It’s a Party and You’re All Invited!

October 5, 2015
By Wendi Aarons

We here at The Queso believe that October is the perfect time for entertaining. The weather’s a little cooler, the leaves are turning color, and we’re ready to just kick back, put on a sweater, and celebrate Autumn by shoving massive quantities of fish sticks and cheese into our pie holes. Care to join us?

Announcing FISHSTICKS AND QUESO: The Party*. (*Not to be confused with FISHSTICKS AND QUESO: The Crime Fighting Grocery Store Duo. We are currently trying to trademark that and sell NBC on the pilot, so no stealing!)

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Yes, your favorite people from The Queso, and even the ones you don’t care for a whole lot, are hosting a night of laughs, literature and lukewarm fish on October 16th! Join us at BookPeople in Austin as we welcome one of our favorite-est funny women, Mary Laura Philpott.

ML (as we like to call Mary Laura because we’re like, super tight) is a columnist and speaker who has written for The New York TimesHuffington PostThe Toast, and USA Today. She is the social media director of Nashville’s independent bookstore, Parnassus Books, as well as the founding editor of its online magazine, Musing. She lives in Nashville with her husband, two children, and two wicked pooches named Woodstock and Eleanor Roosevelt.

And her (truly funny) book is called Penguins With People Problems. The “random penguins” are a lineup of quirky, lovable weirdos with minds of their own. They understand the agony of social awkwardness, the power of the (not so) perfect smoky eye, and the hilarious terror of having a bee in the car.
This is ML. Not a Penguin, as far as we know.
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And now here’s a little Q&A between Wendi and ML

1. If you could be any kind of penguin, what kind would you be?

The one that lives on the spine of Penguin Books. That bird gets to go everywhere.

2. Why is Texas the best state in the world?

Because it’s like Tennessee but with an ocean.

3. Why are there no penguins in Texas?

I’m not qualified to speak on immigration issues.

4. What is your favorite humor book?

My publicist would probably appreciate it if I said it’s mine, but come on — David Sedaris all the way.

5. Who is your favorite humor writer named Wendi Aarons?

David Sedaarons.

6. What does “queso” mean in Spanish?

I believe it means, “Whose bicycle is this?”

7. What does “queso” mean in Arabic?

“It’s my bicycle, actually.”

8. What would a penguin do if you rubbed her tummy?

One of my penguins, you mean? Probably slap you. Most of my penguins are at least partially based on me, and I cannot stand to have my stomach touched. Also, I’m going to need you to take about five steps back right now.

9. Is Danny DeVito the sexiest penguin of all time?

You can take the question mark right off that statement.

10. What is your best fish dessert recipe?

I would say Swedish Fish, but if you’re really into gummies, the best thing to do is to fill a Solo cup with Trader Joe’s “Gummy Tummies” penguins and just tip it back into your face. I did this before a book signing in Memphis, and I think the audience was impressed with how amazingly fast and high my voice was when I was superjacked on straight sugar. My teeth vibrated for a week.

See? Told you she was funny. So, mark your calendar, hire a sitter, and come out for a night of cheesy fish! And fishy cheese! And fishy, cheesy people! Wait. Maybe not that last one. But there will be sangria, humor, laughs, and lots of books! It will be the best night you’ve ever had in your life, and that’s not a load of hyperbole, either.

RSVP here, and we’ll see you soon!

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It’s the Last Day to Enter Two Giveaways con Queso

October 2, 2015

This is a photo of a Meatball Shop. This photo has nothing to do with giveaways. But it’s a shop, for meatballs.

We are going old school with two giveaways around here. And they both end today, so make sure you enter them. Go.

For starters, there’s this one:


The Old School Giveaway Bloggess con Queso Prize Package
  1. A signed copy of Furiously Happy. The copy Jenny read from on the first stop of her Furiously Happy Tour (the one in Austin)
  2. The original Traveling Rory.  Total collector’s item.
  3. A signed Traveling Rory mask.
  4.  A signed copy of Jenny’s audio book which she recorded herself. Well, I mean it’s her voice reading it.
  5. Some other random crap I find around that I get her to sign. This could be anything. God help us, every one. (Keep reading for details) (UPDATE: Regarding item number 5…I forgot to pick up random items in my house, so I just pulled random items out of my purse for Jenny to sign. Like some playing cards, a receipt, a package of tweezers, a scarf. Oh and teabags…signed by Jenny, Victor and Hailey. You can have tea with the whole Lawson family.)giveaway
  6. Basically anything else I think of or find to throw into the care package. It will be good, y’all.
  7. A certified certificate that states that you are a WINNER!
  8. Some Sour Patch Kids.
  9. The artist owner of Calamityware  added one of Jenny’s favorite plates to the mix: Tentacles. 


So LEAVE A COMMENT RIGHT HERE on this post (where we interview Jenny) telling us what you think of Jenny and/or books and/or possums and you are immediately and instantly ENTERED TO WIN! But this contest is almost over (midnight CST 10/2) so if you haven’t left a comment to enter, do that now!   On this post.

And my God, I hope you win.


The Texas Women Are So Awesome They Even Have A Conference Prize Package


Thousands of women from across the state attend for a full day of networking, inspiration, professional development and personal growth in Austin on October 15. The one-day Conference features keynote addresses, and breakout sessions led by more than one hundred experts in the fields of business, philanthropy, health, finance, media and professional development. Plus, sometimes they have free cookies.

We’ll be there. And you should join us.

Want to win it? Go visit the Texas Conference for Women website, take a look at the speakers, then come back here and leave a comment telling us who you’re excited to see. Check out the Conference Agenda, too, for more insight. Winner will be chosen at random, and they may possibly get to sit next to an esteemed member of The Queso during the keynote luncheon, too.

And just in case you’re not our lucky winner, you can still use this super secret password that will get you $10 off the ticket price. You can purchase tickets here and use the password TXBG15. Win/win/win! Good luck!

Our Texas Conference for Women giveaway ends tonight, too (same time, midnight CST 10/2) so if you haven’t left a comment to enter that one, do that now!  On this post.  We’ll be there. You want to be there.

Celebrate good times, c’mon.


And get some meatballs while you’re at it.

What to Plant in September

September 23, 2015

Well, Friends, we survived August. Someway. Somehow, we were able to slog through the heat waves of summer’s last-ditch efforts to show us who’s boss. (Conclusion: The sun. The sun is the boss.)

Related: Your garden is possibly tired. Mine is exhausted and totally over dying of thirst. If August kicked your and your garden’s butts, do not feel bad or sad. That is normal around here. In fact if you live anywhere south of the middle, don’t even try and worry about it. Instead, spend all your energy keeping yourself cool and drinking cold things in the shade. Because when it comes to growing things, August is the new December. Which means September is the new New Year. Just go with it.

Mostly, just know that September is not only a nice time to start fresh with crispy, shiny, new school supplies, it’s also a great time to green up your garden. Because this is the month you can plant lots of green things…or things that will produce green things…or really, both.

Here’s what you should plant in September:


You can start any of these from seed…or you can do what we do and find your favorite green starts supplier and go to town. The most important thing to remember: do not stress about it. With a little sun and water, it’s hard to mess things up to badly. Just experiment. Most of these can be started well into October, so if you need to push it off, that’s fine too. Just start moving in these directions. You won’t be disappointed.

Fanstastic Fall Accessory

September 22, 2015
Fine-Folded (2)
by Elizabeth McGuire

Congratulations! You survived a sweltering summer in Austin! Now it’s time to enjoy a season filled with football games, concerts, and art festivals in the cool, crisp autumn air. Oh wait. Scratch that.

Though high temperatures are not behind us, at least we have a local company helping us beat the heat in style.

Fine & Folded, created by Austinites Suzanne McGinnis and Carmen Sutherland, makes beautiful, practical hand fans. The carefully designed fans are constructed of sleek bamboo and high-quality, double-sided paper. The six different styles combine a classic pattern with a touch of whimsy, such as “Gingham & Grackle” or “Dogtooth & Dragonfly.” They are incredibly fun to use and, best of all, they cool you down.


McGinnis said the goal was to create something simple and delightful that actually works. “It’s not another techy gadget you have to plug in,” she said. “It’s the exact opposite. And there’s something about a fan…everyone who holds it can’t help but smile.”

The pair of friends started their business after Sutherland took a (very hot) trip to Japan and was inspired by the abundant and lovely fans found there. McGinnis and Sutherland had spent several years working together as marketing professionals who built other people’s brands. When their business came to a crossroads, they decided to create something of their very own. Fine & Folded was born.


After two years of research and product development, the company launched in the spring of 2015 and spent the summer promoting their business and getting their fans in the hands of overheated locals. For their 100 Days of Hotness campaign they surprised Austinites (dubbed “Hotties”) on the street and rewarded them with cool fans.

The products can currently be customized with small charms (letters including the Greek alphabet) or with personalized wrappers (great for weddings and special events). More designs are in the works, including a “Lace & Longhorn” fan that will please the burnt-orange crowd.


The fans are currently found in 8 states and 15 Austin retailers, including Tarrytown Pharmacy, Aloe Skin + Body, The Herb Bar and Zilker Garden Gift Shop. They are also available online 24/7. Locals can waive the shipping fee and pick up at the fan headquarters in west Austin by using the code ATXPICKUP. And if you are heading out to the ACL Festival, look for their pop-up tent near Juiceland on Lake Austin Blvd.

If all goes as planned for the Fine & Folded duo, locals will embrace the fans and make them a critical part of their survival kit. “I don’t leave home without one,” said Sutherland. “I grab keys, sunglasses, phone and fan…all the essentials.”

It’s as much about surviving as it is enjoying Austin, despite its 9 months of heat. “We’re super active people, as are most of our friends,” said McGinnis. “You don’t want a little thing like heat to stop you from being outside in this great city.”


Elizabeth McGuire is a writer, photographer and mother of three from Austin. Her words and images have appeared in print, online and on stage. She is a 5th-generation Texan who doesn’t eat barbecue. (


Jenny Lawson “The Bloggess” Gets Furiously Happy con Queso with an Interview, an Announcement and an Old-School Giveaway

September 21, 2015

Jenny Lawson is my BFF and it just so happens that she has a book coming out tomorrow. Or today if you are currently in Australia. I say that because a whole chapter of her new book is set in Australia…and I know that everything Australian in the book is 100% true because I happened to be with her in Australia when it happened. So sayeth the Koala.


Exactly. And that part didn’t even make the book. A lot of other things did though, things that were even better. But the book isn’t about Australia, not at all. It’s about being furiously happy…which, granted, is somewhat easy to do when you are in Australia, but that’s not really the point.

The point is about choosing. Choosing life. Choosing happiness. No, more than that, choosing to be freaking furiously happy no matter what is going down. And with Jenny, there’s always a lot going down. At this point, she would make a really lewd joke and I wouldn’t get it or even know what was going on, and then she’d tell me between fits of laughter what I had just said and then I’d be like, crap, now I have to edit that out, that’s not at all what I meant, and then she’d laugh so hard she couldn’t breathe and we’d forget what we were talking about because she was now effectively dying of not breathing. And really that’s sort of what the book is about. Seeking and finding and celebrating happiness and laughter and joy even in the midst of confusion and embarrassment and suffocation. Or something. It has a lot going on. And it’s good. It’s my favorite thing she’s written yet. Keep reading.


A little backstory: Jenny and I have been friends for a decade now. We met through blogging when she was writing for the Houston Chronicle on Mama Drama and I was writing here at Blog con Queso.


Photo credit: Ed Schipul

One time we threw a party called Mama Drama con Queso at a random Mexican restaurant for really no reason at all.  (We even had a logo! And listed and linked everyone who attended. Old school, y’all.) It made zero sense, but it was fun. That pretty much sums up most of my favorite things.


And this pretty much sums up our friendship right here.


Over the last decade, we’ve been to an embarrassing amount of blogging conferences together. I even help run one now. I know, so nerdy. So fun. Photo credit: Rita Arens 


And here we are at the Kirtsy book launch, where Jenny was first published. I think that’s true. This was in her “I wear comfort wigs everywhere” phase.


We quit our jobs at the same time. (Purely coincidence. She left to write a book. I left to take naps in the middle of the day.) Photo credit: Karen Walrond. Although I’m not sure how that’s possible since Karen is in the photo. Magic!



We moved to the country at the same time. Related, her dead dog was half pulled up from the grave by vultures. So I helped run off some vultures. (Texas forever.) All that was in her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened. 


This was us the moment we found out that her first book had debuted #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List. Oh yes it did. So now you’re caught up. And now Jenny has a new book that’s coming out, and we are furiously happy about it!


Are you ready? Because new book. And it comes out tomorrow (today if you’re in Australia). And you should get it. Like right now. Go.


While you’re doing that the rest of us will look at this photo of Jenny and my son Harry, who happens to be turing 10 on the same day that Jenny’s book comes out tomorrow (today, Australia). He is a bit younger than 10 in this photo. THAT IS HOW LONG IT TAKES BOOKS TO COME OUT. I feel like we’ve been waiting for this one forever. And now it’s here! Finally!

So let’s do this. An interview with Jenny Lawson, a big announcement and a totally rad and ridiculous giveaway. Keep reading. And get ready to get happy. Furiously Happy. 


Laura: Hi Jenny. You are nice. And I like your outfit. What are you doing?

Jenny: Thank you!  They’re pajamas.  Don’t tell anyone.  BTW, your hair looks fantastic.

L: Thanks! It’s real. Okay, some serious like I know what I’m doing questions now. Are you ready?

J: Ready! And I will try to pretend like I’m a responsible person who answered these questions on time. * cough *

L: Okay. Let’s go.  When we met, you were doing spreadsheets for a living, basically. Did you ever think you’d be writing books?

J: Yes. I just didn’t think people outside of my house would ever read them.

L: Fair enough. But then they did! And people seem to like them. I’d even say they’re quite inspiring. So what are your greatest creative inspirations? 

J: I read a lot.  Possibly too much, if that’s possible.  Dorothy Parker, Nora Ephron, and David Sedaris inspire me with their irreverence and humor in tackling hard subjects.

L: Good answer. Remember that time you stalked Amy Sedaris? Good times. Ok. What is your favorite word? 

J: Tintinnabulation: The sound of ringing bells.  My favorite definition of it though is the lingering sound of a ringing bell that occurs after the bell has been struck.  I love that there’s a name for that noise that comes after a noise.

L: Deep. What is your least favorite word?  

J: Panties.

L: Valid.  And what is your favorite curse word?

J: Fuck.  It’s a verb, a noun, an adjective.  It’s positive or negative depending on the tone.  It’s the most flexible thing I own.


L: What is your favorite room in your house? 

J: My office.  It’s filled with books, my computer and a shitton of taxidermied animals wearing Victorian clothing.

L: Not unlike the taxidermied animals you wear out in public. Favorite spot in the world not in your house? 

J: The swing in my backyard with a good book.

L: Speaking of, what are you reading right now?

J: I always have a lot of books going at once because I like to read what best fits my mood.  Right now I’m rereading Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune for the 5th time, Kindred for the 2nd time and Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood for the 1st time.

L: The best part about being your age?

J: I don’t have to go to high school ever again.

L: Nightmare job? 

J: Scorpion tester?  Is that a job?  Because I wouldn’t want it.

L: I don’t think that’s a job. But maybe. In Australia or something. That’s a teaser for the book. Get it? How about a talent you wish you had? 

J: I wish I could not care what people think about me.  That probably isn’t a “talent” but it’s something I’m working on.


L: Your definition of kindness:

J: Forgiving someone who never said they were sorry.  It’s a kindness to them and to yourself.

L: Your definition of awesome:

J: This guy:

L: What’s your favorite new discovery or find?

J: Calamityware.  It’s like the blue willow china my mom had, but infested with octopuses and pirates and aliens. (This just in: Calamityware has added to the giveaway below. Keep reading…)

L: A six-word memoir that captures your life as an artist OR your art life.

J: “I apologize for everything in advance.”

L: Okay, but that should not apply to this new book because it’s awesome.


L: But shifting gears, this is The Queso after all, so here are few Texas questions for you. First, what’s your favorite Texas food?

J: Kolaches.  Not the meat ones.  The fruit/poppyseed ones.

L: Your favorite season in Texas?

J: We have seasons in Texas?

L: Allegedly. What about your fave Texas word?

J: Y’all.  It’s almost as versatile as “fuck”.

L: Almost. Where’s one place in Texas that everyone should visit?

J: Big Bend


L: What’s one quintessential Texas experience everyone should have?

J: Watching a thunderstorm storm blow in from your porch.  That amazing smell of rain hitting dust.

L: Texans get a lot of crap for being obnoxious…and sure, we get that…but what’s one thing that makes Texans unequivocally awesome and/or pretty great?

J: Friendliness.  Especially in the country when every time you pass someone on the road you wave at them.  Not a full wave, but lifting two fingers from the steering wheel in recognition of “I see you.  We’re both here.  Thanks for not hitting me.”

L: Who is your favorite Texas artist right now? Music or Maker.

J: Miranda Lambert.  She’s perfect to sing along to when you’re really angry or really happy or both.

L: Favorite thing about being Texan?

J: That there are so many definitions of being Texan.

L:. Preach.

J: Right?

L: Completely. Favorite “Texas” recipe? 

J: Um.  Booze slushies?

L: Interesting. And you don’t cook, so very apt. I will follow up with you on this later. I see Jenny’s Boozy Slushies recipe will be here in coming weeks.

J: No.

L: Yes. 

L: Okay, where’s your recommended spot to get the best queso?

J: Your house.

L: Aw! Come over right now!  

J: I can’t I have a book coming out tomorrow and I can’t find my shoes.

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L: Legit. But seriously now, let’s get serious. We’ve all read this blog post which was the origin story and inspiration for Furiously Happy…but what inspired you to take it to the next level and write this book?

J: Being a bit “touched” is so intrinsically part of being me that I thought it would be the next logical book.  Write what you know.

L: What was your favorite discovery you found when writing Furiously Happy?

J: That even people who didn’t have or understand mental illness were still interested in learning about it.  I was afraid that this book would have a very limited sort of audience but it turns out that everyone can relate to a little bit of crazy.

L: What is the one thing you want people to take away from Furiously Happy?

J: That depression lies.  That everyone is fighting his or her own personal battle.  That kindness saves lives.  That being different is nothing to be ashamed of.  Wait, did you say “one thing”?  Sorry.  I suck at math.

L: That’s okay, I am too, and I like all those things. The more, the merrier. And the book covers even more than that. As well as our trip to Australia and a fancy dermatologist amongst other things. But all and all and in the end, what’s your favorite definition of Furiously Happy?

J: Madly joyous.  That looks like I just used a thesaurus but I did not.  I can’t even find my thesaurus. I suspect it was abducted by possums.

L: What’s your deal with possums, man?

J: What’s YOUR deal with possums, man?  You’re practically infested with them.  We went on the other side of the world and you still managed to find them.  I think you might be haunted.  With possums.

L: Rude. That’s also a teaser for the new book, yes?

J: I can not confirm or deny this.


The above photo is also a teaser for a chapter in the new book. It’s less scary than it looks. Possibly.

L: Right but now to the questions we’ve all been wanting to know: Is blogging dead? No really. Is it dead? The blogging? HA HA HA. Hahahahaha. Ha.  

J: What’s “blogging”?

L: That’s what I thought. What else do you want us to know?

J: That my feet are shrinking.  They got bigger when I was pregnant but in the last 6 months they’ve shrunk and now I’m walking out of all of my shoes.  What does that mean?

L: I think it means you’re probably going to be the next helper on Doctor Who. Or personal assistant. Or whatever.

J: COMPANION! And You’re Fired!

L: Okay, Donald. Role of BFF is so wide open for the taking, folks. Because nope.

J: Yes! And okay, you’re not fired. But you just have to watch it with me, YOU HAVE TO! You will change your mind.

L: No, no. I already watched that one long one with you and it was totally scary, like worse than Fantasy Island scary. And I didn’t like it. And I still have bad dreams about that creepy kid. 

J: No. You have to keep trying. You have to watch at least three. That’s the rule. TRY! TRY AGAIN! Everyone knows that. You have to watch three.

L: I will watch three if you will come back and tell us your favorite boozy slushy recipe.

J: Okay. I’ll make something up.

L: Deal. But most importantly, before you go. What’s the password?

J: Password.



Are you still here? Still reading? Well if so, I’m extremely impressed because that was long, so you get two rewards.

  1. You get to be one of the first to know that Little Ms. Jenny Lawson will now be writing at The Queso from time to time. Oh yes she will. And two…
  2. We’re going to do an old school, old fashioned giveaway here. Old school blogging, y’all! If you leave a comment here on this post, you will be entered to win the randomly selected by randomized Bloggess Prize Package that has at least seven things in it. Probably more. Here’s what that looks like. At least.
The Old School Giveaway Bloggess con Queso Prize Package

A signed copy of Furiously Happy.

A signed Traveling Rory. The original Traveling Rory, in fact. Total collectors item.

 A signed copy of Jenny’s audio book which she recorded herself. Well, I mean it’s her voice reading it.

Some other random crap I find around that I get her to sign. This could be anything. God help us, every one.

Basically anything else I think of or find to throw into the care package. It will be good, y’all.

A certified certificate that states that you are a WINNER!

Some Sour Patch Kids.

Aaaannnddd….THIS JUST IN!…

The artist owner of Calamityware has reached out to us and he would like to play along in the Furiously Happy Old School Giveaway Bloggess con Queso Prize Package madness so he is throwing another high-quality item into the mix:

(Only he’s not actually throwing it, because it’s porcelain, and he is responsible.)

AND Jenny’s favorite Calamityware plate 

So LEAVE A COMMENT RIGHT HERE telling us what you think of Jenny and/or books and/or possums and you are immediately and instantly ENTERED TO WIN! And my God, I hope you win.

Also, go to Jenny’s At Home Book Party on Tuesday night and join us at Book People in Austin on Wednesday night.  In Houston on Friday night. In Dallas on SaturdayAnd/or go see her anywhere on the road between now and December.

Or come back here. She’ll be here, too.  Consuming Queso as per usual.

But first…



A) Jenny’s book debuted at #3 on the New York Times Best Seller List! Whoa! Go Jenny! Go You!


B)  Here are some photos of the goods one of you will win!  Here’s how it shakes out.


There’s the whole signed Furiously Happy package of goodness. Book that she used to do her reading (the book she read from) at her first Furiously Happy Tour Stop book reading (!) which happened in Austin. Signed copy of the audio book. Signed Rory mask. And the original traveling Rory. 


I forgot to pick up random items in my house, so I just pulled random items out of my purse for Jenny to sign. Like some playing cards, a receipt, a package of tweezers, a scarf. Oh and teabags…signed by Jenny, Victor and Hailey. You can have tea with the whole Lawson family.


Plus, Calamityware added one of Jenny’s favorite plates to the mix: Tentacles. 

Plus, a certificate, some other things, sour patch kids. It’s really good. You’ll see. But this contest is almost over (midnight CST 10/2) so if you haven’t left a comment to enter, do that now!   On this post.



C) Our Texas Conference for Women giveaway ends tonight, too (same time, midnight CST 10/2) so if you haven’t left a comment to enter that one, do that now!  On this post.  We’ll be there. You want to be there. Celebrate good times, c’mon.


Best of Houston: El Bolillo Baker & Canino Market

September 16, 2015
By Karen Walrond

Last year, since both my husband Marcus and our friend Carl enjoy cooking, Carl’s wife, Trish, and I sprang for a culinary tour of Houston for the two of them.  (Houston is, by the way, the best city in the country for foodies.  If you don’t believe me, take a look at this.)  The tour was led by Chef Hugo Ortega, a multiple James Beard award nominee and one of the most renowned of Houston’s chefs, and included a tour of various restaurants focused specifically on authentic Mexican food (Chef Hugo’s eponymous restaurant is one of the best in town).  And while the food (and tequila) were great, what Marcus came home raving about the most was the Mexican market where they started their tour.

“I really need to take you there,” Marcus gushed.  “It’s where Chef Hugo gets all of his ingredients.  It’s amazing.  And it’s huge.  And there’s this bakery that has … well, everything.  It’s a photographer’s dream.  We have to go.”

It took almost a year for me to make it there, but late lasts month, Marcus finally took our daughterAlex and me to see it.  First, we stopped at the bakery to pick up a couple of pastries for breakfast.





El Bolillo Bakery is one of those places that smells like what I’m sure heaven smells like.  Everything is fresh, made right on the property (one of the employees told me that they have a team who bakes all night before opening at 5 a.m. every morning), and it’s sort of difficult not to be paralyzed with indecision, everything looks so amazing.  But I chose a fresh bread roll stuffed with cheese and jalapeños, and Marcus and Alex chose something equally delicious, and once we paid, we headed across the street to the market, while we munched on our very delicious breakfast.

Canino Market opens up into a gigantic (and immaculate) produce hall, with just about every fruit and vegetable that you can imagine — both locally grown, and clearly shipped in from more tropical climes.  The variety was astounding.





And then

… once we made it through the produce hall, we entered the real market.  This area was full of the more exotic fruits, as well as kitchenware, medicinal herbs, dried peppers, children’s toys, handmade pottery, piñatas, Mexican and Latin American candies — everything.  And while the clientele was clearly predominantly Mexican and Central American, I couldn’t help but be strongly reminded of my homeland of Trinidad, especially the open-air markets that we have there.  There were fruits I haven’t seen in years:  green — green! — avocados the size of my head (as opposed to the small black wrinkly ones that are more popular here in America), and we bought the most delicious mangos I’ve ever had in the United States.  Biting into it, I was instantly transported back to my grandmother’s garden behind her house.

I was kicking myself for not having visited this place sooner.  It was amazing.








Both the bakery and the market have been in Houston for decades, and I can’t imagine how I missed visiting these places earlier.  So if you’re in Houston, don’t make my mistake — go see them both. But be sure to take cash — some of the stalls don’t take credit cards.

This post was written by Karen Walrond an all-around swell human who will always choose the fresh bread roll stuffed with cheese and jalapeños. Read more about Karen right here.  

Texas Women Are So Awesome, They Even Have a Conference

September 16, 2015

Where will you be this October 15th? If you’re anywhere near Austin, the answer should be, “Why, I’ll be at the 2015 Texas Conference for Women, of course!” Because we will be there. And you’ll be there right? Because you’re smart like that, aren’t you? (And keep reading for your chance to win a ticket to the conference.)

Here’s why you should attend the 16th annual conference held at the Austin Convention Center: Thousands of women from across the state attend for a full day of networking, inspiration, professional development and personal growth. The one-day Conference features keynote addresses, and breakout sessions led by more than one hundred experts in the fields of business, philanthropy, health, finance, media and professional development. The nonprofit, nonpartisan event draws women of all ages and backgrounds who are interested in building communication skills, leadership strategies and work-life balance tools.

Plus, sometimes they have free cookies.

This year, one of the keynote speakers will be Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Emmy winner, author, two time cancer survivor and all-around inspirational person. Plus, she looks awesome in orange:

ABC NEWS - Robin Roberts )ABC/Heidi Gutman)

Not many people do, you know. Look awesome in orange.

Patricia Arquette will also be keynoting. You may remember Patricia from when she won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Olivia in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, then gave a heartfelt acceptance speech on the gender wage gap in the U.S. You just know her keynote will be smart, powerful and full of calls to action about pay equity and how we can achieve it.

Patricia Arquette Photo: Randee St. Nicholas/CBS © 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Patricia Arquette
Photo: Randee St. Nicholas/CBS
© 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Also keynoting on 10/15 are the amazing Candy Chang, urban space artist and designer and TED Senior Fellow, and founder of the “Before I Die…” project, and Bert Jacobs from Life Is Good who will talk about how we should all “choose optimism.” He seems very “the margarita glass is half-full,” so that’ll be a fun speech.

In addition to the keynoters, there are 100+ speakers appearing at the Conference, including Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family and president of New America Foundation; Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva and Profounder; Mary Spio, CEO of Next Galaxy Media and author of It’s Not Rocket Science: 7 Game-Changing Traits for Uncommon Success; Aliza Licht, DKNY PR GIRL and author of Leave Your Mark: Land Your Dream Job, Kill It in Your Career, Rock Social Media; Elizabeth Thornton, author of The Objective Leader: How to Leverage the Power of Seeing Things As They Are; Azita Ardakani, founder and CEO of LoveSocial; Gloria Feldt, New York Times best-selling author and co-founder of Take The Lead; Major MJ Hegar, Foreign Policy 100 Leading Global Thinker; Gloria Mayfield Banks, world-renowned leadership coach and many more.

Now back to the free ticket business: Want to win it? Go visit the Texas Conference for Women website, take a look at the speakers, then come back here and leave a comment telling us who you’re excited to see. Check out the Conference Agenda, too, for more insight. Winner will be chosen at random, and they may possibly get to sit next to an esteemed member of The Queso during the keynote luncheon, too.

And just in case you’re not our lucky winner, you can still use this super secret password that will get you $10 off the ticket price. You can purchase tickets here and use the password TXBG15. Win/win/win! Good luck!

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 4.24.38 PM

Basil: Easy to Grow, Easy to Harvest, Plus There’s Basil Ice Cream

September 4, 2015

One of our “to grow” items this month is Basil (What to plant in August). It’s easy. It smells good. And, as our new contributor Kristen notes, it transforms into an impressive ice cream. Trust us. You won’t be disappointed.

Check it out.

By Kristin Paull

(Kristin is our newest Contributor con Queso. Read more about Kristin here)

A few years ago a friend asked if I wanted to help start a school garden. At the time I knew less than nothing about gardening, but in a few short weeks, I learned all about amending the soil, fertilizing, drip irrigation, shade structures, organic pest control and on and on and on.  The best part though was working with the kids.  They always came to the garden excited to be outside and getting dirty.  As we would talk about planting this vegetable or that herb, I would ask if they liked to eat these foods.  Often we were met with blank stares or lots of heads shaking “nope.”  


The interesting thing about kids and gardening, I came to learn, was that when they plant it, feed it and water it they are so much more likely to eat it!  So at the end of each season, we would celebrate with a harvest feast.  It was always fun coming up with our menu.  We had so many successful dishes, but none was even close to the Basil Ice Cream.


Yes, basil ice cream. Kid crowd pleaser.

The kids would never believe me that ice cream made with herbs could taste good.  Truthfully, I think teachers had their doubts as well.  I felt like a magician pulling that rabbit out of the hat!  Every single time, the ice cream was a huge hit.  They always asked for seconds!  Kids still stop me to ask about that ice cream.  I hope they think of it every time they see some basil, and wonder what else they think they might not like but should try anyway.

This ice cream recipe came to me via my sister from “The Sweet Life” by Kate Zuckerman.  You can make it with all kinds of good herbs- thyme, mint, lemon verbena, etc.  I have also served this ice cream with her Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp- so good!



Basil Ice Cream

1 1/2 oz basil leaves (about 30 leaves)

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

1 cup sugar

8 egg yolks

1 whole egg

pinch of salt

1/4 cup skim milk powder

special tools (fine mesh strainer, ice bath, ice cream machine)


Wash and dry basil leaves.  In a saucepan, heat cream, milk and 1/2 cup of sugar.  Once this mixture boils, add basil leaves and remove from heat.  Let infuse for 10 minutes.


In mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, egg, salt, skim milk powder and remaining sugar.  Whisk for one minute.  Use a ladle to slowly mix some of the hot cream into the yolk mixture to temper.  Gradually add egg mixture to the hot cream, whisking constantly.  Cook custard over medium heat until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon.


Strain the custard through the fine mesh strainer, pushing it through with a spatula or spoon.  The basil leaves and any solids will remain in the strainer. Cool the custard immediately in an ice bath, and whisk until cool.


Remove, and cover the custard with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Refrigerate for a minimum of two hours.


Churn the custard in your ice cream maker according to instructions until the ice cream holds the lines of the stirrer.  It will be soft.  Remove to a freezer container, and allow to freeze overnight.

And enjoy!

Oh yeah, and also, we just found this recipe for Basil Mascarpone Buttercream Frosted Chocolate Cake. What?! Are you kidding me. This would go well with basil ice cream. And if you think that’s too much basil, you should probably reconsider. Because there’s never too much basil. Never.

This post was written by Kristin Paull, your new best friend and all-around swell human. Read more about Kristin right here.  And you can read even more about Kristin right here. 

And this post is written with love for 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. We will! Because we love them. Join us!

Meet Our New Contributor: Kristin Paull

September 4, 2015

I hope I can fully convey to you how excited I am that Kristin Paull is joining us at the Queso…if only because for many years she has been a creative inspiration to me. Kristin is one of those people who just makes it happen and shares the love. If she wants to try more restaurants, she starts a dinner club. If she wants to do more gardening, she starts a garden program at her sons’ school. If she wants to bake things, she’s suddenly running a cookie business. All the while, she’s totally honest about the processes, the struggles and the successes as they come. And holy crap, those cookies have crack in them, I swear.

Kristin and I went to the same university but didn’t meet until we were both involved in an Austin startup, years later… which now was an unmentionable number of years ago.  We were in a book club together (that she started, of course) and mostly I just remember that we didn’t ever see a book the same way (Although I think we both agreed that Love in the Time of Cholera is not a love story, but rather a creepy stalker novel) but she always opened up a new perspective and creative idea. She’s continued to do that ever since and always. I can’t wait to see what all she shares with us here.

To get us started, I asked her a few questions, and I’ll let her take to from here. Please let me introduce you with a few highlights…


Kristin and her husband Jason have been married for 19 years, which doesn’t make any sense because they look like they are 19. Were they married in utero? Possibly. When I asked her about their life together she said…”We have decided we have the wanderlust gene full-tilt.  We have been so lucky to take some pretty awesome trips.  Our house is unfinished 15 years later, because we keep choosing travel and memories over floors and bathrooms.  Sometimes, I have to look through old photos to remind myself of these choices when I am bemoaning our jacked up floors.”


When I asked about her favorite new thing, she said…”Our newest addition.  Lily is equal parts sweet and vampirish, and she was my first opportunity to name a girl.  Fun fact- she sleeps on my head.”



About her hobbies…”I love to cook, and specifically I love to bake.  I started decorating cookies like these when my oldest was two- they were hideous but delicious.  I kept practicing!  Some people paint for their zen moment…I bake, cook and decorate.”


More…”We love to travel, and made a 17-year-old dream come true this summer- we traveled abroad with our boys for 6 weeks.  We love how life changes when you really unplug from it for a long period of time.”


And even more…

What are your greatest creative inspirations?

My kids bring so many opportunities to be creative through projects, parties, and  celebrations.  With three kids, I am always trying to make their moments special and unique to them- different personalities and interests take us different places with different groups of friends.  My other great creative inspirations come through cooking.  I love to try different recipes so much so that my family often complains that we never have the same thing twice.  While this is certainly not true (hello, taco night, I am talking to you!), I love to have an evening without practices or games so that I can try a new recipe while having a drink and listening to music as I cook.  Hello, happy place!

If you had a free hour, what would you do?

What is this “free time” of which you speak?  Ha!  I would love to say that I would sit down and read a book- my very favorite thing to do.  But, I hate to only read for one hour, and it is often hard for me to relax until my ducks are in a row- laundry humming, dishwasher running, house tidied and beds made.  I am very Type A, and I have come to accept the baggage that comes with that.  I must clear the clutter in my brain so that it can dial down a notch.  I am envious of others who can relax at any time.  It can be work for me much of the time.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I love this question, and my answers change all the time.  I think my current answer to this one (in a world that does not involve volunteer duties, school projects and soccer practices) is that I would love to be a travel writer.  We love to travel and all of the challenges and adventures it brings.  Learning about other cultures through their daily rituals, museums, food and drink, etc.  I really love to see how people live around the world, and there are still so many places on my list.  We have dreamt of traveling with our kids forever, and it is fun to finally be in a place where the kids are old enough to travel well and enjoy it all with us.  But, we love going places just the two of us as well, and have been so fortunate to take some amazing trips.

From James Lipton, host of Inside the Actor’s Studio 

What is your favorite word? 

I love this question, and probably thought about it the most.  I think I love the word “can’t.”  It is the one word that inspires me to action, and makes me want to go and do!  Whether it is someone else telling me that it can’t be done, or even if it is me struggling with that word rolling around in my own head, I have found that I have done so many things that CAN be done if you just keep pushing at it.  I have told my kids forever (cue the eyerolls), “Be the water flowing toward your goal.  If you hit a rock, roll around it in some way that keeps you moving forward to what you want.”

What is your least favorite word? 

Same word- “can’t.”  I think we limit ourselves and each other all the time with this word, and it absolutely gets my blood moving when I hear my kids say it.  Perspective is everything, right?  However, it was a very close tie with “hate.”  That word is a “no go” in our house.

What is your favorite curse word? 

There is really no contest for this one- “dammit.”  When our oldest (now nearly 16) was about 15 months old, he dropped his cheerios on the ground.  He clenched his fist, and said “dammit” with my exact expression and tone.  Oops!  In my defense, I had no idea he could understand what I was saying!  Yeah- that was his first real word.  Proud Mom moment!

From JL’s Uncle Jessie Meme

A song/band/type of music you’d risk wreck & injury to turn off when it comes on the radio?  

Hands down Kesha.  How did she even happen, people?  Nope.  I also cannot stand the voice of the lead singer of Silversun Pickup- it just irks me.

Best show on television?  

Right now, my favorite show is “Blackish.”  I want Rainbow to be my best friend.  She is smart, funny, silly and loves her family in such a genuine way.  The kids are too cute and precious, and I love Dre and how sweet he is with all of them.

Favorite movie? 

I am digging into the vault on this one- “Pretty in Pink.”  My best friend and I walked to the dollar cinema (anyone remember those?) practically every day one summer to watch that film.  I LOVED the music, and still do.  The whole thing was perfection for me.  I have not watched it in ages, but I need to change that.

Favorite restaurant?

Our favorite restaurant right now is Qui.  You might remember Paul Qui from Top Chef.  It is his restaurant.  The drinks are always phenomenal. The people there are so incredibly nice and talented.  I love how he has really taken an artisnal approach to everything from the murals on the walls to the actual dishes on which he serves his food.  He is really invested in every detail.  The food is always fantastic, and I enjoy stepping outside my comfort zone in such amazing ways.  They have introduced me to my forever favorite dessert- halo halo.  We did the special tasting room for a celebration, and it was probably the most perfect meal we have ever had.  I really believe in finding chefs that you love, and then trusting them to do what they do.  I trust Paul and Jorge to make anything for us- they know what they are doing in all of the most interesting ways.

Best concert? 

My aunt (the biggest music fan I know) and I took two of our boys and a friend to an OK GO concert in a small Austin venue downtown.  I love those smaller spaces, and they killed it!  The sound system wasn’t working, so they sang part of Les Miserables to entertain us while they fixed it.  It was both hilarious and awesome!  Every song of theirs was fantastic!  Someone came to put a box right in front of us during the set, and we weren’t sure what that was about until the lead singer jumped from the stage to stand on the box for an acoustic song.  It was fantastic.  I am a huge fan now!  I love those shows where you get to hear stories and learn their personalities.  I can listen to the music online anytime, so I really appreciate it when musicians take the time to give something extra in a live show.  We are lucky to live in Austin- it seems most musicians want to come through our town.  Yay for us!

Favorite room in your house? 

I would have to say my kitchen is my favorite room.  It was a super weird space when we first bought the house.  I thought forever about how I would want to change it if we were to ever redo it.  We finally renovated when our youngest was about 2 years old, I think.  It was a challenge to go down to the studs- we were cooking in the living room, washing dishes in the bathroom, and eating on the patio.  But, it was worth it, and I can honestly say that I would not do anything different.  It is a really comfortable kitchen to work in, and I can have lots of room for family to cook with me or for friends to hang out while I cook.  It’s a good thing I love it as I think I spend most of my time in there when I am home.

Favorite Girl Scout cookie? 

Thin mints- duh!!!  Do they make other flavors?

If you could have anything put on a t-shirt what would it be? 

Ok- this is actually the tshirt my husband threatens to make for me all the time.  “I could agree with you…but then we would both be wrong.”  It’s hilarious, and it is totally not my idea!  But, what can you say…it’s usually the truth!  Ha!

Nightmare job?

I could never survive being an accountant in an office with no windows.  That just sounds like my personal hell.  Thanks to all of you out there who can do it.  I will bring you cookies!

Dream vacation?  

Many years ago we were lucky enough to take a trip to Tanzania for a safari.  We absolutely loved it, and it might rank up there as one of our favorite trips.  I have always dreamed of taking my kids on safari.  I am not sure they would agree to it, but it has always been a dream.  As for a place I have not yet been…I would love to see Australia and New Zealand…or Finland, Norway, Sweden…or Brazil and Argentina.  One dream vacation?!!!  That will just never be me!

The best part about being your age?

I really love my age.  I think I was always an old soul, but now I feel like my soul matches my age.  I love being a Mom to teenage kids- they are hilarious and maddening at the same time.  I love our busy lives until I am worn out by the end of the school year.  I love the late night talks my boys like to have, and I love the awesome conversations with their awesome friends.  Life is so good right now, and I know enough to know that I must treasure every moment.

What’s on your nightstand? 

My nightstand has a bowl of hydrangeas, an analog clock with an alarm I never need to set, my Kindle and “The Mysteries of Udolpho” by Ann Radcliffe.

From the famous “Weird Things” blogoshpere meme

Tell us 3 weird things about you:

1. I have “situs inversus”- all of my organs are reversed.

2. One leg is 2.5 inches shorter than the other leg.

3.  I was an only child until the age of 8 when I became number three in a line of four sisters.  So, I enjoy the complications of having all of the qualities of an only child, oldest child and middle child.  It can be weird!

From Smith Magazine’s Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs from Writers Famous and Obscure 

A six-word memoir that captures your life as an artist OR your art life.

Make good choices- try new things.


Welcome Kristin! I can’t wait for you guys to get to know her better.  Read more about Kristin right here. 

It’s Fun to Stay at the Y.M.C.A of the Rockies

September 3, 2015
By Wendi Aarons

Texans love Texas. Just not so much in June, July and August. The hot summer months are when our Lone Star love wanes a little bit, and we head to either the beach or the mountains for a much needed escape. Trust me, you can only spend so many weeks watching your landscaping turn brown and die before you’re weeping into your beer, wondering what it’s like to not have to douse your body in Clinical Strength deodorant every morning.

At least that was the dream I had in mind when my husband Chris, boys Sam (13) and Jack (11), and I packed up the Volvo, and headed to Estes Park, Colorado last month. “Drive until Mama sees a goose bump!” I commanded of Chris while we flew through Texas. “Drive until Mama can wear a mohair sweater!”

“Mama needs to calm the hell down,” he muttered, “or Mama’s gonna be left behind at an El Paso Chevron station.”

Roadtrips with me are like, super fun.

But just fourteen short hours of bickering later, we pulled into our destination for the week, the amazing YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park. It’s like a resort/Y.M.C.A/family camp/retreat/hide-out all wrapped up in one pine-scented package.


We were delighted to be met by an Elk just as soon as we passed through the main entrance. (The furry kind. Not the kind like my Dad and his drunk buddies from the Elk’s Club.) I tried to get as close as I could to snap a picture of Mr. Elk, hoping I’d then shoot to stardom on the Today Show as “blonde moron attacked during Elk Selfie,” but this guy was pretty sweet and chill. Just like this bunny and fawn playing together at the Y in a video that went viral.


The YMCA of the Rockies has four guest lodges that are like simple hotels, or you can choose to stay in a cabin. The cabins range in size from “ginormous family that’s wearing matching t-shirts” to “teeny family that’s sharing one hamburger.” We stayed in a two-bedroom cabin with a fireplace and kitchen, and it actually would have fit seven people if we’d used the bunk beds and pull-out couch. It was quite nice. Here’s Jack acting like he’s giving away our cabin on a game show:


The cabins don’t have TVs, which is fine. We didn’t drive up to the mountains to watch people exercise on “The Biggest Loser.” (The entire resort does have blazingly fast WiFi almost everywhere, though.) Besides, no TV gave the boys a chance to figure out a more advanced version of UNO that involves wagering and pinning each other down on the ground for hours: PAINO


Most of the cabins are located fairly close to the Y’s main buildings, so we were able to easily walk to the cafeteria-style dining room, or to the smaller restaurants. And, being a YMCA, there are activities all day long, most of them free. Tennis courts, a mini golf course, indoor swimming (with a big slide), horseshoes, wiffle ball, basketball, Bingo, yoga, kickball, hikes, etc. We actually had to highlight what we wanted to do on the schedule because there were so many choices. It was wonderful that we could all do individual things, but meet up right after. The boys would go play basketball, Chris would ride his bike, and I would sit on the porch and contemplate the meaning of life/Ryan Gosling’s abs while gazing at this view:


This is the yucky view I had later that day:


Some of the “for a small fee” activities we did (which, full disclosure, I was given as a comp by the Y) included a high ropes course, a climbing wall, a zipline, massage therapy (soooo good), and archery. We were happily exhausted at the end of every day. However, please note that even if you’re by far the best member of your family with a bow and arrow, it’s never a good idea to yell, “WHEN THE HUNGER GAMES BEGIN, I WILL BE YOUR QUEEN, LOSERS” because nobody will want to sit by you at dinner later. Lesson learned.


One day we took a two-hour guided horseback ride through the Rocky Mountain National Park (which abuts the Y), and my boys were in heaven. Me, not so much after the “trotting” started. I’m much better off riding one of those depressed ponies that slump around in a circle at the school carnival. Less impact on a cowgirl’s nether regions, am I right? But the stable at the Y is really fabulous, as are the trail ride guides. We would definitely do it again.

horsesThe weather in Estes Park was in the mid-70’s when we were there, but there was an afternoon rainstorm almost every day. Everyone would then immediately run into the Craft Cabin where (for a fee) you can do everything from mosaics to tie-dye to pottery painting and jewelry design, which Chris loved. I hope this new hobby of his quickly segues into diamond tiaras.



All of the employees at the Y are really, really nice. A lot of them are locals, but a lot are college kids working there for the summer. That helps give it a real “camp” feel, as do other activities like hayrides, drum circles, hikes, and “bird banding” where Jack and I watched a ornithologist put tiny ankle bracelets on birds. Here’s Jack holding a bird before he let it fly off:

birdIf you want to know anything at all about owls or how to catch a hummingbird, trust me, this is your dude.

Finally, the YMCA of the Rockies is literally right next to the Rocky Mountain National Park, so one day we drove up there to take in the scenery. Remember how I was dreaming about goosebumps? It was 32 degrees up there. I had goosemounds. Do you want to build a snowman? I JUST DID. IN AUGUST, BABY. SO WHAT IF HE’S MISSING AN EYE.


We all had an awesome trip in Colorado, and I highly recommend the YMCA of the Rockies if you’re looking for a place to vacation with your family—big or small. There really is something for everyone, even people who just like sitting inside with a puzzle and a nice drink (my retirement plan). Please take a look at for more info because there’s even more to the place that I didn’t mention, plus plenty of lodging specials throughout the year. It’s probably awesome in the winter months, too.

See? I told you it’s fun to stay at the YMCA. And not just because this is the best signage I’ve ever seen, either.


This post was written by Wendi Aarons, your next Hunger Games Tribute and all-around swell human. Read more about Wendi right here.