I’ll tell my kids about it

Full disclosure, I flaked out like a blizzard when it came time to, how do I say this diplomatically, make efficient use of our aggressive rooster Ruby. We had raised Ruby since he was a chick. Fed him. Housed him. Named him. So it was tough for me to then do the dirty and dispatch of him. That, I gladly left for Heath to endure. (Though I had no problem doing the subsequent cooking and eating and blogging.) Given my lack of participation in that surreal and slightly icky life moment, it seemed unlikely I would sign up for any future endeavors of the same ilk. How wrong you are my friend. For I was front and center when pals Mark and Ranjana made, er, “efficient use” of their three hens and two ducks last weekend.

Like Heath and I, and thousands of other wannabe urban farmers in Austin and elsewhere, Mark and Ranjana spent a good long while providing a comfortable space in the backyard in which Rothko, Benedict, Omlette, Frank and Scott could scratch up and stink up. It’s perhaps what they do best after egg laying and mealworm eating. But, alas, the couple has decided to relocate, and as the saying goes, you can’t take it with you. And “it” includes chickens and ducks. So, a chicken dinner it would be for Mark, Ranjana and their invited guests.

I’m not blind to the fact that to many, it may seem gross and odd and perhaps even cruel to do in your pets. Nor am I obtuse to the cold hard truth that there is an entire industry out there that does this sort of thing day in and day out, and it’s in many ways not such a big f-ing deal. (In fact, the average American eats about 185 pounds of chicken a year, according to this NPR story, so chew on that if you’re a chicken eater of the “that’s cruel” ideology.)  Whatever camp you’re in—Gross, Cruel, Who Cares—it doesn’t change the simple notion that it is important to know where your food comes from, REALLY comes from. So this time, I put on my big girl pants and played an active role in helping Maranjanark prepare their meal.

Why? Well, to help out some friends, for one. But also, I wanted to be there for selfish reasons. I wanted to document the process for the sake of art, or nostalgia or something. And I wanted to be able to tell my future kids about it. “No kids, I haven’t gone skydiving, or set foot on Antarctica, but I did see with my own two eyes, a chicken run around with its head cut off, and it was weird, and startling and magnificent.” I wanted to be there for my street cred.

What didn’t factor into my decision making process at the time I volunteered for this assignment, was the odd sense of fulfillment I would derive from it all. Not from the actual morbid blood-and-guts part, but being a part of the life cycle. For years Mark and Ranjana gave to the birds, and now the birds were giving back. It was all done humanely and gracefully. Mark and Ranjana said a few words to remember and be thankful for the experiences the birds afforded them, and then shared their nourishment with friends who had supported them along the way.

I was confused and conflicted and frankly a little immature when we made a meal of our rooster. But being a part of the experience, the whole experience, with our Austin family was different. It felt right. It felt important. It felt beautiful.

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.” –Cesar Chavez

kaiserandchickensducksthechickensmarkchicken3ranjanabirds1markgardenranjanabirds2markranjanaaftermarkchickens1eatingdinner


Picnic anyone?

Whelp, the time finally came for Bro to move out of the doodle house. His departure came about a month ago, and with him went the Foosball table (at our request), which meant it was time for us to look into more sit-able table options for our newly naked back patio. Muah ha ha, another weekend project to put on the books.

I did some fact checking and number crunching and figured the best option for us would be to pick up a prefab picnic table from Lowe’s ($88) and gussy ‘er up with a bright coat of paint. It would be affordable. It would be easy. It would be done!

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I chose to paint it what my pals calls “P-Terry’s blue” a sort of seafoam blue/turquoise color that is one the trademark colors of my favorite Austin hamburger chain.  I’ve eaten many a meal on their blue picnic tables and it seemed as fitting a color as any to bring to the patio. Plus, I’ve gotten so accustomed to painting furniture and walls in shades of blue that not to just seemed wrong some how. You know what’s not wrong? The finished product…

seafoampicnictablepatiopicnicYES!  We are picnic ready! Heath, who by some miracle never questions my bizarre color choices, was smitten with the finished product, saying it looked good enough to eat. Whoop, whoop!

In addition to prepping the picnic table, we also spent some of the weekend sprucing up the garden and freshening up things we had let go over the winter. The pallet planter got updated with some hardy succulents and we put in a handful of fast-growing, drought-tolerant natives along the back and side fence to give us some future privacy from the neighbors (and their incessantly barking schnauzers). Soon enough, I hope to have a really nice backyard space in which to romp with the doodles and host fancy pants backyard garden parties.

turquoisepicnictablesucculentplanter

succulents_palletplanterAnd, with luck, we will soon have edible goodies to fill the empty space on our PTerry’s picnic bench.  Heath stayed busy by tending to the veggie garden, planting sugar snap peas, lettuce, onions, potatoes, broccoli and carrots.

sprouting onion

sprouting onion

lettuce coming in strong

broccoli coming in strong

sugar snap peas going nuts (Pardon our mess in the background, we are protecting them from cold and chickens, a brutal dynamic.)

sugar snap peas going nuts (Pardon our mess in the background, we are attempting to protect them from cold and chickens, a brutal duo.)

I’m so excited by all that has developed in the backyard in the last two weeks with the rise in temperatures and rise in our morale. I better enjoy garden season while it lasts, because heaven knows by May the triple digit temperatures will be upon us again. Until then, who’s down for a picnic?

doodlehousepicnic


A very doodle Christmas

Merry holidays from the doodle fam!  It’s been a rather unconventional Christmas this year for Heath and me—partly because we hosted the family Christmas celebrations for the first time, partly because we celebrated on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, and MOSTLY because today we take off for our two-week vacation in India!  New posts will be absent from the DH blog for the next two weeks, but I’m hoping to come roaring back with hundreds of pictures and tales of our travels when we return.

Until then, enjoy your friends and family as we have enjoyed ours this holiday!

Some of the family (dog included) cuddled up on the couch pre present-opening.

Some of the family (dog included) cuddled up on the couch pre present-opening.

Cooking in the kitchen with mom.

Cooking in the kitchen with mom.

presents

Heath enjoying some Stephen Colbert.

Heath enjoying some Stephen Colbert.

Bro got a girlfriend for Christmas.

Bro got a girlfriend for Christmas.

christmastable

Our family’s tradition is to make fish (and shrimp, and mussel, and scallop) stew for Christmas dinner. Unconventional perhaps, but none the less delicious.

I wonder if Stella knows it's Christmas.

I wonder if Stella knows it’s Christmas.

My fantastic parents who celebrate 15 years of marriage tomorrow!

My fantastic parents who celebrate 15 years of marriage tomorrow!

Heath and me with Papa, my remarkable and beloved grandfather.

Heath and me with Papa, my remarkable and beloved grandfather.

 

 


I majored in brunchology

Yesterday Heath and I had the opportunity to host a stock-the-bar couple’s brunch for our soon-to-be-married pals Mark and Ranjana. It was our first go at hosting a bridal-ish type shower, and I’m not gonna lie, I was a little anxious about it. Normally I’d give myself some prep time before hosting a monumental party for a few friends. You know, spend the day before making a few dishes, cleaning the house, hanging streamers and performing other party prep procedures. Unfortunately, I was shooting a wedding all day on the Saturday before, so party prep would be limited to only a couple of hours on the morning of. That in mind, I opted to forgo dazzling decorations and spend my energy instead on creating a menu that would fill up the masses yet still have the element of intrigue and in vogue you would expect of food stuffs at a bridal brunch.

Here’s what we came up with:

Egg, sausage, jalapeno and cheese braidThis recipe came from MyRecipes.com and seemed like it had all elements you would want in a brunch dish: egg, cheese, meat and spice.  I also like that it included the word “braid” which, to me, screams “HEY!  THIS DISH IS NAMED AFTER A HAIRSTYLE. THERE IS NO MEAL GIRLIER AND MORE APPROPRIATE FOR A BRIDAL BRUNCH THAN THIS.” Of course, when it was all said and done, I didn’t end up braiding the thing at all and instead just sort of folded the dough over the yummy gooey egg filling…sort of like making a bed. Braid or no braid, the dang thing was pretty good. We actually modified the recipe a bit besides just skipping out on the braid. Instead of real sausage, we went with a veggie variety so our vegetarian friends could get in on the action. And we used whole wheat pizza dough instead of regular flour–not out of some grand scheme to be healthier, it’s just all that H-E-B had during our trip to the grocery store. If I make it again, I think I’d try and sub pizza dough for crescent roll dough, which is sweeter and flakier and fits the brunch motif a little better than thick and chewy pizza dough. Either way, served with some salsa, the breakfast braid bread was a winner.

The fixins on the dough before folding it over.

The bread waiting to go in the oven.

On the table and ready to eat.

Migas Casserole. I basically made this recipe up but I love it because it’s fast, easy and flavorful.  The idea is simple enough– sautee onion, tomatoes, peppers, cheese and pieces of corn tortillas with oil and cumin, cover with egg mixture and bake. Voila. in 20 minutes you’ve got a ready-to-eat casserole that feels slightly exotic if not intriguingly spicy. Plus, with peppers and tomatoes instead of sausage and bacon, you can feel a little less guilty about going for a second piece.

Migas Casserole

Banana Cinnamon Waffles.  Heath is the designated waffle maker in the house, and for years has been using a tried and true recipe borrowed from the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook. But because we were trying to give this brunch a little flair, Heath decided to step it up and add banana, cinnamon and brown sugar–at Martha’s suggestion. It was an incredible addition and we ended up with sweet and moist waffles that mimicked the flavor of banana bread.

Waffles so sweet, syrup is no longer necessary.

We also incorporated fresh fruit, smoked salmon, peach salsa and crackers. And we had a few other friends pitch in with smoked brisket and a crock pot hash brown dish.

The goods.

All of that food paired with either a bloody Mary or mimosa made for a brunch that was almost as delicious as the beautiful betrothed coupled themselves.


Brew Haha

This weekend Heath and I met up with pals at the 2012 Texas Craft Brewers Festival at Fiesta Gardens on Lady Bird Lake.

There were dozens of micro brew booths at the fest, which, according to our buddy and home brew aficionado Mike, was twice as many as were in attendance at last year’s gathering. Yes, the surge of micro breweries in Texas has quite literally doubled over the past year, and you won’t hear any complaints from us. And considering that micro breweries may be one of the only industries not in recession, it seemed like the only American thing to do was to get out there and grow the economy, one beer at a time.

The selection at the fest pretty well covered the spectrum of beers: dark and light, bold and mild. We got to taste 6-oz samples from some of our old favorites like Live Oak and some new ones like South Austin Brewery.  Neither of us are much in the way of beer experts, but we do know a good beer (and a bad one) when we taste it.

The satisfying and sobering Blogworthy concoctions included:

  • Flying Monk by Adelbert’s Brewery—A rich and nutty brew that’s as delicious as it is dangerous at 10% ABV.
  • Saison D’Austin by South Austin Brewery— A beer on the dark side with a little kick and spice but still goes down smooth.
  • Das Wunderkind by Jester King Craft Brewery— A sour beer, which is apparently “in” right now but looks like foggy water and tastes like vinegar. (In other words, don’t do it.)
  • Smokin’ Beech by Circle Brewing Co.— An unusual, thick beer with smokey flavors that aren’t overwhelming but definitely get the taste buds tingling. I could get down on a pint, but think I would need to switch to something less anomalous after that.

Good beers or bad ones, we enjoyed ourselves sipping on cold and distinctive brews on what was the first chilly day of fall, overlooking the lake and chatting with pals. I imagine we will be back at next year’s fest, especially when I know it makes Heath so happy.

 


Will power is overrated.

Some weeks we gorge on pounds of homegrown lettuce, handfuls of cashews and gallons of freshly pressed juice. And sometimes we eat bacon marmalade and pizza topped with fried eggs. This week was definitely splayed with the latter. Food was the central theme.

The Good.

We chomped down on dishes from some east side establishments we’ve been meaning to try for a long time, but hadn’t yet got around to visiting: Blue Dahlia Bistro and East Side Pies. Blue Dahlia is a European fusion bistro, popular for its patio dining and open-faced sandwiches on soft, freshly baked bread. East Side Pies is nearly the exact opposite—a pizza joint which enjoys notoriety for it’s crispy thin crusts that serve as the canvas for unconventional toppings like salami, sauerkraut and avocados. (Not all on one pizza, though. That would be too bizarre even for Austin standards.) Though each provided quite different experiences, both warrant return visits and reminded me why I love living in city that embraces things like curry pizza and pets on the patio.

Smoked salmon with herb cream cheese from Blue Dahlia Bistro

The Bad.

Of course, once you’ve broken the unhealthy eating seal, it’s easy to justify making poorer (but not really) decisions down the road. Saturday we made three different stops at friends’ homes across Austin that featured slow-cooked braised rib, fried polenta, Niagara Falls portions of home brew and a dessert of strawberry crepes. The calorie count may very well rival the Michael Phelps diet.

The Ugly.

Why stop there? Mondays are the days to start anew. You wake up early and run a quick 5K, down a protein shake before work, eat a salad for lunch and skip dinner altogether, except for maybe a few grapes or a handful of almonds. Yes. That kind of eating is for Monday. Sunday is a day for brunch. And that means a pancake bar, basil mimosas, brown sugar bacon, habanero apricot dip, poached eggs and homemade tortillas. Every bite of brunch was sheer ecstasy, and the food coma that followed was definitely worth it.

Berry fixins for the pancake bar.

Basil mimosa with strawberry

Fresh strawberries

Brown sugar bacon

I’ll just say, it’s a good thing wedding season is nearly over and I don’t have any bridesmaids dresses to fit into in the near future. After this weekend, I may need to fast for the rest of June. Worth it.


Happy Blogiversary!

Today marks two years of blogging from the doodle house!

Documenting our lives and sharing the things that have entertained and inspired us has been tremendously rewarding. The blog has been a place where I can be creative and goofy and honest, and I’m so happy to have found such joy in this little hobby.

Some highlights of what we’ve done and seen in the last two years…

We added chickens to our family….

And we took some chickens away…

We got married!

And honeymooned…

We got our feet wet with gardening…

We bought a new house!

We traveled…

And traveled…

And traveled a little more…

It’s been a thoroughly eventful two years. There’s no telling what the next two will hold.


Wine Not?

I enjoy wine. Scratch that. Wine is the drink I enjoy above all other drinks. Perhaps because it is diverse and can take on so many remarkable forms–thus is capable of suiting my every mood. Sweet. Dry. Fruity. Crisp. Acidic. Buttery. I could go on and on.  I love how it tastes, how it feels, how it smells. Bottled or boxed, I’ll take. It also doesn’t hurt that it has a reputation for being somewhat healthy too, so I can feel OK about indulging in the occasional glass or two (or three).

The problem, if you want to call it that, is that until recently I wasn’t really discriminating between types. I was acting like a floozy, not being particularly picky about my suitors. I was just happy to have a date.

Heath, trickster that he is, took it upon himself to change that by organizing a surprise Blind Wine Taste Test. What fun! Home he came with six mystery bottles (4 reds and 2 whites) for me to sample, identify and evaluate. I knew I liked that guy.

The wine contestants

The purpose of the test was for me to see not only if I could identify which wines were which from taste alone, but also to see what type of wine I truly enjoy the most. I’ve been to vineyards and done the whole wine tasting thing before, but doing it blind made for an ironically eye-opening experience.

It was stimulating to see if I could detect the hints of berry, chocolate, nuts etc. the labels claim lie within. And I enjoyed getting to have an honest discussion about which glasses worked for me and which didn’t, without being influenced by my atmosphere, the wine’s cost, or my previous notions of what I did and didn’t like. For example, I always thought myself a red girl, but I was blown away both by how much I enjoyed a glass of crisp Pinot Grigio and how much I winced after a sip of Merlot.

I won’t be going into the wine tasting business professionally, as I don’t think I really have the chops or buds sensitive enough to handle the job; but the wine taste test was a super sweet and thoughtful surprise that helped me learn a little about myself and little more about my favorite hobby. Perhaps next week. A cheese taste test is in order.

Cheers!


Crossed off the restaurant bucket list: Foreign and Domestic

Maybe by the time Friday afternoon rolls around (our unofficial date night), our brains are mush from wrestling with 6th graders and endlessly redesigning marketing materials, and that’s why we find ourselves unable to think outside the box when it comes to our beloved dating ritual. Despite there being a seemingly endless collection of restaurants, food trailers and nifty nighttime hangouts to choose from in Austin, we often opt to return to one of about a half-dozen places we’ve grown most accustomed to: The Alamo Drafthouse, Nomad, Chinese take-out, etc. Not allowing myself to return Trudy’s for the 204327952th time, we opted for a new dining experience: Foreign and Domestic.

From fndaustin.com

Heath and I are not food snobs. We appreciate the attention to detail and inventive flavor combinations created by the artists at Uchi, while also valuing the simplicity of a well-made street taco. Essentially, if the chefs love the foods they are making, chances are we are going to love it too. The cuisine at Foreign and Domestic, which is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Ned and Jodi Elliott, is certainly well-loved, as it features a small, seasonal menu that boasts a collection of items you’re unlikely to see elsewhere, like crispy beef tongue and grilled octopus among others. It pushes the envelope, without question, but does so in a way that is bold and imaginative with about being kitsch and is stimulating without being overpowering.

Seared Gulf Red Fish with Ramps strawberries and brown butter.

Besides mastering its menu, Foreign and Domestic has also perfected its atmosphere. The interior is modern and cozy, the knowledgeable wait staff makes impeccable recommendations, and even when placed on the wait list, a member of the bar staff is there to take your drink order before you’ve left the hostess stand. If you’re craving a dining experience that’s as upscale as it is accessible and as unexpected as it is delectable, consider giving Foreign and Domestic a shot.

Austin folk, if you have suggestions for other notable eateries I should try…we’re all ears.


Acting Irresponsibly

Mom to me: So in between all of this traveling back and forth to Denton for wedding responsibilities and working on house projects, when are you finding time to have fun and do your own thing?

Good point, Mom. It is high time I started being way more selfish and irresponsible.(What? That’s not what you meant? Well, that’s how I’m taking it.) I mean, when your own mother points out the fact that you are kind of being a lame 20-something-year-old, you really owe it to yourself to pick up the partying pace. Don’t mind if I do take a weekend off from painting and pruning to indulge in some merriment.

The first non-home-improvement related activity of the weekend: backyard party and musical extravaganza.

Our friends Tristan (musician) and Monte (intellectual) hosted a backyard shindig to celebrate the former’s birthday. Among other things, their late-night get-together featured a keg-loving kitty and live performances by Your Friendly Ghost. We’ve experienced a healthy variety of interesting party panoramas (including a cheap beer taste test and drinking among living manikins at The Gap to name only two), and this one lacked the grandeur of some of our other weekend romps in terms of food or fanfare, but was nonetheless a thoroughly enjoyable evening (completely free of drying Spackle or matching paint colors). After all, it’s not every day you’re granted front-row seats to an exclusive musical performance from one of Austin’s most talented up-and-coming bands. Point, Robinsons.

For day 2 of our vacation from renovation we went to the Live Oak Brewing Company on the East side for the local microbrewery’s 15th anniversary celebration. I attended an eerily similar event last year which I blogged about here. The biggest difference between that event and this one is mostly (and by mostly, I mean totally) in the numbers (14 years vs.15 years). The party was pretty much identical to the previous celebration…from the music talent, to the weird school bus themed bounce house, to the tortilla wrapped bratwurst. But it was free beer (the best in Austin), free food and perfect weather…so not at all something at which to turn up your nose.

 

From there we wandered to campus to hear Minus the Bear play at 40 Acres Fest. The annual concert is free for all, and in the past has hosted much bigger players like Little Richard and The Roots. This year’s show was much more scaled down than others I had experienced, and probably drew about 1/4 of the crowd, though even then, I’d venture to guess there were 400 or so MTB fans in attendance… mostly (as to be expected) students. Heath and I felt like old codgers in our folding lawn chairs off to the side of most of the concert action, but still had to hand it to ourselves for making it out after several hours of day drinking.

Lucky for us, sound was still pitch perfect from our side seating…AND we got to see the most ridiculously huge Texas flag hanging from the main building and acting as a backdrop to the emo/rock music. So, no curtain hanging this weekend, but definite flag hanging for sure…in fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve met my Texas flag quota for the year.

On Sunday we finally broke. We had to stop at Home Depot to get a few knick knacks for some side projects we have planned for later in the week. After all, we’re only human and can’t be expected to stay away from our calling for long. So I guess the weekend wasn’t COMPLETELY without thought of home improvement projects.

To make amends for our infidelity, we opted to spend the later morning/early afternoon taking in Sunday brunch and cocktails at Nomad. The neighborhood bar has time and time again won awards from The Austin Chronicle for having the best bar staff and being one of the best neighborhood bars, and it’s my prediction it won’t be too long before it gets a nod for its brunch. The brunch, by Mark Rivas Catering, is $13 for all you can eat brunchy goodness that includes a waffle bar, omelet bar, fruit bar and 23480234234 other options that get me in a tizzy. Admittedly, I probably love it so much because it’s walking distance from the house and has an option for bottomless mimosas, but since moving to the new casa, it’s been tough to abstain from brunch binges at Nomad.

And just like that, our weekend was done. We tended to the chickens and watched the latest episode of Mad Men, but other than that the house was unchanged. On Monday morning, the old house looked just as she did on Friday afternoon.

I know when my mother said we should take time for ourselves, she didn’t so much mean “take time to party, and sleep in, and be lazy.” She meant take time to  travel and explore and experience new things, which is still on the docket for a weekend in the very near future; but heavens, I did enjoy my weekend of reckless disregard for my status as “homeowner” and drinking adult beverages with child carelessness.  Still, I might be a little excited about returning to my rightful role of diligent caretaker to the doodle manor in the coming days.