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.”

Continue Reading…

Júníus Meyvant: Your New Favorite

May 5, 2015

Image from KEXP, NPR

My house sounds like Júníus Meyvant today…mainly because I’m playing him on a loop in my new guest room. Do you know Júníus Meyvant? Have you heard Color Decay? You should check that out…

Icelandic singer-songwriter, Júníus Meyvant reminds me of a cross between Sufjan StevensRay LaMontagne, and Paul Ferney. Plus a little Fleet Foxes, a little Band of Horses, possibly some other people too.

Want to hear more? You can check out the whole session here. And download Color Decay here.

He is rocking out my guest room right now and is a welcome guest in my home always. He is chilling me out.

I hope he chills your day out as well.

Dos de Gibby

May 5, 2015
Gibby is two

It’s the fifth of May. Which means, Happy Cinco de Mayo! It also means, Happy Gibby Day! Because today is Gibby’s birthday and Gibby is two.

Just in case you didn’t know and/or didn’t figure it out, Gibby is our dog. She is 50%  dachshund, 50% miniature schnauzer, 100% sassy and 200% love.

I’ve never really had a dog before…or at least I never had one that I actually was in charge of caring for…and I used to be pretty scared of them. (All of them, even the little ones.) But this little one has become my pal. She hangs with me almost all the day long, when she’s not outside stalking her moral enemies, the squirrels.

Because this little one knows how to party. It’s fitting that she was born on Cinco de Mayo.

Happy Birthday, Gibby. You are love.

Soundtrack: She is Love. Oasis. 

Shop con Queso: My Own Austin-Inspired Store

May 22, 2014


Ever since I was about five, I’ve always wanted to have a store. That was always my big grown up dream … but it never involved a big grown up store. The image of the perfect shop has been pretty consistent since Sesame Street was my primary form of entertainment. And with that inspiration, it would be on a street like this. It would have an awning outside and an old kelly green door that sort of creaked and rang a bell when you entered. It would smell like gardenias and old wood. And it would be filled with pretty things and candy. My friends and I would sit in the back of the store all day and play cards and talk to visitors. Oh and everyone who came in would get a sugar cookie. I never knew what the name of this store would be, but it would have the word shop in it that wasn’t spelled like shoppe. Because that’s ridiculous.

Continue Reading…

The Padrino is Getting Married

May 5, 2014

If you grew up in a small town in the 1970s and 80s, and you related to the supporting characters in a John Hughes movie way more than you ever could to the actual, breathing individuals around you in your real life, then pull up a chair. Because this is our story.

And this story started before the Internet allowed us to find one another, before smart phones reconnected us every second, and before said phones were also TVs and alien tracking devices. Back when we waited all afternoon for our favorite song to be played on a radio station with terrible reception, just so we could quickly push record to capture it. Because you didn’t have a record store. You didn’t have a world wide everything to download anything. You had the people and things you could see, hear and touch within about a 10-mile radius. Small, safe, sound. Sorta. And that was your world.


And I was lucky enough to have Ken in my world. We met in first grade because we were put in the same reading group. There were probably about 150 kids in our grade, and three of us…Ken, Russell Merka and I…were put together to start reading the Rainbows anthology while everyone else tackled Lions and Tigers. Basically, what this means is, at recess Ken was Luke, Russell was Han and I was Leia. Obviously.

Continue Reading…

Low Carb Easter Ideas

April 17, 2014

This post is sponsored by Mama Francesca but all opinions are completely my own.  Like, for instance, in my opinion, I could eat this cheese underwater while I was running away from Martian bandits. Cheese has no circumstantial limitations.

If you celebrate Easter, you know that it can be one of the most delightful holidays. All the hippity hoppity. The pastels. The cute kids body slamming themselves to find eggs they have no intention of eating. The photo above is of Harry when he was three. Back then, he didn’t really know what was going on so he would stop long enough to take a photo. This year he plans to run around the yard like a crazy person and has asked the Easter Bunny for a full-sized-man basketball goal.

Continue Reading…