too good to eat

One of the projects I've vowed to attempt--and complete--this holiday season is a gingerbread house. Although Catcher and I will probably devour all the gumdrops and candy canes before the frosting is dry, I can't wait to spend an afternoon crafting our own little masterpiece. While dreaming of the perfect candy dream house, I convinced myself that a modern spin on the classic cottage is the way to go. The only problem, I discovered, is that this would require me to bake my own gingerbread and cut the pieces into precise shapes following a modern gingerbread house "plan." With my patience plus the attention span of a three year-old, I think I'll pick up a kit at the Target this year and save my architectural adventures for another time. Maybe next year I'll be up to speed with these guys.

Images from Grassroots Modern.


wrapped up

My sister-in-law snapped this picture of us on the farm this weekend. I wanted to share it as proof of the cold:


one thanksgiving, three ways

For the past six years we have celebrated Thanksgiving with my family at my brother's house in Maryland. The whole thing started because my brother got the cooking gene in the family--although I'm not sure where it originated--and he and his wife love to entertain. Every year the stakes were raised, the turkeys multiplied and the side dishes became more avant-garde. Another thing that happened every year was either a new addition to the family was present or someone was announcing her pregnancy (or temporarily keeping it a secret as I did drinking cranberry--sans vodka--martinis two years ago). But this we year broke with tradition when we decided to stay put on our new home turf. I missed the Thanksgiving night Christmas movie and our Black Friday shopping excursion with a million kids in tow, but we got to celebrate in a different way.

Thursday morning started bright and early in downtown Austin with Operation Turkey. We lined up with 1,000 other volunteers to help prepare boxed meals to feed the less fortunate. Alex and I weren't sure what to expect, but it turned out to be fun for us and the kids, and it was a great way to start our holiday celebration.

Following our little adventure, it was time to come home and get ready for our own Thanksgiving celebration. Scout conveniently fell asleep in the car on the way home--all the excitement of hanging out at a bar for a couple hours knocked her out--so we had a good excuse to freshen up...and catch the first half of the Packer game on TV before joining up with Alex's family for Thanksgiving Part II.

On Sunday our Thanksgiving adventures took us to another Wheat family gathering on a farm in Luling, Texas. On the drive out there, I felt a true sense of the Texas spirit as we drove past longhorns and cattle ranches, and I'm pretty sure I saw Jett Rink's estate along the way. After spending the afternoon on a wide open Texas farm, I can tell you that 1) Texas is like you've pictured it, and 2) it does get cold here. And windy. Very windy.

Cheers to new adventures!


holiday hair

Before kicking into the high holiday season, we had to get Catcher ready with a holiday haircut. On Wednesday morning we ventured down South Congress to Birds Barbershop for the kidcut, $17. This place is so cool--I might start going there for the ladybird just for the free Shiner Bock--that I was tempted to have our tatted stylist give Catcher the kid's mohawk. It's only hair, right? Relax. I didn't. Here's one last look at goldilocks before:

And here is he after (below). Catcher had become somewhat attached to his longer hair, so I had to promise him a trip to Big Top Candy Shop to get him out the door. The haircut went well; the hard part of the morning was spending 45 minutes hanging out on Congress waiting for the candy shop to open.

Someone was a little upset and thought that 11:00 would never get there, but once it did $1.27 in mixed gummies made the trip all worth it.


top chef

Stop me if you've heard this one before: I can't get my kids to eat their vegetables. If they're hidden in a chicken pot pie or presented in the form of sweet potato tater tots, I can usually get away with it, but put a pile of good old-fashioned vegetables on a plate and the coup begins. Last week Scout threw such a fit that she made herself throw-up after I "hid" peas in her macaroni and cheese. I tried the Jessica Seinfeld thing of pureeing vegetables and mixing them into a baked pasta dish, and it works 3 out of 5 times, but today I resorted to the age-old art of bribing with Catcher: "You can't have a cookie unless you eat your veggies for lunch."

He obliged and raised the stakes when he presented his own creation--grilled peanut butter and jelly with veggies on the inside. If you don't believe me, here's proof:

What's more surprising is that he actually ate the entire sandwich (crust included!) and said it was yummy in his tummy! Anything for a cookie, I guess...


punch it

When assignments were given out for our Thanksgiving dinner this year, Alex and I were handed "beverages." Normally I would relish this opportunity since I'm not much of a cook and not interested in reinventing the mashed potato; however, shopping for wine--because what other beverage is there for Thanksgiving--isn't so much fun when you're pregnant. I hope everyone enjoys the Pinots and the Blancs without me while I'm sipping sparkling cranberry punch with the kids. I think I found a pretty decent recipe, but I suppose the ten-and-under crowd at the gathering will be the real judge.

Incidentally, there are way more tasty-sounding punches with alcohol than without, so this post is dedicated to the drinks I might have made this year (recipes from bon appetit). If you're in charge of beverages for your holiday meal, give one of these a try...and tell me it's not as good as it sounds.

Pomegranate-Champagne Punch



  • Bring 1/2 cup water and sugar to boil in small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Cool syrup completely.
  • Combine Champagne, rum, and pomegranate juice in punch bowl. Add enough syrup to sweeten to taste. Mix in lemon slices, pomegranate seeds, and mint leaves. Add ice block to bowl.

    Napa Valley Winter Punch


    • 1 1/2 3- to 4-inch-long cinnamon sticks
    • 2 whole nutmegs
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole allspice berries
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 2 cups Simple Syrup
    • 2 1/4 cups Charbay Rum or 10 Cane Rum
    • 1 1/4 cups fresh lemon juice
    • 1 1/4 cups fresh orange juice
    • 1 teaspoon Fee Brothers Peach Bitters or other bitters
    • 1 ice block
    • Lemon and orange slices


    • Place cinnamon and nutmeg in resealable plastic bag; crack into pieces using mallet or rolling pin. Transfer to spice grinder. Add allspice; blend to coarse powder. Transfer 1 tablespoon to shallow dish; mix in 1/3 cup sugar. Set spiced sugar aside.
    • Stir remaining spice powder in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until just beginning to smoke, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool 5 minutes. Repeat heating and cooling process 3 more times until spices are very fragrant but not burned. Add syrup; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Strain through sieve into bowl. Cool.
    • Mix 3/4 cup spice syrup, rum, lemon juice, orange juice, and bitters in punch bowl. Add ice and citrus slices. Rub 1 orange slice around rim of 8 glasses to moisten; dip glasses into spiced sugar. Place glasses around punch bowl.

      Or try out the good old Dark n' Stormy since family gatherings tend toward the dark and stormy:

      Dark n' Stormy

      2 ounces Gosling's Black Seal or other dark rum
      3 ounces Barrett's Ginger Beer or other ginger beer
      Lime for garnish

      In a highball glass filled with cracked ice, combine rum and ginger beer and stir gently. Garnish with a lime wheel and serve.


christmas in july

Our first Christmas season in Texas officially began this afternoon at the lighting of a local tree. It was 82 degrees. But there was a fire blazing and marshmallows to roast. Happy Holiday Season!


out of the box

After finishing the headboard last night and feeling extremely accomplished, today I decided to finally open the box containing my Roche Bobois eBay purchase from a year ago. Now that I've caught this project bug, I'm ready to move on to my next victim. Standing by to help was my [second] assistant Catcher.

After dragging the box out of the closet and opening it, we had to assemble the actual chair (*note: assembly still incomplete). In our first attempt we had the actual seat and the seat back in the wrong places, but we quickly figured it out. Once we had the seat together we had to figure out how it attaches to the base. It was backwards on the first attempt, but we weren't actually screwing it into place, so no stress. Then I dragged out my Chaing Mai fabric to see if it would cover the chair, and I'm no upholstery expert (despite my recent headboard success) but I think there's enough to cover it (yay!). I won't attempt the recovering myself since my skills are limited to a staple gun, so I'll have to find a good source here in Austin.

In the meantime, here's a look at how the assembly went down (these pictures may be out of order because I'm blogging from my phone, but you get the idea).


what took so long?

The headboard project is complete, and the only thing I have to say is: what took so long [to get started]? After hanging wallpaper, something as simple as lining up two pieces of fabric shouldn't have been intimidating in the least, but I didn't realize how easy the headboard would be. I'll post pictures of the big ta-da, but not until after I find a new duvet because what we have right now isn't working for me. There's so much going on with the Josef Frank pattern that I need to find a simple, white duvet that won't compete with the bold fabric. Our total cost, by the way, was under $100. The bulk of the project was the $64 that I spent on the fabric on eBay. The batting was $16 at Michael's and the plywood was $12 at the Home Depot. Considering the fabric itself retails for $250/yard, I think we did pretty well. Now I get to move on to the fun part--finding a new duvet. Here two of the best (as in simple yet good quality) that I've found:

PB Essential Duvet Cover and Sham, Pottery Barn

Classic White Bed Linens, Crate&Barrel

Below is one last look at my inspiration for the project, originally published in Metropolitan Home. I won't post this picture beside my own "after" since our headboard is about 1/3 the height of this one and not as dramatic, but I like to keep it on hand for reference.

Roseland Greene


candy of the day

If you ever find yourself pregnant during the holidays, as I seem to do every other year, I advise you not to visit the holiday candy aisle at the Target. While I should have been concentrating on toilet paper, diapers and deodorant I became distracted by the rows of Skittles, M&M's (did you know they make a cinnamon variety?), Reese's and Mike & Ike's all dressed up in shades of green and red. Although Catcher was there to remind me that candy was not on the list, I couldn't resist an old holiday favorite--Brach's Christmas Nougats. I realize the candy is totally grandma and not considered edible by some, but I'm the girl who loves candy corn and Peeps and once ate five pounds of gummy bears in less than a week (gross, but true). I've rarely met a candy I don't like, and today I walked away with three bags of delicious holiday goodness that probably won't last until Thanksgiving. 'Tis the season to be merry, right?


downtown turkey

For the past five years I've been saying that I want to volunteer to help feed the homeless on Thanksgiving, and this year I'm actually making good on my word. Next Thursday morning you won't find me brining and stuffing a turkey at home--not that you ever would anyway--but the family will be in downtown Austin preparing meals for those who don't have the chance to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner. Alex will be hauling turkeys, the kids will be decorating plates, and I'll be dishing out the sweet potatoes (or something like that).

Our orientation for Operation Turkey was at 6:00pm this evening at The Parish on 6th Street in downtown Austin. Here's the funny part of the story: when I got the email saying it was at some place called the Parish, I assumed it was a "church-like" establishment as I told Alex on our way with the two kids in tow. I was wrong. It was at a bar. We were the annoying parents who brought our kids to a bar. And then we got them all cracked out on cranberry juice thinking it would keep them quiet...15 minutes later Catcher and Scout were laughing hysterically while wrapping themselves in the long velvet drapery covering the street-side windows.

Needless to say we had to escape early, but I think we gathered the important information--Thursday morning/8:30am/you're on your own for parking--and I'm looking forward to another fun family adventure. I hope this one goes over better than our trip to the pumpkin patch.

P.S. The Parish actually looked like a pretty cool place; one I would like to visit without the kids (and without a baby in my belly).

Austin Vittles


and for my next trick...

Could it be that nesting thing kicking in? Six months into this pregnancy, and my brain is flaring with new ideas, which are actually old ideas, of projects that must be done. The first is the headboard. The second is recovering the vintage Roche Bobois chair I bought on eBay somewhere between the first and second year that our house was sitting on the market in Charlotte. The chair was delivered to my doorstep and promptly found its way into the attic where it sat until we loaded up the PODs for Austin. It is now sitting--still in its box--in the kids' closet. I've never even taken it out to look at it, but from what I remember of the pictures on eBay, it looked something like this:

Mine is a charcoal grey--I do remember that much--that I've imagined recovering in my Schumacher Chiang Mai Dragon fabric that was another eBay find. Of course, I don't know if I even have enough fabric to cover the chair. Maybe I should start with taking the chair out of the box...after I finish the headboard project.


birds of a feather

It's time for a new project. This afternoon Alex took both kids on a playdate, so I was given the gift of two uninterrupted hours of silence. During that time, as I was reading on my bed, I realized (simultaneously) that I need a headboard and a new project. I haven't decorated the apartment because I don't want to deal with repairing tiny holes and repainting walls before our lease is up, so I've been going a little stir crazy on the home front. Maybe my mood is a reflection of my new stay-at-home status, but either way it's time to create something with this amazing Josef Frank fabric that has been folded in my closet for over a year. I found an unbelievable deal on two remnants on eBay and purchased them with the intention of using it to cover a DIY headboard. 

The idea came from an article I saw in Metropolitan Home years ago, and I think it's finally time to tackle the project. We--and I say "we" because my assistant Alex is getting roped into this whether he likes it or not--have very little room for error on this one. The total length of fabric we have is about 2 1/2 inches longer than what we need for a headboard the width of our king bed. Basically I'm expecting some serious tugging and pulling and maybe a couple expletives about someone's stapling gun technique (I'm just saying...).

By bringing the fabric out of the closet and measuring it, I've already completed Step 1. Tomorrow I will venture out to Michael's for some sort of fabric adhesive (to attach the two remnants) and batting. Then I'll have my assistant drive me to Home Depot when he returns on Sunday for a gigantic piece of plywood that will become our headboard. Stay tuned, and wish me--I mean us--luck!


furry ghosts

It rained today. As I watched giant drops of happiness splash off of my ghost chairs, which are temporarily serving as balcony seating, I remembered my idea from the past about how to decorate my dining room in the future. Ghost chair + sheepskin throw = cozy and chic dining for the family. Unfortunately I can't take credit for the idea, but I do know a great source for an inexpensive sheepskin (hello IKEA!). Here's a look at the dining room of fellow Texan Judy Aldridge, where I fell in love with this juxtaposition of textures:

Images from CasaSugar

And while I'm on the subject of sheepskin, here are two other ideas that I found too cute and cozy to resist:

apartment therapy

The Second Rvivl


the most wonderful time of the year

Switching from daylight saving time back to standard time is a bit of a hoax for those of us with young children. That "extra hour of sleep" is a complete farce. The only extra hour you get is entertaining the kids when they wake up at 5:30am. However, having the sun set an hour earlier reminds me that we're in the throws of the holiday season. And who doesn't love a good holiday season? These are the indicators that Christmas is right around the corner: today I saw my first Starbucks holiday cup and my first Christmas commercial; the Central Market is decorated in wreaths and garland and the Target is stocked with red and green M&M's. I feel like I hardly had time to enjoy the pumpkin spice latte before it's time to move on to gingerbread, but 'tis the season.


lock in

This morning it was 39 degrees in Austin (no joke!) so I decided to postpone our walk around the lake until this afternoon when we were expecting a high of 70. The weather could not have been better, and a 3:00pm walk is always great for killing time with toddlers. I'll skip over the walk itself and go straight to the good part of the story...

Getting everyone back in the car after our walk is always an ordeal, and today was no different. I secured Scout in her seat and, with Catcher by my side, packed the stroller in the back. I closed the rear door to our Explorer, and the moment it shut I heard a distinct "click." Scout had just locked herself in the car. Yes. I let my 15 month-old daughter hold the keys because she was fussy and cranky and screaming for them as I was struggling to get her to sit down in her car seat. My first thought was "Seriously?" followed quickly by "What now?" My phone was in the car, of course, so Catcher and I jogged over to a nice-looking gentleman who was stretching his legs a few cars away and asked him if he had a cell phone I could borrow. I explained my situation, so he called 311--supposedly they'll send someone out to unlock your car in such circumstances--and he walked back to the car with us as he told the operator our story. I peered in the window where Scout was sitting, and she looked out at me: smiling; keys in hand. For a second I tried a ridiculous sign language move to tell her to press the "unlock" button, but that didn't work (surprise!). At this point the gentleman told me they would have to send the police out to break into my car. Whatever. At least I didn't have to throw a brick through the windshield (and at least it wasn't 111 degrees).

Then Scout pressed the panic button on the car. The horn began blaring and Catcher asked me why Scout did that. I looked in at Scout and she was laughing and waving the keys. When Catcher was just a day old and still in the hospital, I remember a funny cross-eyed look he gave me with his hands up to his mouth indicating he was hungry. I'll never forget that look, and now I have a look from Scout that I, too, will remember forever--those mischievous eyes! Throwing my hands up in exhaustion and wondering when the police would get there--and whether or not they would destroy the lock on my car and how much that was going to cost me--I moved around to the back of the Explorer and "pop:" Scout had pressed the blue button that opens the upper half of the "trunk." Six months pregnant, I wiggled through and grabbed the keys out of Scout's hand in a thrill of victory. I signaled to my helper (who had to walk away to be heard on the phone over the blaring horn) that I had the keys and everything was cool, and I quickly strapped Catcher in his seat with the keys clenched in my fist. How's that for an exciting five minutes?

On the drive home Catcher told me that Scout can't hold the keys anymore but he can because he won't lock the door...I think I'll be holding onto them myself for a while.


coffee on congress

This morning before taking Alex to the airport, our family took advantage of the quintessential fall morning over coffee and breakfast tacos at Jo's on South Congress. Catcher and Scout got to pet a dog while Alex and I enjoyed the bright sunshine and cool breeze. The chill atmosphere, city scenery and perfect weather reminded us of why we moved to Austin in the first place.

The breakfast tacos were pretty great, too.


monster cookie

I've been baking the same chocolate chip cookies--Nestle Toll House recipe--since I was 14 years old. Although I've evolved the recipe slightly over the years by using Kosher salt and two teaspoons of vanilla instead of one (there's my secret) I decided it was time to try something else. Last week I came across a recipe from the new book by Momofuku Milk Bar, the cornflake chocolate chip marshmallow cookie, and I thought this could be the cookie to take me through the next twenty years.

My sous chef, Catcher, doesn't like chocolate, so we had to substitute peanut butter for chocolate chips. After two days and two trips to the grocery store for the right ingredients--what is milk powder and how is parchment paper different from wax paper?--we were finally ready to embark on our mission to create our new favorite cookie.

Not to spoil the surprise, but sometimes you should stick with what you know.

The first batch: oops...a little well done. They were immediately wrapped up in the parchment paper on which they were baked and dumped in the trash can.

The second batch: slightly better looking than the first.

Here's a look at the final product, but what what you can't tell from the picture, of course, is that they look better than they taste (which really isn't saying much). When Catcher gave the rest of his cookie to Scout after only two bites, I knew something was up. I tasted the reject and understood his lack of enthusiasm regarding the cookies that took three hours to make. They are too crisp and too sweet. The marshmallow seems over-melted and the butter is a bit overwhelming. Of course I take full ownership of the snafu and do not blame the recipe, but who's going to eat these 11 giant cookies?


halloween, part II: block party crashers

The Wheats are back! One thing that Alex and I enjoy doing--it's kind of our thing--is going to events or parties where there is free food and free alcohol being served. In some circles this type of behavior could be considered creepy, but Alex has that personable, funny guy Vince Vaughn thing about him, and we don't take ourselves too seriously. We haven't crashed a wedding (yet), but we've weaseled our way into charity events, a going away party, store openings, wine tastings, launch parties, and now we have a block party to add to our resume.

After Catcher's Mach 5 meltdown on the front porch last year, I was ready to write off Halloween until the kids were out of the trick-or-treating stage. But yesterday turned out to be the best Halloween since 2002 (which, if you didn't know, is when Alex and I met). We decided to take the kids to our friends' neighborhood since the candy there would be more reliable than anything you might find in our apartment complex. Although we had no intentions of meeting up with our friends, we ended up running into them--and subsequently crashing their block party--and sealed the deal on the second-best Halloween ever (wink!).

Catcher as the surfer guy--who was quickly dubbed Spicoli--followed by Scout the shark on their way to an exciting night in Pemberton Heights. Spooky!

Smile for the camera! Catcher was more interested in "hitting" his first house than posing for pictures once he saw other kids running wild with sacks of candy.

A quick family shot outside of the first home we visited (the people are so nice here!). Noticeably absent from the picture is Catcher, who thought that we were supposed to go into people's houses after taking their candy. He got an extra piece of candy instead. The mom of the house thought he was a girl.

Scout chilling in the street: she was more interested in rolling around on the ground than going after candy. Occasionally she would roar at the other trick-or-treaters, and a ten year-old girl told me she "liked my shark."

Catcher quickly got the hang of things and began skipping around shouting, "Let's go to the next house! Let's go to the next house!"

The highlight of the night was a giant bouncy-house-slide-thing in someone's front yard: block party bliss. Not pictured are the free beers that Alex happily accepted, the pizza and cookies that Catcher enjoyed and the other neighborhood festivities that added up to way more fun than a fire truck in Chantilly.