Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christy's Taco Bean Soup

Can't take credit for the great picture, but the soup looks nearly identical to mine!

Christy’s Taco Soup

2 lbs. lean ground beef (I prefer diced or shredded chicken)
1 large onion, chopped
1 10oz can Rotel diced tomatoes (if you don’t like it hot, leave this out)
1 28oz can Fire Roasted diced tomatoes (you can use regular diced, but roasted is richer)
1 11oz can corn, drained
1 14oz can golden hominy, drained
1 14 oz can pinto beans, drained
1 14 oz can kidney beans, drained
1 14 oz can black beans, drained
5 cups beef broth (or chicken broth, if appropriate)
1 pkg Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing mix
½ cup Homemade Taco Seasoning (recipe below)
Grated Cheese
Diced Avocados, if desired

Combine beef (or chix) and onions in a large soup pan and cook until brown. Add remaining ingredients (except cheese & avocado) and simmer for 2 to 3 hours. Add more broth or water if soup gets too thick. Garnish with cheese and avocados.

Taco Seasoning
¼ cup flour
½ cup onion flakes
1 t dried garlic (or granulated)
1 cup chili powder
2 t oregano (dried)
2 t cumin
2 t salt

Shake it up and jar it. One-half cup equals a packet of taco seasoning.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


A friend, Kim, makes this recipe for special occasions, which to her means any occasion! I am so addicted to these scumptious little desserts.


1 Package Oreo Cookies regular stuffed
1 Package cream cheese
1 package chocolate Almond Bark

Blend the Oreos to fine crumbs in blender or food processor. Try not to leave any large chunks.

Add cream cheese to the crumbs and mix with hands until completely blended and has a cookie dough texture ~ you will need a large bowl for this or if you have a large Teflon pot it works great and the “dough” not stick to the sides.

Roll into small balls about 1-1 1/2 inch and set aside in fridge for an hour. You can skip this stage if you are in a hurry but I suggest at least 15 minutes to harden the cream cheese in the dough. This will help maintain their shape until you cover them in chocolate.

In a shallow bowl melt chocolate almond bark in microwave per directions on the package and dip Oreo bombs until completely covered. Set each aside on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper or plastic wrap for easy cleanup. I usually melt about 3blocks to start and melt more as needed. This recipe will make about 30-35 Oreo Bombs depending on how large you shape them.

After chocolate hardens place in fridge to cool. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

40 Tips for a Better Life

I hope you enjoy these positive tips.

1. Take a 10-30 minute walk every day. And while you walk, smile. It is the ultimate anti-depressant.

2. Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day.

3. Buy a DVR and tape your late night shows and get more sleep.

4. When you wake up in the morning complete the following statement, My purpose is to __________ today.

5. Live with the 3 E's -- Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy.

6. Play more games and read more books.

7. Make time to practice meditation and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives.

8. Spend time with people over the age of 70 and under the age of 6.

9. Dream more while you are awake.

10. Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.

11. Drink green tea and plenty of water. Eat blueberries, wild Alaskan salmon, broccoli, almonds & walnuts.

12. Try to make at least three people smile each day.

13. Clear clutter from your house, your car, your desk and let new and flowing energy into your life.

14. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip, OR issues of the past, negative thoughts or things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment.

15. Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime.

16. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a college kid with a maxed out charge card.

17. Smile and laugh more. It will keep the NEGATIVE BLUES away.

18. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

19. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

20. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

21. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

22. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.

23. Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

24. No one is in charge of your happiness except you.

25. Frame every so-called disaster with these words: In five years, will this matter?

26. Forgive everyone for everything.

27. What other people think of you is none of your business.

28. REMEMBER, GOD heals everything.

29. However good or bad a situation is it will change.

30. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.

31. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

32. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

33. The best is yet to come.

34. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

35. Do the right thing!

36. Call your family often. (Or email them to death!)

37. Each night before you go to bed complete the following statements: I am thankful for __________. Today I accomplished _________.

38. Remember that you are too blessed to be stressed.

39. Enjoy the ride. Remember this is not Disney World and you certainly don't want a fast pass. You only have one ride through life so make the most of it and enjoy the ride.

40. Don’t wait to tell the people you love how you feel about them.
~~ Author unknown.

Monday, April 20, 2009

First Time Homebuyer Tax Credit

According to the National Association of Home Builders: "The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 authorizes a tax credit of up to $8,000 for qualified first-time home buyers purchasing a principal residence on or after January 1, 2009 and before December 1, 2009."

I'm a Realtor in the greater Austin, Texas area and am available to answer any questions you might have regarding buying or selling real estate in or around Austin, including information on the first-time home buyer tax credit. If you'd like to know more, please contact me at

Monday, March 23, 2009

Venturing Near Death's Edge

~~ Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away ~~

One never knows the path life will take or the blessings to be found in the journey. This is a story of hope and the friendship made while standing near death’s edge.

Beverly, or B, as her friends call her, has always been a walking ad for fitness. She exercises regularly, plays a mean game of golf, and her youthful, strong and vibrant personality reflects a woman in excellent health--the last person you’d expect to have a devastating illness.

My brother Derris was 22 when he married 20 year old Beverly. I've always envied their passion, the way they look at each other as if they’d just tumbled into love. B has been a friend since their marriage, but not a close friend. Spending thirty-one years in the same family circle hadn’t brought us together in that sense. This would soon change.

In November, 2003, B was diagnosed with Hepatocellular Carcinoma, a primary malignancy of the liver typically found in people with hepatitis or cirrhosis, and is more prevalent in older Asian men. B fit none of these profiles.

The day I got word about her cancer, a voice within me said, Show up, in whatever form that might take. First I brought their dinner then made an offer to do whatever I could to help. To my astonishment, B asked me to be with her and Derris when they met with the Oncologist.

I joined them the next day at the doctor’s office, along with my sister, Gari. With notepads, pens and questions, we entered the small room with only a compact desk and a few chairs. Our positive attitudes intact, we were optimistic about B’s next step and made small talk while we waited.

The Oncologist's soon opened the door, no hint of compassion in her brown eyes. She sat down and focused intently on the file she held. Friendly formalities were skipped as she slapped us with statistics. Beverly had a 30% chance of living three years, if she took drastic steps, which she had yet to determine. We staggered from the room and dropped to chairs in the empty lobby. Nothing made sense. I looked into my brother’s face, raw with pain as he held B in his lap, his arms wrapped tightly around her, tears rolling down their faces. Whispers of disbelief and racking sobs echoed in the room for what seemed like eternity.

Thus began a five-year cycle of darkness and light.

Two months after our visit to the oncologist, B entered the hospital to have a portion of her liver removed, medically referred to as a resection. After a 6-hour operation, the surgeon told us the resection had gone better than expected. The cancer had been easy to remove, dangling as it was from her liver. He compared it to an ornament hanging on a Christmas tree. B’s case was an anomaly, which he believed would increase her chance for survival.

Merely a few months later, B was going on boat rides with Derris, playing golf, and taking walks with friends and her dog, Snickers. As if she’d never been ill a day, she lived life for all it was worth. For the next three years, she thrived. With each passing month our hopes increased. Perhaps she had indeed beaten the odds.

The horror returned on her third cancer-free anniversary. This time, the disease made its home inside B’s liver and could not be lopped off as in the first resection. B’s medical team collaborated for the next couple of months before deciding, on March 2007, to remove the entire right lobe of her liver. Again, the surgery went well and so did her recovery. Her friends, family and doctors shook their heads in wonder at her fast recuperation.

There were days, however, when the dread of the cancer’s return hovered over B like a threatening cloud, although this was not the visage she showed to the world. On the bad days, B tumbled into solitude. Friends and family learned to give her space, but if the despair or avoidance stretched into days, helpers appeared to pull her through in creative and loving ways. A small group of golfing buddies decided to create an emergency happy hour, friends would drop by and coax her into coming along for a walk, others would bring food and gifts to cheer her or her two boys would take her to lunch. But more often than not, she would curl up in Derris’ lap and cry while he held her. In view of all she went through, her morale remained mostly upbeat, her face bright with happiness, her attitude reminding all of us how blessed we were to have our health and how fleeting is life.

Sadly, B's fears were not unfounded. The cancer returned six months later. After many consultations and tests, the doctors concluded B’s only chance for survival would be a liver transplant. The path this took is a book in itself, but I will share this with you who are faced with a similar situation: the patient and advocates must be diligent. Do not leave the homework and research only to the doctors or the medical team. Thankfully, many of B’s friends, family, and even a few who had never met her rose to the challenge, two of them being men who had survived liver transplants.

The wait was a long and continual heartbreak. Making the transplant list alone was a struggle. When her name was finally added, we again waited. As days went by, B's life was rapidly slipping away and we questioned if a liver would become available in time to save her. Several cancers had formed by this time and the doctors led us to believe there was a possibility the cancer would metastasize, their main concern being her lungs. If this were to happen, she would be removed as a liver transplant candidate. We cried knowing what this meant. Our only option was to pray.

Three months into the transplant wait, the doctors tried chemoembolization and radiofrequency ablation. When successful, the process ceases the growth of tumors long enough to buy time until a donor is found. Following the treatments, B had extreme bouts of nausea and became so dehydrated, she was raced to the ER. After the surgeries and pain she had suffered, I was shocked to hear her say it was the first time she truly believed she would die.

On March, 2008, during one of the overnight chemoembolization procedures at Methodist Hospital in Houston, a liver became available. After being prepped and meeting with the surgeons and anesthesiologists, B heard the disheartening news. The liver was too large for her body. Disappointed beyond words, she and Derris made the trip back to Austin.

During the entire wait for the liver transplant, B and her cell phone became a team. Night and day it stayed by her side. Every time she heard the familiar ring tone, she quickly checked the cellular screen, eager to see the hospital number. On May 15, 2008, at 4:40 in the morning, the ring came. Another liver was available, although again she was second in line. Back to the hospital they went, trying to stomp down their hopes. Hours later, the surgeons determined the first person was no longer a viable candidate. Within an hour, B’s transplant would begin and she would finally receive her liver. Our prayers were for a successful surgery, but also for the selfless family who donated the organ of their loved one.

Six and a half years have passed since we first learned about B’s cancer. She is cancer free, doing great, feels wonderful and loves every day of her life. We are blessed by what we feel is nothing short of a miracle.

From the beginning of her illness, B’s surgeons expressed bewilderment at how a woman so healthy could have Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Her case was so extraordinary, transplant surgeons wanted to be part of her operating team so they might later write about her in medical journals. The head surgeon claimed B’s liver transplant was the most successful in history.

Over the past years, I have been continually bowled over by B’s tenacity, overwhelmed with pride by every agonizing yet valiant step she took, astounded by her ability to face yet one more procedure or one more trip to the hospital with strength. She persevered when I would have faltered. I grew to respect and love her more and more as a sister and one of my best friends.

Like many who have faced death, B often remarks how much her life has changed. She is blessed with more true friends than anyone I know and the extent of their love is beautiful and unwavering. I am blessed and proud to be called one of her close friends. She and I have an abiding camaraderie, grounded in the days we shared in the war against cancer.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Baby Boomer Days . . .

In the crowded recess of my mind, I free fall through my past, skimming through life shaping events. Each generation has defining moments and a special label which identifies a certain period of time. The label which denotes my generation comes from being one of seventy-six million children born in America between 1946 and 1959. As a Baby Boomer and a child of the 60’s, I grew up while a myriad of historical events unfurled around me. Anyone who lived through this decade will never forget the good and the bad of the times: free-love, the hippy subculture, the easy access of mind altering drugs, great rock music, President Kennedy’s assassination, the Vietnam war, Woodstock, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and the Watergate Scandal.

Certainly, both assassinations and the Vietnam war became a part of my permanent memory, but the shooting of President Kennedy on Friday, November 22, 1963, left an immediate mark. I recall the excitement of that day, the early release from school which was planned because President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was due to arrive in Austin. His day began in Dallas, Texas, but he was later scheduled to come to our town for a fundraising dinner speech at the Municipal Auditorium. I would have the opportunity to see him in person as his motorcade made its way down Congress Avenue in Austin and I was giddy with excitement. The news came through the school’s loud speaker. The President had been shot in Dallas. Tears rolled down the faces of even the toughest guys in our school. My heart felt as if it had shattered, for the President, his family, and our country. For the next few days, I was glued to the television, newspaper and magazines, my innocence diminishing with each new report of the real-life horror.

At the close of my junior year in high school, on August 19, 1965, I had an out-of-body-no-drugs-used experience when I saw the Beatles concert at the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston, Texas. With barely enough space to breathe between hundreds of screaming girls, I stood in awe and knew without a doubt Paul McCartney was locking eyes with me. At one point, I ducked to the floor to gather up jelly beans that had been kicked from the stage while John, Paul, George and Ringo sang “Help.” I still have the ticket and the jelly beans (a lot worse for wear) pasted in a scrapbook.

After high school graduation, I went to work as a long distance operator for the telephone company. I was there on August 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman climbed the University of Texas Tower and shot 45 people, killing 13. I found out later that Whitman’s wife also worked for the telephone company, in fact, in the same building as I did. Whitman had called early that fateful morning to let his wife’s boss know she would need to take a sick day. In actuality, he’d already murdered her and his mother before climbing to the tower with his arsenal of weapons. While the horrid tower shooting was in progress, I took a call from Charles Whitman’s father. To this day I can still hear the tremble of his voice as he spoke to me.

The Vietnam War began in 1959, when I was still quite young. Until my friends and classmates were enlisted, I didn’t fully grasp its enormity. As a teenager, I grieved for those slain, which included some I knew. My sister’s boyfriend was killed in Vietnam and she received a letter from him some time after his death. A young man I’d had a crush on in junior high school was wounded and died. The list went on and on. We did our part in honoring the soldiers by tying yellow ribbons around trees. In the 70’s, many of us wore bracelets engraved with the name of a soldier, either captured or missing in action. We wore them in hope the soldiers would return safe to their families.

These memories will always be a part of me. The good and the bad.


My husband and I attempted to recreate the dish we love to order from Romeos in Austin. I think we got pretty close. Hope you enjoy.


Serves 4

2 or 3 chicken breasts, grilled (optional)

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup chopped red onions (or 2 small shallots, chopped)
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz mushroom, sliced (optional—sometimes I substitute the mushrooms for the black beans & corn or vice versa)
¼ cup roasted bell pepper, diced
1 canned chipotle pepper (packed in adobe sauce), seed & chop
¼ cup corn (roast when grilling the chicken)
¼ cup black beans, drained
½ teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons adobe sauce
½ pint heavy cream
¼ cup milk
¼ cup white wine
favorite pasta (enough for 4 servings). I like fettucini or linguini.
¼ cup Parmesano Reggianno cheese, grated (fresh is best!)

In a saucepan, melt butter over medium heat and add olive oil. Sauté onions and garlic until golden, taking care not to burn garlic. Add mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes or until tender, but not limp. Add roasted bell pepper, chopped chipotle pepper, corn and black beans and heat on low for 3 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper and cilantro.

In small saucepan, stir together heavy cream, milk, white wine and adobe sauce. Cook on low until heated then stir into corn and black bean mixture. Add grated cheese and stir. Keep warm on low heat.

Slice grilled chicken breasts into strips.

Cook pasta according to directions on package.

Arrange pasta on plate. Spoon Chipotle mixture atop. Sprinkle with cheese.

This is wonderful with a leafy green salad and hot crusty Italian bread.

Expert Ezine Author

Expert Ezine Author
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