December 16, 2012 § Leave a Comment
As Christmas approaches, I’m missing California more and more. I love my home here, though … but it’s ok to be a little homesick.
One thing I am quite homesick for are my momma’s tacos.
She always makes them when we’re at home. And of course, we pull out our little collection of La Victorias from the fridge. My personal favorite is Salsa Brava, which I’ve found is much spicier when purchased in California.
Last Christmas was no different from any other time periods spent at home, and we set the table with boxwood and red-ribbon accents. Brikki had a friend over, and it was wonderful.
I will miss those tacos this year. I will miss my mom, dad, and sisters this Christmas. But I am grateful for what I do have: my husband! My husband’s family! My pup! And, of course, I’m grateful for having two of my sisters so close by. Though they will spend Christmas in California, knowing I get to see them year round makes the distance not sting so badly. I am truly blessed.
December 13, 2012 § 2 Comments
I hope you all will forgive my absence. I feel so bad about it! I think the truth is that a 1-hour commute to and from work has made me a little less inclined to spend free time on my computer and more anxious to savor precious time with my little family. But every time I blog, I realize how much I miss it. So please pretend it hasn’t been so long, and let’s pick up where we left off.
About, uh, two months ago now (sheesh), James and I had the splendid opportunity to take a quick trip home to California (James got a work invite to a press event, and I was his guest!). It was such a quick trip that it almost felt like a secret. We literally touched down in LA, had a quick couple of days, then turn around and left.
That Friday we landed, headed to our hotel, and my parents + Brikk met us for lunch. Ever since my family had brought it up what felt like a year ago or so at this point, I had been dying to try Umami Burger.
There are about a handful of locations within five miles of where we were staying. (Actually a Pasadena location just opened up! It wasn’t open at the time). So this a local chain, and a darn good one. We chose to head to the one at The Grove so we could follow lunch with some shopping.
As the name of the restaurant indicates, its focus is on deep, savory flavors. It is said that umami is one of the five basic tastes: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and, of course, umami, which can be translated from Japanese to mean “pleasantly savory.” This flavor profile was first proposed in 1908, according to my lengthy research on Wikipedia, and was officially added as a scientific term in 1925.
The restaurant boasts that it has mastered the art of “creating the perfect mouthful.” Their house-ground beef is fused with their Umami Master Sauce which is the base for each burger. Going over the menu took quite some time as I deliberated each beautifully described burger. At the end, I chose the Port and Stilton.
This burger has blue cheese, onions caramelized in port. It was rich, so deep.
This was probably one of the best burgers I ever had. I don’t think I’ve ever had a burger where I can taste how well thought out each flavor truly was. The meat was cooked to perfection and I could taste the subtle sweetness of the caramelized onions with the depth of the savory meat. The saltiness of the stilton was the perfect finish.
Next time I am in Pasadena, I’m going back for more! Have you been here? Did you enjoy it?
On a finishing note, I’m so grateful for this precious time spent with my parents and youngest sister. As it turns out, James and I won’t be able to head to California this Christmas. So this trip was truly a blessing. Thank you, Lord!
December 13, 2011 § 3 Comments
James and I hosted a little get together over the weekend in Tuscaloosa. The theme? Beer and cheese (two of my favorite things, of course).
This party is quite easy to throw, especially if you’re on a budget, like we are. We asked our friends to bring their favorite craft brews of choice, and we supplied the cheese.
My tablescape was easy. I used wooden cutting boards to create a rustic feel and allow the cheese to be the stars of the show. I put out a few more items (cherry tomatoes, olives, pigs in a blanket for a hearty snack) and I designed my own little cheese labels. I purchased a small rosemary tree (which I see as an investment because I can cook with it!) to bring the holiday spirit to the table. And I was inspired by the tree to pull off sprigs and use them as skewers for mozzarella (Thank you, Celebrate, for teaching me that little trick). And finally I created and printed out a sheet that suggested beer pairings for guests to use as a guide.
I also set up a bar, and asked everyone to place their empty bottles so we could admire what each person was drinking. And I set out a bottle opener and a little bowl for caps (to add to my collection, of course).
Host your own party! It is easy and inexpensive to pull off this time of year. And you can use my printables. Click here to download them.
Also — don’t forget to participate in my first giveaway! One lucky reader will win a $15 gift card to Whole Foods. Contest ends soon, so get your entries in asap. Check out the details here.
December 12, 2011 § 27 Comments
‘Tis the season, is it not?
Because I am so very grateful to you, my readers, and because it is oh so fun to give this time of year, I’m giving away a $15 gift card to Whole Foods to one reader! You can have a little fun and pick up a nice bottle of wine, some fancy cheese, or a six pack of craft beer. (Obviously those items would be the first on my shopping list.) Or you can use it toward your holiday meal planning/budget.
You can enter four ways. Each option counts as an entry, so you can have up to four entries altogether.
1. Comment on this post and tell me what special dish or meal is part of your holiday tradition. (Note: Liking this post does not count as an entry.)
2. Subscribe to cactus & kudzu. You can do so by clicking the follow button on the top left (if you’re a WordPress user), or you can click the signup button on the right toolbar under Email Subscription.
3. Tweet the following post to your Twitter followers: I hope I win the holiday giveaway at cactus & kudzu! @brettbralley: http://tinyurl.com/7zp9sdc
(Note: Be sure to include my Twitter handle (@brettbralley) in the Tweet!)
4. Post a link to this entry on your Facebook page. (Leave me an additional comment letting me know you posted it.)
Contest ends Tuesday, Dec. 20 at 12 p.m. central time. Winner will be announced Wednesday, Dec. 21, and the card should be in the mail shortly after!
December 9, 2011 § 2 Comments
…is to be with my family.
Here’s a beautiful memory: all of us Bralley girls in our jammies (except for Brikki, in her little Christmas dress) after a wonderful Christmas day. Daddy is behind the camera. (Sorry you’re not in this photo, Dad … I’m limited in the older photos that I have on hand.)
I’m headed home December 24, and I’ll be there until January 4. James is coming December 31, and he’ll fly back with me! It will be a wonderful Christmas break.