Something for Everyone in The Family DuMont

FD-Cover-WhiteTitleEvery now and then a book comes along that you literally can’t put down. The Family DuMont, written by first-timers Austin Wright and Adam Knox, is one of those books. As you might have guessed, this book is about the DuMont family, but what you won’t gather from its simple title are the brilliant intricacies that this story entails. Intoxicating, exhilarating, and intelligently written, this book has mystery, intrigue, sultry love affairs, and an expert blend of action and depth.

This impossible-to-put-down novel is like a mix of the Bourne movies, the Sopranos, and James Bond all wrapped into one! It takes place during modern times, but the tangled history of the DuMonts spans hundreds of years. It reminds us that morality isn’t always black and white, and at the end of the day, when it has really hit the fan, we can count on family.

I usually hate it when great action is muddled with sappy love scenes. Much to my surprise, this entire story is approached with such sophistication that I not only didn’t mind those scenes, they kept me as captivated as the amazing action and adventure scenes.¬† I don’t want to give anything away because, let’s be honest, we all hate spoilers. But I will say that this is a beautiful, unique, and mesmerizing surprise that should not be missed.

***SPECIAL NOTE: You can download this amazing book absolutely FREE until 11:59pm tonight!! This is a steal of a deal on the first of what is sure to be an incredible series…CLICK HERE to get your copy today!!!***

No More Sugar, No More Spice!

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 12.36.09 AMI have two, four-legged furry children. They are my little rescue miracles and the closest thing I have to my own children (of the human persuasion of course). I love them so much, and I would do anything for them. It’s possible that everything they have is gender neutral because I can’t stand the color pink, but I really didn’t think about it until just a few days ago…no this post isn’t all about my dogs (even though I could go on and on about them), and yes I understand the difference between human children and furry children. But it is a mini rant about the socialization of children, followed up by a solution to my rant. If you want to buy the little girls and boys in your life things that are outside the proverbial gender box, please continue reading. If you believe little boys should be raised to be emotionless, macho men, and little girls should be raised to be submissive, barefoot, pregnant, and at home, then this post is not for you.

Christmas happens to be my favorite holiday. The lights, the cold, crisp weather, the warm¬†Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 12.37.29 AM and fuzzy feelings, and the time with family make me so very happy. I’ve lived all over the country and all over the world, and when I’m homesick, without fail, I watch Christmas movies to make me feel better…regardless of the time of year! I get to be home for Christmas this year, and this year, my adorable, little, nearly 3-year-old cousin will be there too (with her parents and adorable baby brother…I have to mention that I love them too of course). She is the most adorable little angel and so damn smart! I got to spend some quality time with my darling cousin over Thanksgiving, and I decided that I wanted to get her something special from me (as opposed to from my whole family) for Christmas. This is where my quest for a thoughtful gift began as well as the carving out of the soap box I’m about to step onto.

I hate shopping, so I first hit the ads in the Sunday paper in hopes of getting an idea of what was out there these days. Let me tell you what’s out there…baby carriages, Barbies and other scantily clad dolls, bride dress-up sets, and a whole slew of other pink crap, not meant to Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 12.38.51 AMchallenge or educate young girls in any way…unless you count encouraging girls to aspire only to be good at keeping up the house and taking care of babies to be enough of a challenge that is. Here is where I apply an abridged version of my “TEHO” (To Each His/Her Own) speech–if a girl grows up to be a woman and decides that she aspires to be a wife and mother above anything else, then God bless her! There are not enough words in the English language or enough blogging space to express how much I appreciate women who commit their lives to the raising of their children (my own mother included and especially). However, to me, it is revolting that this kind of message is being disseminated on such a huge and regular basis. I looked through countless ads, both hard copies and online and did some general “gifts for girls” searches, and they all had the same stuff. Well that crap is not good enough for my cousin, and frankly, I don’t think it’s good enough for the amazing girls who will grow up to be amazing women.

So for anyone who is interested, here are some empowering and intelligent gifts for girls and kids this holiday season:

Spark Talking Telescope: Just what it sounds like…a talking telescope that is appropriate for children and comes with an assortment of slides. Seems to be great for bug-loving children!

Discovery Kids Send Away Storybook Publisher: I wish they had these when I was a kid! This awesome little kit allows your child to write, illustrate, and publish their very own book. The kit includes everything needed to help plan, write, and illustrate the story and even has a pre-paid envelope included to send off their masterpiece! A few weeks later the publishing company sends back a hardbound, professionally typeset book.

Electronic Gadget Lab: Who says that boys are the only ones who can aspire to be engineers??!! This kit includes a plastic “grid” that simulates a circuit board. Kids can snap in wires and batteries, rearrange light bulbs, speakers and other devices, and learn the ins and outs of how these things work…the description says that it comes with 101 configurations and appeals to third graders and teens alike.

Gender-Neutral Coloring Books: I happen to love this concept. Why should most of the superheros be boys? And why should the girl superheros look like Barbie dolls? And why shouldn’t girls be taught that they can rescue themselves and don’t have to wait for the prince to climb up the tower…anyway, you get the picture.

Ultimate Star Planetarium: For the stargazers…This mini planetarium projects constellations, celestial objects, and more. It provides an interactive computer and searchable database with facts versus myths of the wonderful world of outer space.

Chess Set: Learning to play chess is on my bucket list. Maybe it’s just in my head, but it seems to me that boys learn to play chess, and girls learn to play with dolls. I didn’t do the doll things, so I’m not sure what I was doing when my brothers were learning to play chess…nevertheless, girls can learn to play chess too!

Robyn Superhero Tutu Costume: I’m convinced that I have taught some of the most amazing kids on the planet. This costume reminds me of one girl in particular. She was in one of the first grade classes I taught, and one day, as part of a class project, the kids were allowed to choose exactly what they wanted to wear to school that day. This precious girl showed up in a red tutu, yellow rain boots, an old Beatles t-shirt, huge butterfly sunglasses, and a kids’ tool belt (filled with all the plastic tools) around her waste. Some kids want to be tutu-wearing superheros…and I fully support that!

GoldieBlox: Their tagline is “Toys for Future Inventors.” I think that sums it up.

I Can Save Myself Poster: Just what it sounds like…a poster with a fabulous illustration that says, “i can save myself.” I love it…and just might order it for myself.

Call Madame President: This is a great story about an imaginative 8-year-old girl who becomes President of the United States…I don’t want to ruin it for you, but why shouldn’t little girls read about being President??

Arduino Cookbook: Not your average cookbook…this one gives you tips and tricks for building an array of things–toys, detectors, robots, and more.

New Moon Magazine: A completely ad-free magazine that is geared towards the community, growth, and education of girls. It is a magazine that’s sole focus is building confidence and healthy online behavior…how many magazines did we all see growing up that had nothing but impossibly thin women teaching us to aspire to be trophy wives?? This magazine does things like name Malala Yousafzai as their girl of the year…love it!

Women Who Dare (Vol. 1 & 2) Knowledge Cards: These cards include information and tributes to women throughout history who have shown determination and courage to sift through what they were “supposed” to do and reach into the extraordinary–some changed their communities, and some changed the world.

Roominate: This is another site that includes age-appropriate toys that encourage artistry, architecture, engineering, and visionaries in general.

Hand Crafting Justice: This site includes a great variety of hand crafted goods, created by “enterprising women in the developing world, working to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.” These are great gifts with great purpose.

And if you want even more ideas, check out the AAUW (American Association of University Women) 2013 Gift Guide and LiveYourDream.org!

Bite Off More Than You Can Chew: Churrasca

My parents and I were fortunate enough to be invited to the family and friends, soft opening at Churrasca IMG_6982Brazilian Steak House in October. That experience was amazing, but I always like to have a go at a new restaurant after it is officially open before writing a review…lucky for me, my older brother came to town, and I got to eat myself into a food coma once again!

First of all, let me set the stage for you…most of us have been to Fogo de Chao or Texas de Brazil or a place of that kind at one time or another. Don’t get me wrong, those places are great, but they don’t hold a candle to the quality of food, the service, and the atmosphere at Churrasca.

The Salad Bar: My brothers and I have fought for years over whether or not it was sacrilegious to visit the salad bar at such an establishment–I love a big, fat, juicy steak more than just about anyone, but, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m also big on getting my veggies. So you can guess where I stand on visiting said salad bar. What I’m not big on are carby things–bread, rice, potatoes, etc. do nothing for me…so why is it that I wanted a second helping of their potato salad?? It’s like nothing I’ve ever had before, and I really had to make myself not go back for more! They also had some of the best smoked salmon, most delectable varieties of cheeses, and an array of fresh vegetables (including these small peppers that had been marinated in I don’t know what, but they were heavenly)! It also included your usual options, like tossed salad and fancy meats, but I didn’t want to waste my time with something I could get every day. The tabouli left a bit to be desired, but when you have my mom as a mom, it’s kind of tough not to be a snob about anything Middle Eastern/Mediterranean. My recommendation: while it may be tempting to fill up on the salad bar, resist the temptation! It is absolutely delicious, and you should try just a little bit of each…but remember, the best is yet to come!!

The Service: Call me old fashioned, but I love it when I’ve been somewhere enough that the staff has paid attention to what I like and dislike. The weight staff at Churrasca is not only friendly, but all of their IMG_0542servers figured out exactly how I like my meat (medium rare if anyone cares to know!) in just a couple of trips to our table–and I wasn’t sitting at a table where everyone liked their meat the same, but they figured it out quickly. Another welcomed contrast between Churrasca and some of the other similar restaurants I have frequented was the timing–there’s nothing worse than having a mound of food on your plate that gets cold because it’s just not possible to eat fast enough. The weight staff cut reasonable portions of everything asked for and seem to have their circulation timing down to an art. My glass was never empty, and they periodically checked back with us to see if there was a specific cut we wanted. After having had a less than pleasurable experience at a chain restaurant in Lubbock just a couple of nights before, this kind of attention and service was greatly appreciated.

The “Main Course”: After returning from the salad bar, there was a basket of cheese rolls waiting for us. IMG_0050Remember what I said about not being too keen on starchy, carby things?? Well, that too goes out the window! I’m also not sure how these things are made, but I’m fairly certain I ate an entire basket of these crispy on the outside, cheesy and gooey on the inside little gems–and I’m not sorry about it! They also had servings of fried plantains and mashed potatoes ready for us on the table. SIDE NOTE: I learned something new during the soft opening…you are supposed to combine a bite of the meat with a bite of the plantain for an authentic Brazilian treat–it may sound weird, but trust me; it’s a surprisingly wonderful combination. Back to the meat…when my brothers and I were younger, we turned everything into a competition, including eating. When we would go to a Brazilian steakhouse, the rules were simple–we would start the timer as soon as we received our first serving, and whoever could eat the longest without stopping won. I would like to say we have matured since those days, but I would be lying…I’d also like to say that I won, but that too would be a lie. Despite my failure to out-eat my older brother, I feel like I still held my own! It wasn’t too difficult though because every cut of meat was more extraordinary than the one that came out before. My favorite cut is the rib eye, but if you asked me to pick one from Churrasca, I honestly couldn’t do it–the top sirloin, bottom sirloin, filet, beef ribs, and garlic steak were flavored and seared to perfection. Then there were the pork ribs, bacon wrapped chicken, lamb chops, sausage, leg of lamb, and the marinated chicken legs that couldn’t have been more juicy and expertly created.

I could go on and on, but instead I’ll just leave you with this…if you live in Lubbock or are planning a visit, Churrasca is a must!