Friday, May 30, 2008

Bits and Bobbles

This morning I spent half an hour trying to figure out what to wear. I got very frustrated by the process and ended up wearing a pair of jeans and a black shirt. Now I feel sartorially boring.

The other night I was driving home when I heard a strange sound coming from underneath my car. I couldn't identify it, but the sound got louder when I accelerated and dropped off when I braked. I worried it might be a flat tire, so I pulled over to inspect it. I got out of the car and checked the tires. All appeared to be in working order. Then I leaned over and looked under the car. There was a small stick, practically a twig, stuck in the undercarriage and dragging against the ground. Ahhh, the perils of driving a Mini.

My boss came up to me a while back and told me she had a dream about me. She said in her dream I was leaving the office, wearing a summery shorts ensemble and flip flops. I was really, really tan. Then I got on my motorcycle and drove away.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A-Z: C is for Cassata

I promise I haven't forgotten about my baking goal. It's just been slow-going. I wanted to challenge myself with this goal, which means using recipes that I would normally shy away from due to their complexity or ingredients. It's been a little difficult just finding recipes that intrigue me and stretch my limits.

This Cassata Cake was definitely intriguing. It's described as a traditional Sicilian dessert, similar in flavor to a cannoli. Cue The Godfather. I made it a couple of weeks ago for a small gathering of friends. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and I thought the flavors worked nicely together. The only problem I had was getting it safely to the party. As you can see, it toppled over in transit. Fortunately, the tumble didn't affect the taste.

Cassata Cake

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
5 eggs
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 325. Grease 2 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Separate the eggs and set the whites aside. Beat the egg yolks on medium speed until very thick, about 4 minutes. Gradually add the cold water. Slowly add the sugar and beat well for another 3 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Sift the flour mixture over the yolk mixture and mix well.

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into the yolk mixture. Divide batter between the pans. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and then turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.

For the filling:
2 lbs. whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Beat the ricotta cheese well and add the confectioners' sugar and cinnamon. Add the vanilla and stir in the chocolate chips. Chill until ready to use.

For the rum syrup:
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbl light rum

Put sugar and water in small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil for 1 minute and then remove from heat. Add the rum. Cool to room temperature.

For the whipped cream:
1 pint heavy cream
1 1/2 Tbl confectioners' sugar
1 Tbl cold water
1 tsp unflavored gelatin

Whip cream with confectioners' sugar until soft peaks form. Dissolve gelatin in water over low heat. Remove from heat, cool slightly. Whip gelatin into cream until stiff peaks form.

To assemble:
Cut each cake layer in half. Place one of the 4 halves on a cake board or plate and sprinkle with a little of the rum syrup. Spread a third of the ricotta filling on top. Place the second cake layer on top and repeat these steps. Top with the final layer of cake. Frost with whipped cream and garnish with additional mini chocolate chips. Chill at least four hours.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hate-Hate Relationship

Still at City Hall.
Councilmembers are still hearing public testimony...the actual agenda hasn't even started.

Three NPR Amigos

This is how reporters look when they're not reporting:
Slightly lost and uncomfortable.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Sunday was my three-year blogiversary. I was at a wedding, which seems apropos.

I didn't want to return home from North Carolina. The weather was perfect. The scenery was picturesque. The flowers were in full bloom. And I felt like a southern belle while sitting on the veranda of my lovely plantation-style hotel, pictured below.

But of course I had to come home. The couldn't last forever. I returned to Houston. The weather feels like someone left the front and back doors of Hell open and threw in some molten lava for good measure. The view is polluted. The plants are shriveling in the heat. And I felt like driving in the traffic on Westheimer is asking too much of anyone, as pictured below.

Yes, that really is a picture I took yesterday afternoon on Westheimer at Hillcroft. There were two ladies and two children in the car. They escaped literally moments before the whole car was engulfed in flames.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blogging from the Airport

Our flight is delayed an hour. Fortunately we won't miss our connection. But we stuck in the smallest airport I've ever been in. We're at Raleigh/Durham and it is tiny. The TSA security checkpoint had a grand total of two lines. There were about six people in line. If it were up to me I'd just stay the weekend in Chapel Hill, it's that beautiful. But I'm in a wedding this weekend, so I probably should come home. If I get really bored while waiting I'll blog again.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Blogging on Location

I'm blogging from a conference in Chapel Hill, NC. I'm actually in the conference right now, which shows how exciting it is. I will say though that the hotel we're staying in is outstanding. It's the historic Carolina Inn and it is really beautiful. They handed me a warm chocolate chip cookie when I checked in last night. And even better, the bed was one of the most comfortable I've ever slept in. Seriously I slept better than I have in years. That makes this boring conference all worth it. Incidentally I'm blogging from my blackberry and can't really tell if it's working so somebody leave a comment and let me know.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Office Scandal

Yesterday a co-worker informed me that my name was associated with a bit of a scandal. Here's how the story went.One morning Karen drove into the parking lot and saw Rod drive up in a small red convertible. She immediately went to the receptionist and said "I just saw Rod drive up in Laurie's car! Is something going on with them? Are they dating?" Fortunately the receptionist was aware that Rod also drives a small red convertible and was able to reassure Karen that I am not actually having an affair with a much older married man.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pray for 50 Cows

I have a prayer request. Please pray for God to provide 50 cows.

I'm not making this up. Last night a young missionary named Agook visited with a few people at our house. He's one of the Lost Boys of Sudan and recently joined Aid Sudan as a missionary to his people. He travels back to his country a few times each year. They help to repair water wells, bring food and medical supplies and provide pastoral training and church support. On his last trip he met a girl named Grace. He said by the second time he met her, he knew she was the woman he is supposed to marry. The only problem is that several other men are interested in marrying her as well and therefore her dowry is quite high. Agook needs 50 cows. He is confident that the Lord will provide and hopeful that he may be married as soon as this summer. Pray for Agook's safety and ministry in Sudan. And pray for 50 cows.

Agook is on the far right.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Adventures in Dining

I met a friend for lunch today. Incidentally, the friend I met is a guy AND he paid for my lunch AND he didn't even require a DTR beforehand! Way to go, Guy!

We went to a little mom-and-pop joint around the corner from my office. Highlights of the visit included:

A mysterious item on the menu called 'funeral beans.'

A self-serve carafe of water labeled 'Houston Superior Water.'

And our personal favorite shown in the picture below...

Snacks and antacids.
Get 'em before they're gone.

Night Court

I had to go to Night Court this week. It was an experience. Most of the people were there for the same reason I was: speeding in a construction zone. Officers had set a series of speed traps along the Katy Freeway and apparently nabbed dozens of us.

There was also a little boy there who was charged with stealing. The judge looked at him sternly and asked him if he understood why it was such a bad thing to steal. She then questioned his father quite loudly about their finances and ended up giving them a court-appointed attorney to represent them at trial.

Then this little teeny elderly couple was called up to approach the bench. All I could think about was this:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Have Arrived

All my adult life I have held a cherished, secret dream. I have always wanted to be one of those girls who has such a cute haircut that other women would be prompted to ask me for my stylist's name and phone number.

For most of my life this dream was about as likely to come true as it would be likely for me to be the next great basketball star. My hair was lifeless and unruly (is that an oxymoron?). But last summer I went a little wild and got a crazy, edgy, fun new haircut. Men flirted with me. Women complimented me.

And finally, this week, my dream came true. A friend emailed me and told me how much she liked my haircut and asked for my stylist's information. And the best part is this friend has really great hair that I have always admired.

"Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Another Cautionary Tale

Again, What Not to Say to a Girl.

This is another story from Sunday night, involving a different guy. Here's how it went:

Guy: "Laurie, are you going to class dinner tonight?"

Me: "No, I don't think so."

Guy: "Why not?"

Me: "Because I don't really like the restaurant we're going to. If people were going somewhere else I'd probably go."

Guy: "You won't even come for the fellowship? Well I'll go with you if you're taking a group to another restaurant."

Me: "I don't want to splinter the group. If you want to go somewhere else with me that's fine, but I don't think it's a good idea to break up the group."

Guy: "I don't think it's a good idea for me to go to dinner with you. That's 'fellowship' with a completely different connotation."

Me: "Are you saying you wouldn't want to go out to dinner with me?"

Guy: "I...uh...I'm not saying...I just..."

Me: "I'm walking away before you dig yourself into an even deeper hole."

I think he just DTR'd me!
And to top it off, the whole conversation took place in front of another it was a PUBLIC DTR!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

From Our Moscow Bureau

After a short trip back to States, I arrived back to mother Russia amid excitement and confusion. The excitement was about the big Victory Day Parade on May 9th. Every year Russia celebrates the end of WWII. To be truthful, they celebrate beating the Germans. In fact, the general consensus here is that they pretty much did it on their own. Yes, the Americans and the Brits did that thing on that beach in France. But to them, Normandy didn't hold a candle to the 20 million people that they lost during the war. So every year they celebrate beating the Germans by having a parade. However, when the Soviet Union collapsed 17 years ago, the parade turned into more of a small town affair. This year was to be different… This year they were going to show off their military muscle by parading a bunch of military hardware (tanks, missile launchers, jets, etc). I guess the new president (with Putin as the puppet master) wanted the world to know that Russia still has a military.

The confusion. NOT ONE PERSON knew where the parade was going to be. Of course we knew that it would start (or end) at Red Square. But nobody knew what street it would go down. It wasn't in any of the papers (or on-line). I'd never seen so much hullabaloo about a parade, and not one person could tell you where it would be. I had seen on the news that it would start at 10am. But that was all I knew.

With that little bit of knowledge, I got up Friday morning (we had the day off for the mystery parade) and walked down to the end of my block to find that the streets had been barricaded off. This was great to see as it meant that they'd be coming down my street! As luck would have it, they did come rumbling down my street. While the tanks and missile launchers were cruising by, we had helicopters, jets, and huge bombers flying overhead. I have to admit that it was pretty cool to see all that hardware close up.

All that said, I think I should write a letter of criticism and send it to the Kremlin. If you're going to have a parade of that size and grandeur you should at least let people know what street it's going to be on! For that matter, you should have a big name celebrity as the Grand Marshal (I'm thinkin' Britney Spears, Drew Carey, or even Hall & Oates). And can't they have the soldiers throwin' beads, commemorative plastic cups, or even 'moon pies'? Makes me long for New Orleans…

~The Moscow Correspondent

Monday, May 12, 2008

Freudian Slip?

This is a story I like to call "A Cautionary Tale: What Not to Say to A Girl."

Last night I went out for coffee with a guy. Now, this guy is a great guy and happens to be in a position of leadership in a ministry. Which just goes to show that girls can never let their guard down, even when with a guy who has outstanding credentials.

Here's how the evening started:

Guy: "Is your drink ok?"

Me: "I'm not sure. It's scalding hot. I can't drink it. I keep blowing on it, but it hasn't cooled down enough for me to taste it."

Guy: "You should take your top off."

Me: "Excuse me?"

Guy, with look of horror on his face, stammering: "I mean...not your top...uh...the top...the lid...I didn't mean...dammit!"

Me, laughing: "Did you just ask me to take my top off?"

Guy, head in hands: "This is going on the blog tomorrow, isn't it?"

Friday, May 09, 2008

Breakfast Links

He's small, white and curiously strong. Welcome RWT to the blog world!

Also check out this great copy-cat site Stuff Christians Like. Here's my favorite post so far.

Scary and Sad

Yesterday I was driving along Memorial, heading toward downtown. There was a sedan a short distance ahead of me. I noticed the car started weaving erratically across the road. The car would list toward to the left side and then abruptly jerk over to the far right. Twice, the driver came very close to hitting a light pole. That's when I decided to call the police.

I dialed the number and was waiting for dispatch to pick up...but before I even got through I noticed a police cruiser driving behind me. He soon saw what was going on and turned on his lights, zoomed around me and went after the (apparently) drunk driver.

The car didn't pull over! There I am driving down the road thinking "I'm about to witness a high-speed chase"!

The car just kept driving, with the police officer tailing right behind. I don't know if the driver was trying to get away or just completely oblivious.

Finally, right when we reached downtown, the driver decided to pull over. Unfortunately she exited and stopped in the exact place I needed to go to get to work. So there I am sitting behind the police cruiser, which is sitting behind the drunk driver.

I didn't want to immediately pull around them -- I was worried I might make the police officer nervous. So I waited until he was in conversation with her and making her step out of the car and then I went around them.

The really awful part is that all of this happened at 4:15AM. Seriously, you need to get help if you're plastered at four in the morning on a Thursday.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


The HISD School Board is meeting this afternoon. I thought I'd share one of their agenda items with you.

WHEREAS, much of the community’s knowledge and opinions about the Houston Independent School District (HISD) rely on responsible reporting by local media representatives who decide which news to share with the community, how much attention will be focused on various issues, and what the tone of the reporting will be; therefore

NOW BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Education of HISD nominates Laurie Johnson of KUHF Radio (et al) for the Texas Association of School Boards’ statewide Media Honor Roll, calling attention to the ongoing responsible and exemplary nature of their reporting on HISD. The Board expresses its appreciation for the balanced and accurate approach to sharing with the Houston community both the challenges facing our schools and the success achieved by our teachers and students.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

It's a bad sign

when someone who has a very bad sense of style compliments you on your outfit.

A Small Vent

Why do listeners feel compelled to call or email their "corrections" to us? Do they really think we don't know when we make a mistake? I assure you, when I slip up on the air I am the first one to know and cringe.

I got an email from a listener this morning correcting me on my pronunciation of a particular word. I knew I mispronounced it as soon as it came out of my mouth. I didn't need him to inform me. In fact, I suspect he's mispronounced words on more than one occasion in his life. But no one was broadcasting his mistakes to millions of people.

Sometimes I just want to challenge the complainers to come in and do my job for one day so that I can point out all of their mistakes. It's not easy to be on the air for four hours, reading dozens of announcements, timing all your words to a clock and making it all sound smooth and pleasant -- all without making a single mistake.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Curiouser and Curiouser

On Saturday I had to make a run to the convenience store. My crunk p-digm softball team was headed to the championship game and needed more water - stat!

So there I am at the corner store, balancing six bottles of water in my arms when I notice the transaction taking place in front of me.

A clean-cut, 30-something guy was checking out. His grand total rang up to $147. His purchase was $135 worth of scratch-off tickets. And Skoal.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Identity Crisis

I have this recurring issue that occasionally freaks me out. Most of the time I'm ok with it or don't even notice it. But about once or twice a year something will happen that causes me to reexamine this issue and over-analyze the implications.

The issue is my lifelong tendency to build strong friendships with guys. This isn't really a problem in and of itself, but it does create problems from time to time.

As far back as I can remember, I've had really close guy friends. My very first best friend was Matthew Bailey. We were BFF from the age of about 6 months on up to middle school. There was also Shawn, Chris and the first love of my life, Ben. The list goes on.

I never have been able to figure out this part of my personality. I don't know why guys feel such a connection with me and I don't know why I feel so comfortable being close with them. I'm not exaggerating when I say that men who I barely know will confide in me, seek advice from me and share all their junk. I don't seek out these friendships. They come to me. Then there are other friendships that develop over time and are much more intentional.

Most of the girls I know feel the opposite about guy friendships. They say it makes them uncomfortable to share 'real' stuff with their guy friends. Or sometimes it's just a basic misunderstanding of how to be friends with men and how to respond to their thoughts and concerns.

I've also encountered a lot of girls who disapprove of male/female friendships. I've never understood this. I totally get that those friendships can become confusing or misleading or sometimes even inappropriate. But I don't understand the mentality that it's wrong to be friends with a guy. Unfortunately, I've heard that message from quite a few girls. And I've been made to feel like there's something wrong with me because I have close guy friends.

I think that's probably where my freak-out moments stem from. I'm not worried about whether it's right or wrong. What nags at me is that I'm different. And because of being different, I'm misunderstood and sometimes even judged. And then I start to question if maybe there really is something wrong with me. Commence the over-analysis.

I don't know why I'm sharing all of this on my blog. Chalk it up to lack of sleep.

NB: If you're reading this and you happen to be one of my close guy friends, there's no cause for concern. You don't need to do or change anything. :)

Thursday, May 01, 2008


I was just reading a local newspaper article online when an ad on the page caught my eye.

It says "Tone your body, blow your mind. The ORIGINAL Pole Dance Workout For Women."

Yes, there's a picture.
It's of a woman bent in half and hanging upside down on a pole.

In all fairness to the company, the woman is tastefully dressed in a ballet-style leotard and is not posing in a sexual manner. But STILL!