Loquats Are Not Kumquats

May 21, 2015

Regarding our first printed correction of the New Queso, please note for the record it took no time at all for me to make a mistake. Because my kumquats are actually loquats and loquats are definitely not kumquats. Despite what a number of very confident people told me, this beautiful tree that my great grandmother planted is not of the kumquat variety but rather a very normal loquat tree, and now I love it even more. I am not going to change the name of the Kumquat May martini however, because that name is just awesome. I will buy some kumquats though and attempt to make it and follow up with that there. In the meantime, let’s talk about loquats.

A native of China, a loquat tree fruits in mid- to late spring here in Central Texas. They’re big in southern California…and that makes sense because they look sort of 1960s SoCal to me…they’ve very Donna Parker in Hollywood.  And the fruit is really good…mild, sort of understated sweet. They don’t taste like honey, but they remind me of mild honey for some reason, with a dash of tang. And I was thinking, they’d be really good in salsa.

Because when life hands you loquats, make salsa.

So I did. Check it.unnamed-1


Laura’s Loquat Salsa

– 8 Loquats, chopped

– 2 large tomatoes, chopped

– 2 green onions, chopped

– 1 jalapeño, chopped (I take out the seeds to make it milder. Leave in the seeds to make it HOT!)

– 1 bell pepper, chopped

– A handful of chopped cilantro

– Juice from one (or two) limes. (I use two because I like lime juice a lot)

– Salt and pepper

Mix it all up together in the bowl. Serve with chips. Or, I served it on salmon and it was awesome.

And that’s just the beginning … I feel like you can do so many cool things with loquats…


Photo credit: Loquat Lemon Mint Sorbet from Cafe Liz. I love Cafe Liz. Check her out. 

You could also do loquat strawberry pie.  Loquat lemon mint sorbet. (What?! I am all over this.) Loquat cobbler. (No, THIS!) And of course, Loquat wine & Loquat liqueur. (Loquat wine & loquat liqueur need to age at least one year. Therefore, it would be best to plan in advance. No last-minute drinky here, my friends.) I’ve now given most of mine away, but now that I know what I’m dealing with here… next year, watch out.

Get Started! Plant a loquat tree. 


BTW: Best Things of the Week

May 15, 2015

This week it’s been raining like crazy across Central Texas so mainly we’ve just been sleeping and reading and watching Rockets Games and getting ready for the Mad Men finale. How do you think it will end? Tell me! I have 87 theories. Or four. And I am carrying them all around in my new tote bag. Totes.


Totes MaGoats Tote Bag. Because who doesn’t want a tote bag featuring a goat. Here’s the story behind it.  Personally, I find that giant goat a little terrifying but I do loves the goats totes bag.

And speaking of goats…

Who you gonna call?…


Reddit Credit

I’ve recently been thinking about butter and how I love it so and how for some reason Australia has super figured out how to do butter because their butter is the best and is probably made with crack. I have not yet found a good place or way to buy Australian butter (if you know of one, let me know) but I did find this…


The Butters of the World collection. And I bought this because I am my grandpa. Also because Butters of the World! 

Because when it comes to butter, I am all in. And speaking of all in… (this is a terrible transition, but it is really true that I am all in for butter)… Peabody Award winning journalist Josh Levs just put out a book All In about the current realities of maternity and paternity leave and how that affects us and our children and families.


We grew up on Free to Be You and Me, but as we’ve grown, we’ve found there are actually a whole lot of too many barriers to that.  Why is the U.S. the only developed economy with no paid maternity leave? Why is paternity leave so hard to come by?  These problems come from the same source: outdated norms which in no way match our current realities. With more maternity/paternity leave, families flourish, co-parenting and gender equality take root, and businesses + the economy improve. All In shows how we can get there. Check it. 

And finally…

A Young Couple Gets Increasingly Aged with Make-Up. And freaks out and then cries. But in a good way.

Here’s What Would Happen If We Put All The Myers-Briggs Types Into The Hunger Games Together. So now you know.

The Oh Happy Day Shop is now open! Jordan Ferney opened the cutest online party shop and it has everything. Check it. 

And… it turns out my Kumquat Tree is actually a Loquat Tree and that is even better except I am not going to change the name of the Kumquat May Martini because that is just too good. I am, for the sake of accuracy, now going to have to buy some stupid kumquats and make the drink again to make sure it’s as good as the loquat drink which is called Kumquat May… which is really apt when you think about it. And it looks like I’ll be posting more about loquats and how they are far superior to kumquats next week. Okay so, until then…

Happy Weekend!

XOXO & Queso,





Kumquat May Martini

May 14, 2015

My great grandmother planted a couple of trees next to (and now under) the giant pecan trees in the backyard of the house I live in. They are large but almost look like overgrown bushes in comparison to the 80-year-old pecans. But I kept them around because the leaves are pretty and they are evergreen and oh my gosh I just figured out that they are kumquat trees. Mostly because they are producing at lot of kumquats right now.


I told my brother David about this and he mentioned that he had consumed this incredible kumquat drink in Canada (I know, that sentence is funny) and that he would email the bartender to get the drink recipe. Because of course my brother has the email of a bartender who makes mean kumquat drinks in Canada. Just in case.


So yesterday I get this forwarded email from my brother.

Hello Mr. Harrison!

I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed your stay with us at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. It’s nice to know that my cocktail was memorable enough for you to ask for the recipe.  I’m flattered and more than happy to share my secrets with you:

 Although Kumquats would be delicious I’m sure… I actually use ground cherries  for this drink, also known as Physalis.

Fred’s Original Loosey Goosey 

(From the the Mallard Lounge at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler)

-Muddle 6 Physalis in shaker glass


-1.5 oz. of your favorite gin (I use Tanqueray)

-.5oz. St-Germain Liqueur (also delicious with Champagne)

-.75 oz. FRESHLY SQUEEZED lemon juice

-.5 oz. simple syrup (1/2 sugar 1/2 water ratio)

 Shake all ingredients and fine strain to avoid having seeds in the drink. Serve up in chilled martini glass garnished with ground cherry on the rim.


Wishing you and your wife a great summer.


Fred Lemieux

So, our take-homes here are A) Fred Lemieux is awesome. And B) I now want to go to Whistler and stay at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. Amen.


Also, I like Fred’s ideas here. But I’m not a super fan of cherries, I don’t really know what Physalis are, and I have about 568 kumquats in my tree outside.


So I made my own recipe and because I wanted to use what we already had in the house…which mainly means that I didn’t want to put on pants and/or leave my home to go to any stores. This is what I had, so this is what I did:


Kumquat May Martini  

-Muddle 3 Kumquats in shaker glass


-1 oz. of your favorite gin (I use Bombay Sapphire)

-.5oz. Prosecco (also delicious with Champagne)

-.75 oz. FRESHLY SQUEEZED mandarin cutie (this would also be really great with lemon but I didn’t have any lemons)

-.5 oz. simple syrup (1/2 sugar 1/2 water ratio) (I didn’t have this so I made it. Boil sugar in water. Done.)

Shake all ingredients and fine strain to avoid having too much fruit in the drink. Serve up in chilled martini glass garnished with kumquat + rosemary on the rim.


If you don’t have any rosemary, just go ahead and get a rosemary plant and plant it.


It grows like crazy, smells good, makes the bees happy and you always need it. This one is a little out of control but I’ll do something about that eventually.


Also, I finally just took a few sips and it’s possibly the most yummy drink ever.




How to Grow Your Own Kumquats

How to Grow Kumquats in Garden Pots

Buy a 2-3 Year Old Kumquat Tree in a Pot. Party.

Soundtrack: Come What May. Or the Glee version. 


I’m Like a Room Without A Roof

May 12, 2015

Harry made this for me for Mother’s Day at school from the given prompt “My Mom Is…” And I’m honestly surprised he didn’t say “EXHAUSTED!” But I’ll take HAPPY. In one way, it’s the best compliment he could have given me, because it suggests that when he looks at my eyes looking back at him, I am. Happy.

And I am.

Mother’s Day is a fine enough holiday if only because it was created to encourage people to take a break from killing each other during the Civil War. And honestly, how can you argue with that? However, over the years, it has morphed into an often forced and potentially lovely Sunday lunch gathering of flowers and florals and all things maternal. It’s a nice sentiment that makes a lot of people sad because they’ve lost mothers or children or both. I get this. I’ve lost more children than I’ve had, and as much as I don’t want it to be, Mother’s Day is always a silently roaring reminder, rolling in a quiet storm of dark clouds. I always work to push through it, focus on the happy, and I am for sure thankful that I get to spend my day with my mom and my son. But I also understand the blue periods or blind rage that people feel. It’s a complicated day full of shiny, happy Facebook photos of multiple children and moms of all generations. Happy and sad at the same time.

Of course that really sums up life in general, doesn’t it? This one afternoon that produces hundreds of thousands of photos and a rush of every emotion available to us as humans. Beauty. Miracles. Tragedies. All rolled up into one gathering. It’s all there over a few short hours, and if you read too much Facebook in one sitting, it’s really exhausting. But if I get to choose…and I do…I’ll go with Harry’s vision.

I’ll choose happy.


On Mother’s Day, we swim. #Texas

There’s a lot to be happy for and about and with and through. I’m also really happy we don’t have to celebrate anything today. Although National Chicken Dance Day is tomorrow. So you’ll want to get ready for that.


It’s Been An Eventful Three Weeks.

May 12, 2015

Three weeks from today, I received word that my dad had a heart attack on a boat in the middle of the ocean, headed to Colombia. So then I headed to Colombia.


Two weeks ago from today, I flew from Colombia to Scottsdale, Arizona for Mom 2.0 Summit and The Iris Awards.


One week ago today, we relaunched The Queso.


And then I took a nap. Thanks for hanging with me while I was napping. But I just woke up and I’m ready for what’s next. Also, I have a lot to share as do Karen (who is in Malawi right now) and Kristen (who is up to her eyeballs in 9-year-old baseball and I know this because I’m on my way to a game too).

Andrew McCarthy

But I can’t wait to talk about Andrew McCarthy. For starters. Let’s do this.


What To Plant In May: This Time, With Kids.

May 6, 2015

This post is sponsored by the good people at Garden Collage, a new lifestyle and gardening publication, which features stories on the new role that gardening takes in our modern lifestyle.  Be sure to check them out! They are my new favorite thing. For real. I just learned about Fiddlehead Ferns for the first time the other day (I randomly ate some in Phoenix) and then here they are. And Mikaila from BeeSweet Lemonade (who is featured here) totally goes to my son’s school and her family is awesome. Love it. Seriously, this is my new favorite inspiration site. So share your garden shots with me on Instagram and Twitter with #GardenCollage. I want to see what you’re doing. Let’s grow stuff! 

May is my favorite month to plant things…because it is the end of so many things around here. The end of the school year. The culmination of my favorite big event. And I like to combine endings with beginnings. It’s the best to plant seeds at the end of one school year and harvest them as another one begins. I tried to explain this to Harry last night and he just sort of looked at me like I was insane.

There are so many ideas out there on how to make kids like vegetables. And I have tried them. I’ve tried everything. I even tried planting things as a group project, together.

It did not work with my kid. (It may work with yours…And I wish you so much luck and good tidings of great joy.)

But every seasons he does humor me and go along with planting things together…and he does actually like watching things grow and pulling fruit from the greenery. I’ll take anything at this point.

garden 1

Karen talked about this the other day here (Gardening  with Kids) and her child is an angel and super into it. Kristen has been running her children’s school garden for years…and teaching kids how to garden…and she is going to talk more about that next week. I’m really looking forward to that because I need new tricks.

What I do know is what grows well around here (Zones 7, 8 & 9) in May. We are getting close to the end on some of them (squash & watermelon) but there is still time. So this is what I recommend for May.

what to plant in May

So this is what I’d like to do. If  you are thinking of planting something or trying something, let me know. Leave a comment here or email me (helloqueso@gmail.com) or tag anything with #gardencollage. I’d love to see what you’re planting, what you’re growing and if it’s working. I’m always shocked when it works. But, water and sunshine, man. Magic.

squash 2

I just planted all of these things, so I might be just a few weeks before you, but basically, we’re all on track. For instance, just three weeks ago, I planted some squash. And just like that, this plant went from the one above…to the one at the very top of this post. I’m telling you. Magic. Squash blossoms everywhere.

And I’m planting watermelon and okra this weekend. So join me! There’s still tons of time.

It’s going to be a good summer.


May 5, 2015

It’s May 5, 2015.  5/5/15.  Cinco de Mayo. Time to party.

It’s also time to start this blog up again. With new posts, new people, new design, in the same spot.

I started The Queso as Blog con Queso in 2005 while I was on maternity leave. At the time I needed a creative outlet and a way to share photos of my newborn with my sister in Boston and my son’s godfather in Washington DC.  I named this spot after queso  because at the time, I thought blogs were cheesy, and in Texas, we call that queso.

Behold the power of queso.

Because over time and from this blog, five businesses were born, countless ideas were developed and thousands of friendships were made. One of the ideas that came from one of those friendships, is what I’d like to introduce you to today.

Behold the new Queso.

It was redesigned by Laurie Smithwick of Step Away From The Screen and Make Something (I know, ironic.) My friend Karen Walrond has helped me all along the way (she is a partner and constant contributor), along with my fellow Texan soul sisters Jenny Lawson, Brené Brown, Maile Wilson, Katherine Center and Wendi Aarons. And I have to say, Gabrielle Blair, Laurie White, Carrie Pacini and the entire Mom 2.0 Summit community have encouraged me over the last year (and definitely over the last weekend) by showing me the power of storytelling.

I am really very happy and excited to be here again. Launching this place again. And I’m really interested in what this blog is becoming…a culture blog that represents Texan and Southwestern lifestyle, travel, food, music, ideas and inspiration about real people living authentically, with a sense of humor and a sense of adventure.

It is my intention to introduce you to some lovely things, lovely people, and a number of smart and interesting contributors from around the US … we are starting with three girls who currently live in Texas right now (me, Karen and Kristen) but I’m already starting to add more…friends from around the country and around the world who are interested and connected to the art, the food, the culture, the music and the people of the southwest and my lovely Texas.

When people hear that I live near Austin, they almost always say, “Oh! The only good part of Texas!” Or, “That’s the ONLY place I’d ever live in the South.” And I know they are just trying to be friendly and all, but it’s just not accurate… and sure, I can see how many would think Austin is fantastic (because, Austin is really fantastic…), but it’s not the only great thing going. Not at all. If you’ve lived elsewhere…or even ever been to other places in Texas and/or the South, then you totally know this. And you deserve to have your story told.

So pull up a chair, grab a chip, and join us.

We hope you love it.

Soundtrack: That’s Right. By this smart guy with really great hair from Klein, Texas. 


Padrino Ken’s Famous Margarita Recipe: Happy Cinco de Mayo!

May 5, 2015

Photo by Karen Walrond

This is the margarita recipe you’ve been looking for. The Padrino Ken has perfected it through the years…and he even published it in the very famous book Kirtsy Takes A Bow. Which I edited. (And it’s totally cute. And you can totally still buy it! Crazy.)  But here is The Famous Marg Recipe. For you. Today.

Happy Cinco de Mayo from Texas. And Washington DC.


Kalorama Ken’s Famous Marg Recipe

I’ve had so many people ask me for the marg recipe that I’ll just put it out there. It’s actually my mom Lisa’s recipe, but we are generous folk.

  • 1 can Minute Maid Limeade
  • 1 can Montezuma or Sauza silver tequila (don’t waste the good tequila)
  • 1/2 can good Triple Sec, or if the girl’s real purdy, use Grand Mariner
  • 1 can water
  • Juice of 1 lime

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher. Done.

Actually, this recipe is the concentrate for frozen margs in a blender with ice. If you drink them on the rocks…like any decent person should…you are supposed to add 1 or 2 more cans of water. You can garnish with lime wedges and salt if you want, but I prefer mine unfancy-like, served in a plastic SOLO cup. Do not, and I mean it, insult this sacred marg recipe by serving them in those cactus-shaped margarita glasses. My stepmom, Lisa, did this when she still had all that Wisconsin in ‘er, but now that she is a blended Texan, she knows better.


Welcome. You Can Stay in the Guest Room.

May 5, 2015
Guest Room 1

When we moved into my great grandparents’ house five years ago, I thought it would take us about two years to finish everything, and that we would leave the day it was complete. Again, it’s now been five years. It’s still not finished…and I can’t imagine ever leaving. These things might be related.

But I do feel incredible guilt and failure that it has taken me this long to get this house in order.

Guest Room 2

I see so many people re-doing homes in a single episode. Or in a single Pinterest post. Or a month, or a season, or even a year. They gut out everything and start over and make major changes in a sweep. That is not me. I make changes one small chipped tile at a time. Hell, I could have raised a kindergartener in the time that it has taken me to almost get this house ready for guests. Almost.

Guest Room 3

And yet, it is getting there. Progress is happening.


Music is playing.


I wish I could invite all of you over for a giant dinner party in the back side yard…and there is space. But you’d all have to share one bathroom. Because that is all there is. And it has taken me five years to re-do it.


I do have a lot to share though…about the process of completely redoing an old home in a small town. A home (and town) I never ever thought I would want to live in. A place that has become my favorite place. It’s finally almost sort of ready…and so am I…to invite y’all over to see it all.


Welcome. I’m really so glad you are here.


May 5, 2015

This post is sponsored by the good people at Garden Collage, a new lifestyle and gardening publication, which features stories on the new role that gardening takes in our modern lifestyle.  Be sure to check them out! And share your garden shots on Instagram and Twitter with #GardenCollage. 


A little over a year ago, my daughter came home from school with a permission slip.  “I need you to sign this for me,” she said as I scanned it.  “It’s so that I can go to the nursery with the class tomorrow.”

“Oh, are you going to learn about plants?”  I asked, reaching for a pen.

“Well, yes … but also we’re going to buy plants.  For our class garden.”

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