Dear Houston, I love you.

I was born in Houston 29 years ago. The year was 1988 and my mom was in labor with me for 20+ hours at St. Joseph’s Hospital in the heart of downtown. What did she expect from her first born? I was practically the best thing ever so of course I had to make my entrance.

I have been saying this repeatedly lately to numerous people I encounter: I could not possibly imagine growing up anywhere else besides Houston, TX. Growing up anywhere outside the state of Texas to be exact. People that aren’t from here or who visit for work don’t get it. We have tons of traffic, it’s hot and humid about 10 months out of the year. Hell, we practically get away with wearing flip-flops on Christmas Day. Let’s face it, you have to be a special type of person to immediately fall in love with Houston. But let me tell you something, Houston is unique. It’s special. I know all of it’s secrets.

Houston isn’t physically beautiful. Hell, we have highways (ahem, 290) that have been under construction for 10+ years. I’m sure by the time I get married and have children, they will still be under construction. The streets have potholes that feel like sink holes when you hit them dead-on with your car tires. Thank God the majority of us drive SUV’s in this city because we would be losing tires left and right. The same people that flip you the bird when you cut them off are the same people that hold the door open for you. People from out of town might complain because they can’t navigate the highways that seem to run from one to the next. Houston isn’t a grid like NYC, deal with it. But what outsiders don’t know is that anyone of these highways leads to the best damn cuisine that Houston has to offer: Tex-Mex being numero uno (I beg you to find someone that disagrees with me). Nope, I’m not talking crunchy tacos from Jack in the Box. I’m talking a big, sizzling platter of Texas sized Fajitas from El Tiempo served with hand rolled flour tortillas made by a little lady that you calls you things like “guapa” & “chica.”

I grew up off Telephone Rd. right next to Hobby Airport in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Houston, Garden Villas. My parents were both raised there as children. They also attended a nearby Catholic School in the neighborhood. You bet i attended the same school…Pre-K through 12th grade. The neighborhood is surrounded by Sim’s bayou. It’s the same bayou that tore through my childhood home when Tropical Storm Allison showed up. I remember putting my feet over the side of my bed and stepping into ankle deep water. My parents were strangely calm as water started to rise in our home. I trudged down the street in my dads rain boots that were no use as the water was up to my hips. My family knows what it’s like to lose everything. But really, it’s only possessions, it’s lives that matter. I had two labrador retrievers growing up, Jake and Beau. They were street pups. They knew the neighborhood and bayou like the back of their paws. My mother would get phone calls that they had been found on the 8th hole at Glenbrook Valley Golf Course. We even had to go pick them up from the air traffic control center at Hobby Airport because they had made their way down Telephone Rd. I’m the eldest granddaughter in a large extended Italian family. My father is one of nine children. I have 20+ first cousins on that side of my family. We all grew up within a block radius from one another. Our neighborhood was a small, multi-cultural community. I loved it. I loved running barefoot on the hot blacktop down the street to my best friends house. I loved after school food runs to Dairy Maid, a family owned drive up burger joint on Belfort. You can get a burger basket with piping hot fries, a burger so juicy that it will make your mouth water, and crispy texas-sized onion rings. Oh, don’t forget the chocolate shake. This is why Houstonian’s have trouble understanding the IN-N-Out’s of the world. My Friday nights revolved around high school football and trips to Taqueria Del Sol where I was guaranteed the sloppiest, best platter of chicken enchiladas and a Marranito (Mexican pig-shaped cookie) from the panaderia that smelt like butter and spun sugar. I learned to speak Spanish by singing Selena songs at the age of 9. I cried when I saw that her statue remained unharmed after the storm passed through Corpus Christi.

It gripped me to see the 59 Kirby exit under water. That same exit is where my mother would take my sister and I to Parker School Uniforms when we were in grade school to get fitted for our yearly school attire. I will never again wear blue plaid in my life…EVER. I now see the George R. Brown & NRG stadium being used as a shelter for those who lost everything in this storm. The George R. Brown is a place I know very well because every year around Thanksgiving I attend Autorama with my dad. It’s our daddy-daughter time to look at classic cars and eat candy pecans. Instead of rows of corvettes & chevelles, I see rows of cots where people who have lost everything now sleep. NRG is the same place that I step foot in every year during March as a volunteer for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. I go from being Chelsy the realtor to Chelsy, the cowgirl, fully clad in my cowboy boots, turquoise everything, leather mini skirt, and hair so big it reaches the heavens. It’s the smell of slow-smoked hickory barbecue and piping hot funnel cakes as I walk around with a giant turkey leg in my hand and a smile on my face. It’s seeing horses run around, kicking up dirt, and cowboys riding bucking bulls, and the sweet sound of country music and couples two-stepping in the stadium pathways. It’s the “yee-haws, and y’alls, and hell-yeahs, and a shiner bock raised in my hand as I sway back and forth and sing aloud to “mamas don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.” Instead of hay barrels I now see mountains of clothes that have been donated to the people displaced by the storm.

It’s the beaches of Galveston and Port A where I grew up as a child, running barefoot in the sand, building sandcastles, running in and out of the sea so as to not get swept away by the sea weed. Yes, the water is dark and ugly but the island vibe makes up for it. Think fresh seafood and local bars with live Texas blues music. Take a trip to The Strand in old historic Galveston, where I spent many nights at the Tremont Hotel with family. I remember an older black man who would play the piano in the lobby. I’m sure he has passed on after all these years. Take me back to The Peanut Butter Factory, an old warehouse that doubles as a little fudge shop and antique boutique. I loved their peanut butter fudge. Now, I see debris from the high winds of Harvey scattered on the shoreline. This beach is also where my grandfather proposed to my grandmother, a native of the island. Thank goodness Sacred Heart Cathedral is still standing. They were married in that church. As a child, I attended the feat of St. Joseph every year there. Just think one large Italian food buffet. It’s heaven. If I marry in a church, I pray that it’s that one.

I see the northside of Houston, it’s freeways completely under water. Where there were once cars creating traffic, I now see rescue boats racing through water. My great uncle Joe comes to mind when I think of the north side of Houston. He owned one of the oldest Italian restaurants in Houston, Joe Matranga’s on Irvington. My father proposed to my mother in that restaurant, clad with red and white checkered table cloths with the smell of sauteed garlic and fresh baked bread coming out of the oven. I would sit in my father’s lap as he shared a giant bowl of capellini pasta with me. I was around two years old, so I had more sauce on my face than in my mouth.

It’s going to be tough Houston. Once the cameras leave and the news moves onto something else, we will still be here cleaning up this crap. Harvey is like that ex boyfriend that we all can’t stand. He shows up, causes destruction, you break up with him, but he left a giant mess for you to clean up so now he is on your mind constantly. Over the past week, I have seen Texans come together. I have see ordinary, everyday people become heroes. I have seen people unite and help one another regardless of race. In a world full of hate, TEXAS, you are the definition of love. Texas, we have set the standard for love. One thing I do know to be true, Harvey may have torn through our city,  but he didn’t take the memories, mine, yours, ours, they are still here. Let’s rebuild and make more. Houston, you are truly making America great again. Te amo Houston. Te amo Texas.

 

 

 

In My Skin

I know I haven’t posted since February. Life has been busy. I moved into a new place of residence in May with my p.i.c. Amber. We met at work in January and became instant friends. It has been soooooo much fun. I got into a relationship with a really nice guy on Super Bowl (the day of super bowl to be exact). If anyone knows me, I am extremely private when I’m in a relationship, meaning, I don’t change my facebook status to “in a relationship,” and I don’t blast my significant other all over my instagram. Well, I broke up with him four weeks later because my heart was still hung up on the guy I was dating last year. My heart still hasn’t recovered from that, probs will take a million years to do so. Some crap happened in March with said guy because I like to make dumb decisions sometimes. What can I say? The heart governs the mind. Sometimes, you just have to risk things in life. Everything is a lesson. I’m 29 & I’m still learning. Fast forward to last month when I decided to give nice guy a second chance in order to reconfirm that it wasn’t my previous feelings for other guy that ended the relationship. Gave it about two weeks & I.felt.nothing. There were things missing. I couldn’t see him in my future. I wasn’t being myself. It was a mess. Y’all…to not have emotions or feelings is extremely out of the ordinary for me. I’m Italian, we hug strangers and cry when we listen to Frank Sinatra. Anyway, let’s jump to some stuff that’s been on my mind lately: being comfortable in your own skin.

I was recently on Twitter (yes, i have a Twitter acct. sue me) and I noticed a tweet from a guy basically shaming people for taking selfies. I don’t start drama or reply to b.s. on Twitter, so I started to think about this…a lot. Maybe taking a selfie means different things for people. I know a ton of people who think it’s all about vanity, but for me, it’s actually about self love and self confidence. I know that sounds crazy, but if you know anything about my past with body image (read this post), you will understand why. It’s not always pretty, I don’t always wear makeup or curl my hair, and I feel most comfortable in a long tank top, chilling on my bed watching t.v., with my house slippers on and my hair in a high pony. I have flaws, and I absolutely love them. I have freckles on my nose, dimples on the back of my thighs, and a J.LO booty to match. Have I thought about running myself to death trying to workout to get rid of that butt? Oh yes, but then I think…who am I doing that for? Not me. I love every inch of myself and why should i have to change that? Why can’t I take a selfie and gladly post it to social media with some inspirational quote or song or emoji? I will do what i want thank you very much. It’s taken me years to love myself for who I am. Hell, I still have days where I struggle but then I think, one day, I will find some lucky man who will love me for everything that I am, and I am completely content with that. Sooooo, eat the piece of cake, dance on the table at the club with your friend’s at 3 a.m., order the bottle of champagne, take that trip, and snap the damn selfie, and post it unabashedly to social media. You have my permission.

XOXO

6 years

There are few people who know every little detail about me.

Come to think about it, my parents and my baby sister are probably the only people that know me, every little scar, freckle, talent, and experience I have been through.

That’s probably because they have each played essential roles in my life.

Plus, they are blood…the only people I can trust.

I’ve been in remission for 6 years.

No, I wasn’t addicted to drugs or sex or shopping.

It was deeper than that.

When people think “eating disorder,” they may automatically assume that it has to do with food.

But really, they are completely and utterly wrong.

An eating disorder has absolutely nothing to do with food and everything to do with what that person is going through, or has gone through, or circumstances in their life that they can’t control so naturally…

FOOD becomes the only thing that they can control.

That was it for me.

In college, I was always hard on myself.

I felt that I owed it to my parents to make good grades as they were shelling out thousands to give me a great college education.

So, I worked hard. I graduated with honors.

My eating disorder began when I was a freshmen in college.

I was skipping meals and exercising until my calorie balance was in the negative.

I probably dropped 30 pounds my first year of college.

I think my parents assumed that this was typical for a girl who was super type A and an excelling student.

It wasn’t until my junior year of college when my sister and I moved into an apartment together that she noticed what was going on.

I wasn’t leaving the house or interacting with friends because everything involved food.

I controlled every bit of food that went into my mouth and ate on a schedule.

If I was one minute past 6 a.m. for breakfast, I would skip it.

I never ate lunch.

I ate dinner for about 3 people because I had anxiety about school or work or life in general.

I remember my sister calling my parents and telling them to get up to Austin as fast as they could.

If she hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be here today.

That was only the beginning.

My parents were going through an extremely rough time in their relationship during my senior year of college.

I being the oldest of two daughters carried all the weight on my shoulders.

Nobody asked me to, but I felt as though it was my job to be the glue that held my family together.

I remember the day I graduated college like it was yesterday.

My little sister took photos of me dressed up with my hair in curls and told me I looked beautiful.

How could I be beautiful when I was a skeleton?

I wore 4-inch heels across the stage to receive my diploma and I thought that my knees were literally going to buckle beneath me.

It wasn’t until my doctor diagnosed me with osteoporosis of the spine at age 23 that I decided I could no longer abuse my body.

And here I am today…healthy and stronger than ever.

6 years recovered from my eating disorder.

This picture of my spine isn’t of me trying to be sexy or sultry.

I’ m not that type of girl.

It’s real and raw and it’s of the very thing that scared the shit out of me.

People always ask me about my relationship with my sister.

It’s unbreakable.

If it wasn’t for her intervening in my life…I would be dead.

It’s the truth.

There is so much more to this story and I will be sharing my story with a group students this year.

Today is the first day of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

If you know someone who is suffering with an eating disorder, please reach out…you may be that one person who can help them when everyone else has turned a blind eye.

Thank you all for continually supporting my blog.

MANGIA!!!

29

Happy Birthday to me!

I can’t believe I have been alive 29 years!

I’m in my last year of my 20’s.

I live alone, with my 4-year-old puppy child.

I have zero children.

Some people would stress about this.

Especially, being so close to the 30 year mark.

Buuuuttt those people are not me.

I’m excited for 30.

I really want to live this last year of my 20’s up as much as I can.

I want to travel more for sure.

As with all years, this one has been a year of learning experiences for me.

Some good and some bad but I don’t have any regrets.

Here are 29 little tid-bits about my past year (in no particular order):

I experienced my first heart break (in the relationship department).

Then I experienced my second heart massacre.

People aren’t always what they seem.

 I can handle any situation with the utmost grace (but I’ve been told that in certain situations, I should have gone H.A.M. on some people).

I started going back to church. Not every Sunday, but as much as I can. This was a big one for me. I feel that I don’t have to go to church to be close to God. I am close to him regardless, but I almost feel like I had lost a sense of my faith and community without church.

I have the ability to love unconditionally, without judgement, with my heart wide open.

I cannot turn my feelings off like a light switch. Love is love is love is love.

I am an extremely forgiving person. Almost to a fault (in my opinion).

A bottle of wine will fix almost anything. Or at least help take the pain away for a few hours.

No matter what, your mother is still your best friend.

Your sister is your one and only confidant. She will take everything you tell her to the grave.

Your little sister can be your voice of reason when it comes to dating/relationships.

I can watch football in my sweatshirt and house slippers, but give me a pair of high heels and watch out world!

My values and beliefs are extremely important to me.

There are still great men out there…ones that will bring you flowers & your favorite candy on the first date, expect nothing in return, and treat you like the princess you are.

I owe everything I am and the person that I have become to my parents.

No matter how many times you ask yourself why a relationship ended…it was never your fault.

There actually are emotionally unavailable people in this world…they have been through a lot, respect them.

You are beautiful…inside and out. Don’t ever let a man make you believe that you are less than that.

I feel most beautiful in sweatpants, hair-tied, chilling with no make up on.

It takes a looooooong time to repair your heart after its been broken.

Your smile is your best asset.

The love your parents have for you is one of a kind.

Eat all the cake, cookies, and pie you want.

A small circle of GREAT friends is better than a large circle of crappy friends.

You can never trust someone with a terrible handshake.

Surround yourself with people who put 100% of the effort into friendships as you do. Nothing less.

Pancakes are acceptable at any time of day.

Sometimes you need a  girls night, a bottle of wine, dancing in the living room at 3 a.m. to George Strait in your pajamas and slippers.

Here is to year 29…bring it.

MANGIA!

Pecan Praline Cheesecake

Here we go y’all.

I’m back and I’m motivated.

The reason I started this blog was out of sure passion.

Passion for food, passion for writing, passion for story-telling, passion for life, passion for family…I guess you could say I’m a passionate person 😉

This past year has been kind of crazy/interesting/a roller coaster ride is how I would describe it.

Earlier in the year, I had my heart ripped out of my chest, stomped on, and broken by a guy whose name doesn’t even matter to me now.

Typical.

I started dating someone a few weeks ago.

This past Sunday wasn’t the best day if ya know what I mean.

I’m not going to go into details.

I really, really, really like this guy.

I mean, EXTREMELY.

See those all caps? Mhhhhm I don’t mess around 😉

And no, I don’t fall fast and hard for every guy I meet.

In fact, it was super hard for me to open up to anyone for the longest time.

This time though…this time was different.

I’ve never felt so comfortable with someone in my life…dating wise.

I know, i know, dating can be scary, nerve-wrecking, especially when you start to really like someone.

But not for me. I get super excited.

I truly have to say, I am sooooooooo proud of the woman that I have become.

I have a huge heart.

Especially when it comes to respecting another person’s life situation/feelings/what they have been or are going through.

I’ve learned that sometimes someone may be going through something in their life that they are struggling with.

So, I don’t judge. I’ve been through my hell.

Not to say it doesn’t hurt when things crumble, I mean…I’m human.

Butttttttttttt I can’t fault that person.

Unfortunately, I spent my time chasing the wrong guy last time and now I don’t have the energy left to chase the absolutely, without a doubt, right one. It’s also my turn for someone to come after me.

I deserve it. I’m worth it. I can also make a killer cheesecake 😉

Anyway, y’all know I’m a dessert person and one date night, we shared this amazing pecan praline cheesecake.

Y’all…pralines are my fave and let me tell you…there were chunks of sweet pecans inside of this cheesecake.

I died.

Project!

Y’all know I’m a crust type of gal.

Y’all…this crust. Well…this crust is 100!

I just can’t even begin to tell you.

And then there is this perfect creamy cheesecake filling.

 Now, I didn’t put pecans inside this cheesecake but….the topping.

Oh my TEXAS!

It’s over the top…basically everything you love about a chewy pecan praline.

I mean, I have absolutely no words.

I believe this is what dreams are made of.

I’m also pretty sure this is what heaven tastes like.

I think I really channeled all of my emotions into this damn cheesecake.

I don’t have any regrets about this cheesecake…none at all.

I think I’m in love.

I’m also 100% positive that if someone were to marry me based on my ability to make cheesecake…I’m a shoe in. 😉

Pecan Praline Cheesecake
Author: 
Recipe type: cheesecake
Cuisine: dessert, sweets
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A perfectly crispy honey graham cracker crust with a sweet, smooth cream cheese filling, topped with a pecan praline sauce that is out of this world!
Ingredients
  • For the crust:
  • 2 c. honey graham cracker crumbs
  • ½ c. melted coconut oil
  • For the filling:
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • ¼ c. coconut milk (or regular milk, coconut milk is all I had on hand)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 T. mexican vanilla extract
  • For the pecan praline topping:
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 c. light brown sugar
  • ½ c. heavy whipping cream
  • ½ t. salt
  • 1¼ c. pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
  • 2 t. mexican vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large pie pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the crust ingredients together until full moistened and combined.
  3. Press the crust mixture into the pie plate.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until set and golden brown around the edges.
  5. Remove the crust from the oven and let cool. Lower the temperature to 300 degrees F.
  6. For the filling, beat together the brown sugar and cream cheese until smooth.
  7. Add in the milk, eggs, and vanilla and mix well. Spread the filling evenly into the baked crust.
  8. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the middle is no long jiggly. Let the cheesecake cool completely.
  9. For the pecan praline topping, combine the butter, brown sugar, heavy whipping cream, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
  10. Bring the mixture to a slow boil and cook for 3 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and a smooth caramel sauce forms.
  11. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the toasted pecans and vanilla.
  12. Let cool for about 10 minutes and then pour the warm pecan praline mixture over the cooled cheesecake.
  13. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight if preferred before cutting slices with a sharp knife.
  14. Enjoy!

 MANGIA!!!