Friday, November 20, 2015

Perfectly Practical #225 - Tis the Season for Fruitcake

I was sent a Deluxe Fruitcake for review.  All opinions and lack of self-control are my own.
In May, I was asked to review a Collin Street Bakery Pecan Praline Cheesecake.  It was so good that this summer, when Engineer was passing by one of their bakeries while driving home from a business trip, he stopped in and bought another one...along with one of every kind of cookie they make.   We don't just talk about these products folks, we are honest-to-goodness customers.

So when I had a request to write another review for Collin Street, I jumped on it like a duck on a June Bug.  This time I was sent a Deluxe Fruitcake to try. 

I feel like fruitcake gets a bad rap. 

Johnny Carson quipped that there is really only one fruitcake in the world, and it gets regifted by everyone year after year.

Old Aunt Ethel's fruitcake becomes a humorous part of family folklore when she sends what can only be described as a semi-edible brick disguised as a fruitcake, annually to your house.

Then there is always the possibility of using a fruitcake as a doorstop.  Ba-dum-ching!
It's unfair really, to lump all fruitcakes in together.
They most certainly are not made equally.Collin Street Bakery's fruitcakes are no joke.

For instance, did you know that Collin Street Bakery were the first ones to ship fruitcakes by mail order?  They have been using the same recipe for 115 years and are the gold-standard in fruitcakes.

What makes fruitcake perfectly practical?  I'm glad you asked.
I really feel like fruitcakes are the perfect holiday gift:  they are almost impossible to damage in transit, they are great to serve any time of day to holiday guests, they go with a wide variety of hot or cold alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, and nothing screams "Tis the Season" like a fruitcake.

I have tried my fair share of inferior fruitcakes and for a good portion of my life, I may have even snickered at fruitcake jokes in agreement with their tellers, but ever since trying CSB's fruitcake years ago, I am a fan.
I saw this picture and had to go grab a slice while I typed.  Pardon the crumbs on the keyboard.
I hosted my Bible study group this past week and wanted to serve the fruitcake to my girlfriends.  Some were very familiar with Collin Street's confections (one of them had lived in Corsicana where the bakery's headquarters is) and others had never tried fruitcake stating that it "looked scary."  I am happy to report that my girlfriend who was fearful of the cake actually thought it was delicious and that she would definitely eat it again.

Here's what you need to know about CSB's Fruitcake:

What it isn't:

It isn't bitter.
It isn't too sweet.
It isn't dark and stodgy.
It isn't full of alcohol (although there are tips on their website on how to "doctor" it up.)
It isn't your Ol' Aunt Ethel's brick.

What it is:

It is unbelievably chock full of fruit and nuts.
It is very dense and moist.
It is beautiful and well-packaged.
It is a good value for money.
It is decadent and more-ish!

If you have a person on your Christmas gift list who is difficult to buy for, get them this fruitcake.
If you have a person on your Christmas gift list who has everything, get them this fruitcake.
If you have a person on your Christmas gift list who lives far away, get them this fruitcake.
Basically, get one for anyone on your gift list with taste buds - and while you're at it, order one for yourself!

Then boil the kettle, have a cup of tea and think of how much better that cuppa will be served with a slice of scrumptious Collin Street Bakery Deluxe Fruitcake.

Collin Street Bakery has kindly given my readers a special offer.  Thanks Collin Street Bakery!

Use the keycode
for free shipping on orders over $50.
Offer good through November 23-27.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Madly in Love - Ballet Edition

We all get the warm fuzzies when we conjure images of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker in our minds.  The beautiful costumes, the stunning music, and the athleticism of the dancers all culminate in a timeless and beloved balletic masterpiece.   

My Momma took me to see The Nutcracker when I was very young.  I have fond memories of that very first experience and I have seen the show 3 times since and still, I am enamored with it.

Yes, I do have a favorite part (thanks for asking) and it is the Arabian Dance.  No matter the company or the choreography, that particular dance is, in my opinion, the show-stopper.

I was very fortunate to receive 2 complimentary tickets as an US Family Guide Blogger to the Moscow Ballet's production in Houston this past weekend.  We purchased two more tickets so that we could go as a family and Diva could bring a friend.  This was the first time either Diva or Engineer had seen it and as expected, they loved it.

This production was not just full of great dancers, elaborate sets, and fabulous costumes, it was also a charity event.  Houston is a major worldwide hub for human trafficking.  Sad, but unfortunately, true.  That is why Houston Baptist University hosted the Moscow Ballet in aid of the Houston based charity Free the Captives.  

Prior to the performance I was surrounded by families bringing in their little girls dressed in beautiful Christmas dresses and sweet ballerina costumes.  I watched as my own daughter and her friend safely wandered the theatre's lobby under our watchful eyes.  All the while, I was thinking of the girls we were supporting through our tickets.  Girls who were ripped from their homes and sold.  
Think about that a moment. 

I cannot fathom the devastation. 

The target ages of trafficked girls are between 12 and 14; that puts Diva squarely in the range of the horrific ordeal.  This isn't a problem that is in a far away land, this is happening in our backyards all over our great nation - the land of the free.

What a juxtaposition to watch a show about a little girl protected by her soldier with an audience full of safe and secure little girls while somewhere in the shadows of the city, girls were being trafficked.

I applaud the Moscow Ballet, HBU, and Free the Captives for bringing such a darkness into the light.  Those of us in attendance were moved because we have daughters or are daughters or love someone's daughter.  Through this production and charity, we were also able to love and support those who were captives.  They are, after all, somebody's daughter.

Please consider donating to Free the Captives and/or supporting the Moscow Ballet when they come to a city near you.

Here is a link to their schedule.

1-4-3 EM for willingly taking your girls to see this production and DM for being my little girl.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Harry Connick, Jr.

From the first peppy handclap of the first track, "I Like It When You Smile" I was hooked on the new Harry Connick, Jr. album.  But that was no surprise since I have been a HCJ fan from way back.

I was introduced to Harry's album "She" in college by my friend Jason and fell in love...with the music, not Jason.  "She" and his "Blue Light, Red Light" are two of my favorite albums by any artist.  Ever.

Harry is even a part of our Christmas tradition.  We wake up early, start the coffee, and put "When My Heart Finds Christmas" on the stereo while we open gifts.

Since college, I have bought nearly every one of Mr. Connick's albums, even the experimental ones.  The man isn't afraid to take risks - one can look at the album "Star Turtle" and know that.

Some may consider the pop, reggae, disco, blue grass, soul, and even touches of marching band music references in "That Would Be Me" a little risky.  I think it shows he is willing to commit to his creative evolution. 

Each song of the new album has its own story to tell and its own distinct flavor, yet it still is a true representation of Harry.  Every track seems to let the listener in on a very personal conversation with Harry. 

He is an incredible songwriter, storyteller, and instrumentalist besides being a top notch crooner.  (Ladies, I dare you to watch the honey that is "Danny Boy" drip from his lips in the film "Memphis Belle" and tell me you are not a fan.)

"That Would Be Me" is another great studio album from Harry Connick Jr.and an instant classic.

If you'd like to connect with Harry or buy his album, here are his links:

 * Official Harry Connick Jr website:

 I participated in the That Would Be Me album review program as a member of One2One Network. I was provided an album to review but all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

3 + 3 in 300sqft Week 7

Engineer in his king-of-the-castle pose

We closed on both houses!  We no longer own property in Louisiana and are now officially members of the Clear Lake community.  Woo-hoo!

In the year and a bit that we lived in Bossier City, we never settled on a church.  That was hard for us since we had come from a church that we were very involved in and loved.  We visited several churches in different denominations, but never felt like we connected to any of them.  There was always something to be gleaned from each service but never a sense of belonging.

After being in Clear Lake less than 24 hours, we found our church home and have attended there ever since.  If that isn't God's goodness, I don't know what is.

Not only have we found the church but Diva is helping with a children's group, is involved with her youth group, and participates in the youth choir.  Engineer and I will be joining the choir once things settle down and will be joining a new Sunday School class.  I'm looking forward to joining the quilting group as soon as I get the chance.

In a neighboring village/town/hamlet...they all run together around here really, there is a food truck park.  We had never been to one before and were all too happy to sit outside and try what was on offer.  Like this bit of deliciousness - Cajun Crawfish Poutine.  It looks like a hot mess but I assure you, it was AWESOME!  I had heard our Canadian friends talk about poutine for years and had never had it.  I'm pretty sure theirs never had shrimp and crawfish on it though.

Engineer and Diva had their introduction to sailing.  They have heard the sea's siren song and are smitten.  More lessons are to follow.

Engineer went to a UFC match with a colleague.  It turns out that his company's investors have box seats at the arena so he was watching the fight in style.

Work has begun on the house.  Roofers, painters, yard guys, and various other tradesmen have crawled in, over, and around our house beginning the day after we bought it.  That is in an effort to get everything ready before our things arrive on the 20th.  Fingers crossed, they will all be finished by then.

If you'd like to read about our previous weeks in the hotel room, here are the links:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4 

Week 5 and 6

Friday, October 9, 2015

3 + 3 in 300sqft Week 5 & 6

Engineer daydreaming about sailboats
Weeks 5 & 6 in the hotel room are going to be logged together.  Lots went on, but since no one was actually in the room on week 6, we all had a little reprieve from living on top of one another...aaah, the gift of space.

As a bonus, because the um was made from yarn, it was really lightweight.
 For the most part, our week was quiet until the weekend.  At some point though I decided to make a mum for Diva for Homecoming.  As I have no idea how to make a mum and craft like a one-armed walrus, I thought I would knit a mum.  Why I chose to do that the day before she needed it, I have no idea.  I found a lovely yarn shop in League City run by an even lovelier lady who, after hearing the desperation in my voice over the phone, agreed to help me with my ridiculous undertaking.  She now has a fan and a customer in me.

Friday was the Homecoming game.  All three of us went and saw the Warriors dominate the opposition yet again bringing their District run to 5-0.

Our friend Ellen was in Houston giving a lecture at a hospital and asked if she and her girls (one of whom is one of Diva's very best friends) could come visit for the day. Of course we said, "Absolutely!"  We took them and our dogs to the dog park before going to our favorite local burger joint - Tookie's.  Next we headed to the Kemah boardwalk so the girls could ride roller coasters and such while we visited.  Before returning to the hotel we ate Bubba Gump's (which was tastier than I thought it would be.)  Our friends stayed the night in our hotel where the girls stayed up late watching a movie.  The next morning they came with us to church before traveling back up to East Texas.  We had a lovely visit.  We love visitors y'all so come on down anytime!

The ball was still rolling along Sunday when we took Diva and her friend Ali to the Houston Ballet to see "Manon" after church.  This was Ali's first ballet and was a joy to watch her watch the show.  As the lights dimmed, she asked why people were clapping and Diva answered her that it was because the Maestro had walked out.  One forgets how special the first time of seeing a live performance is and how one doesn't know protocol unless they ask. 

Engineer and I spent week 6 back in Bossier City to oversee the packers and movers.  Whatever excitement is involved with moving to a new destination and living in a different house has an equal and opposite reaction in the disdain and dread of packing and the actual moving process.

We filled up that 18 wheeler packed to the ceiling.

Every time we move, I give away/throw away lots of stuff and yet, I still find myself saying in an exasperated tone, "We have too much stuff!" 

While we were in Northwest Louisiana, Diva stayed behind in Clear Lake with Ali's family so she wouldn't miss school.  She had great fun and they went to a restaurant with a belly dancer one night before going to see "Legally Blonde:  The Musical."  I'm not sure she wanted to come back home after spending the week with them.

If you'd like to read about our previous weeks in the hotel room, here are the links:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4
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