June 30, 2012

Everything's Bigger in Texas

Hawaii is a great place to live. No doubt about it. We get to enjoy beautiful valleys and lush green mountains, the crystal blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, and sunshine and trade winds almost year-round. But there’s no good queso here, amigos, and that’s a problem.

You see, there are certain foods that I took for granted while growing up in the Lone Star State. Some originated in Texas, some didn’t. Some are sweet, some are savory. Some are healthy, some are junky. (Just kidding. They’re all junky.) Regardless of their nutritional composition, enjoying these foods in manageable moderation has become a Texas visit tradition. Here are a handful of culinary delights that populate my “must-eat” list once I touch down at IAH.

Tex-Mex Queso
My favorite type of food, no preguntas, is Tex-Mex. Give me some warm tortilla chips, nice mild queso, refried beans, and rice, and I’m happy. In my hometown, we are surrounded by hole-in-the-wall Tex-Mex restaurants that know how to make the perfect queso. On Oahu, we’re not as lucky. There are a few restaurants that have nailed nearly everything else, but I have yet to find UNO that makes good queso. I’ve been searching for almost four years, and I won't give up the fight.

H-E-B Blueberry Muffins
From an entire genre to a rather specific grocery item found at only one particular grocery chain, the blueberry muffins found in H-E-B bakeries are to die for. I think I discovered them during my college years when I’d spend summers at home, but I can’t really remember life before them. If you haven’t had one and you live within driving distance of an H-E-B, buckle up and go buy (at least!) one. Tip: Unwrap the muffin before putting it in the microwave for about 30 seconds, then enjoy it with a fork and a nice, cold glass of milk. Thank me later.

Luby’s Macaroni and Cheese
Yes, Luby’s is a cafeteria. Yes, that means most of its patrons have silver hair and are eating dinner around 4:00 pm. Well hey. I’ve got some grays going on and I’m certainly not too cool for the early bird crowd. Those of us who grew up going to Luby’s for lunch after church on Sunday can agree: It just doesn’t get any better than a fresh batch of Luby’s macaroni and cheese. While I occasionally alternate the second side items that share the stage with my fried fish and macaroni, I’ve been ordering basically the same thing there as long as I can remember. One day Bryson will have his very own tray to scoot down the line. I see red Jell-O and lots more macaroni in our future.

Blue Bell Ice Cream
Just over 20 states are lucky enough to have Blue Bell in their stores, and Hawaii isn't one of them. Based in Brenham, there’s just no ice cream like it. While my heart belongs to Cookies ‘n’ Cream, you really can’t go wrong with any flavor. And there are oh-so-many to pick from these days! This week I found myself playing tourist in the freezer aisle, taking a picture of all of the creamy goodness. Couldn’t help it. Whether it’s a half-gallon or a pint, it takes more self-control than I have to stop after just one serving. Or three.

Shipley Donuts (AKA Shipley’s)
I can't tell you how thankful I am that I didn’t realize we had a Shipley’s in Fort Worth until I was halfway finished with grad school. I couldn't have spent enough time at the TCU Rec Center to make up for the sausage and cheese kolaches I would've consumed. Most of my friends in Hawaii don’t even know what a kolache is. (I’ve asked.) While the donuts are light, fluffy, and delish, it’s the kolaches that I craved most while eight months pregnant and an ocean away. Whether I’m just arriving off the redeye or just about to fly back to HNL, nine times out of ten, you’ll find a Shipley’s bag in my carry-on.

Honorable Mention
This list is not complete without mentioning the following regional restaurants that do not currently have real estate in the middle of the Pacific: Sonic, Chick-fil-A, Whataburger (pronounced Waterburger, for those of you who don't know any better), Carrabba’s, Jason’s Deli, and Panera Bread. Maybe one day this aloha marketplace will realize your value, old friends.

It’s worth repeating: I realize the foods I’ve listed here are not healthy foods. They all spend most of their time in that tiny triangle atop the (old) food pyramid. That’s why it’s a good thing that they’re only available to me a few times a year.

I mean, I do make an effort to exercise most days of the week, but it's still nice to know that if my jeans fit a little snugger after a nice, long visit home, it's just because of the humidity. That's why they say everything's bigger in Texas.


P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!

queso photo credit: _4cryingoutloud via photopin cc
Shipley's photo credit: chiolachic via photopin cc

June 7, 2012

It's my birthday!

Little 1988 me telling 2012 me that I'm three years from 30.
Today is my 27th birthday. Well, technically as I'm writing this, it's June 7th in Hawaii. BUT. My heart was born on (and will always be set to) Texas Time, which means today is June 8th.

As I think back on my 27th year of life, there are two events that stand out the most. Both events involved plenty of hours in the hospital, and both events reminded me just how precious life is.

Event #1
I spent most of my 26th birthday in the ICU just down the road from where I grew up, praying that my father-in-law's health would continue to improve. He had suffered a massive heart attack just two days earlier, and we got on a plane in Honolulu that night, not knowing whether or not he'd be alive when we landed in Houston.

It was emotional week for all of us. You see, June 8th isn't just my birthday, it's his too. Since he's been in my life since I was 13 years old, we'd spent half my life celebrating this one special day as "birthday buddies." We visited him daily, and he miraculously continued to improve. As the week went on, I joked that if he'd wanted to spend our birthday together, he could've just asked.

If we didn't already realize it, or had let it slip to the back of our minds, this scary, surreal situation that took place one year ago reminded us all that life. is. precious.

Event #2
Without a doubt, the highlight of my year (nay...LIFE!), arrived on October 24th, just a few months into my 27th year.

Bryson is the man. He's precious in every sense of the word. Somehow we were chosen to be entrusted with this sweet little soul, and let me tell you. Being a mom (while crazy and yes, monotonous at times) is like the gift that keeps on giving. He brings so much joy to our lives that I sometimes can't stand it. And then I have to talk through gritted teeth.

Being responsible for an entire person - emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically, financially - is an overwhelming and awesome responsibility. It's a gift.  So while B will always be our little anniversary present, I also consider him birthday present this year. Just by being, he reminds me on a daily basis that life. is. precious.

Moving Forward: Carpe-ing Kairoses
I have to admit that, while I've treasured so many moments of this past year, I haven't been as mindful and present as I'd like to be. I'd see or hear something about spirituality, introspection, and reflection, and yawn inside. (Sure. that could be because I was yawning on the outside too, but hey. We seem to have our sleep situation under control for now.)

Over the past few weeks, I've spent some time thinking about ways to be more present. Something clicked, and instead of rolling my eyes at the mushy-gushy talk of self-awareness, I opened my eyes to it. I've read a little, watched a little, and thought a lot. One mantra that stuck out was shared by Deepak Chopra:

"The past is gone. The future isn't here. Now I'm free of both."

While fully living in the present is an admirable goal, it's not always easy to do. I read a great blog post titled "Don't Carpe Diem" when Bryson was a newborn, and I couldn't have said it better myself.

She distinguishes between Cairos time - "the hard, slow passing time that we parents often live in" and Kairos time- "God's time...those magical moments in which time stands still." She ends by offering up some wise (and perhaps more importantly) realistic advice, which I've adopted as my goal for this next year of life:

"Carpe a couple of Kairoses a day."

So, that's it! After a memorable year of ups, downs, and all-arounds, I've developed a new appreciation for life at its very beginning and near its possible end. I've become a mom, found more meaning and fulfillment in my work, and learned to be content in my circumstances.

Life is good.

Happy birthday to me, and to the rest of my June 8th birthday buddies (I personally know at least NINE!). And happy 27th anniversary of having FOUR girls to look out for, Mom and Dad :)

May we all carpe some serious Kairoses today, and each day after that.

P.S.  This post is not related to my business, which is about helping bright entrepreneurs attract their dream clients, one brilliant message at a time. HOWEV - if you like my writing and want help with your own, sign up for free tips at www.nikkielledgebrown.com!