, Christmas Eve dinner, and holiday breakfasts to think about too. I promise to not wait a month to post the details of these meals like I did for Thanksgiving!

1. To-Do List

There’s so many little things I need to accomplish so the break can truly feel restful. I’m going to be crossing off my to-do list like Santa moves names to the naughty list–fast and furious. These tasks are nothing too exciting; just a bunch of cleaning, a few errands and a dog bath stand in the way between me and the sleeping, eating, reading and movie-watching we’ll be doing in just a few short days.

Bring, It. On. Enjoy the last holiday rush before next week!