Day 10 of Pinterest ~ TOMS: One For One

Wow, we’ve reached Day 10 of



I’d like to introduce you to one of the most generous people I know ……..



This post was inspired by an email I received yesterday from Blake Mycoskie, the Founder and Chief Shoe Giver at TOMS Shoes. You can read Blake’s bio here.

My blog, 27 & Counting, has been selected to participate in TOMS reading program, Books For Bloggers. In a few days, I will receive Mycoskie’s recently published book, Start Something That Matters to read and review.

An initiative such as this ~ buy a book, give a book ~ is near and dear to my heart. In the coming weeks, I’ll introduce you (my blog readers) to another grassroots literacy program that provides books to doctor’s offices and medical facilities to encourage adults to read with children …. consider it a “prescription” by the doctor.

For every book purchased from a TOMS retailer, Books For Bloggers will give a book away. You can purchase a copy of Start Something That Matters at any major retailer ….. or you might win a copy on my blog (hint-hint)!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I love, love, LOVE my TOMS shoes!


Remember, for every TOMS product purchased (shoes, sunglasses, and books), an item is given to a person in need.



Birthday Party ~ Rapture-Style!!!!

I’m still here. All of my friends and family are here too. The horses were in the pasture when I got home this afternoon and Husband was snoozing (and snoring) when I walked in the house. Obviously, the idiots (c’mon, they are) that tried to persuade everybody that the world would end yesterday were wrong.

Nonetheless, while in Austin for Kimberly’s belated birthday celebration, we lived it up as best we knew how and made fun of everything worth making fun at. If you haven’t figured it out yet, anytime Kim and I are together we’re laughing and misbehaving. We’re cool like that. After watching Bridesmaids – which, by the way, is a GREAT movie and very, VERY funny – we took a quick trip to Wal-Mart; and, as usual, Wally World did not fail to entertain. As we were leaving the parking lot, we saw this:

We went out of our way to get a better look at this piece of spectacular-ness. We’re curius: does the canoe come with the car? or is that extra? 

Kim and I decided the ONLY thing better than a canoe strapped to the hood of your car would be a mattress, because you never know when you need a nap or the extra protection during a hail storm. We live in Texas, after all. Long-distance travel is a given here and the weather (especially hail storms) can be so unpredictable.

Moving on to the good stuff…

If you’re in Austin and looking for a nice place to meet friends for good food and wine, check out Apothecary Cafe & Wine Bar. The location is great (and easy to find, even for an out-of-towner like me!), the drink selection is extensive, the food is amazing, and the ambiance is wonderful for an evening with friends. Did I mention the food is amazing?

Take a look at some of the menu items we devoured:

Tapas Trio: olives, red pepper hummus, tomato brushetta with assorted breads & crackers

House Salad with Grilled Chicken

Nutella Crepe with Mixed Berry Compote

Wow, I’m hungry just looking at these plates of food. Believe me, the food tastes as amazing as it looks!

No doubt, it was a wonderful evening with Kimberly and her friends and co-workers. I’m looking forward to future get-togethers and any excuse to get in the car and go to Austin. I’m really starting to love the Capital City of Texas.

I’m all for keeping the city weird too. I met a particularly WEIRD resident of Austin this weekend, his name is Bob, or so he said.

Smiling Bob

This was the conversation between Bob and I….it was rather extensive:

(Bob enters Nicole’s personal space and sits on the stool next to her.)

Bob: Hi!!!!!!!

Nicole: Umm, hi?

Bob: I’m Bob!!!!!!!! Who are you?

Nicole: I’m not interested.

(Bob quickly exits, searching for his next conversation.)

Gotta love Bob.

Blessings abound

When I started this online journal six months ago, I never dreamt it would be this fun, interactive, or rewarding. I also never imagined how much I would enjoy sharing life’s struggles and celebrations with my blog readers.

To every visitor: I’m grateful. To every visitor: I appreciate your time. To every visitor who’s left a comment: I appreciate your kind words.

To all of you, whether a first-time visitor or a long-time friend (or my parents – hi Mom and Dad!), I’m glad you’re here. Thanks for visiting and I hope you’ll come back again. Share the link with your friends, invite them to my little place in Blog-land.

I created this blog without a distinct purpose or theme. I had a similar blog going at Blogger, but to be honest, I was bored. Someone once asked me which blogging platform I preferred (Blogger or WordPress) and I responded with WordPress for one reason: its streamlined simplicity. I have nothing against Blogger (still have an account there), but I felt disconnected with other bloggers and longed for a sense of community. I feel connected within the WordPress family. I especially love browsing through Freshly Pressed and participating in blog groups, such as the weekly photo challenge. I’d love to be “freshly pressed” someday….hint hint, WordPress people!!!

Feeling that sense of community and connectedness with fellow bloggers is just one of the many reasons I love sharing my rants and raves in a public forum. My friend, Lisa, introduced me to WordPress through her personal blog, but she also has a fashion blog at Blogger, which I love and follow religiously. Funny thing about Lisa and I: we’ve never met face-to-face. We used to work for the same transportation consulting firm. Lisa was in the Norfolk, VA office and I was in Dallas/Fort Worth. We both worked in marketing and business development. I can’t tell you the number of times I’d call her in a panic for a project code or photo or project manager’s bio hours before a deadline. She’d laugh, provide the information, and then we’d talk for 30 minutes as if deadlines were nonexistent. I miss the phone ringing and seeing her name on the caller ID. I always knew a treat awaited on the other end of the line. Nowadays, she’s still doing her thing in marketing (but with a different, more friendly company) and I’m spending my days with cranky teenagers as a middle school teacher. Not much as changed in my world….except three things every teacher loves: June, July, and August.

Anyway, I’m really proud of Lisa and consider it a privilege to call her my friend. She is constantly sharing tidbits of her life, whether it’s a to-do list gone wrong or tips on how to effectively (and fashionably) pack for a vacation. You’d be surprised how much she can fold inside a carry-on luggage piece! Her blog expectations continue to exceed her imagination and I’m so glad to share in her journey. Most recently, she received a pair of Costa Islamorada sunglasses to review. Not only is that a wonderful opportunity, but it’s a compliment that speaks volumes to Lisa and her blog.

Lisa – thanks for the digital camera suggestions and discount links…..YOU ARE THE BEST!!!

Another blog “connection” I’ve made in the virtual world is with Jan, over at The Diamond E. If you’re a regular visitor here, you might recognize her name because she was the winner of my giveaway last week. Jan and I met through a WordPress group. I read her post about working in a hay meadow and pulling a truck and trailer through the pasture. Since I’m permanently banned from operating any automobile or piece of equipment with an attached trailer, I instantly considered Jan a hero. Our blog-ship (blogging relationship) blossomed even more when we realized that we lived within 30 minutes of each other. What are the chances?!

I bet Stefanie Gordon never imagined her transformation from just another passenger on a Delta flight bound for Florida to an instantly famous snapshot-taker of the Space Shuttle Endeavor as it launched from Cape Canaveral, FL headed to the International Space Center early Monday morning.

Space Shuttle Endeavor from Delta Flight 2285 ~ Photo courtesy of Stefanie Gordon

I saw this photo on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and knew I had to share it with my students as we were discussing the beginnings of NASA and the construction of the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. I even assigned a current event article summary based on the current Endeavor mission. I never imagined I would “connect” with the actual photographer via WordPress when I saw Stefanie had been “freshly pressed.”. Again, this blog thing is crazy.

Congratulations, Stefanie, on being Freshly Pressed and taking such a memorable photograph during your flight!!!!

I’m constantly impressed with the opportunities that present themselves through unconventional channels. A few years ago, my Aunt Georgia gave me a book that she had read with her book club and wanted me to have it for my own collection. That moment changed my life forever. The book was The Organic God by Margaret Feinberg. Fast forward to today and I have Sacred Echo, Scouting the DivineTwentysomething and Margaret’s most recent publication, Hungry for God.

"Hungry for God" ~ Photo courtesy of Margaret Feinberg

I’m always excited when I receive a piece of mail from Colorado, as I know it’s from Margaret or her assistant, Jade. Those ladies know how to make me smile….send me a book and my soul is happy. Send me an autographed copy of Hungry For God (released THIS WEEK) and I scream, shout, and dance around the dining room table.

Next Tuesday (May 24), I will get an opportunity that I’ve been looking forward to since the moment I opened Organic God: I will meet Margaret Feinberg. She is taping a segment on LIVE Today and Margaret has invited me to be in the live audience at the studio located in Euless (a suburb of Fort Worth). Excited doesn’t even come close to my emotions right now.

To celebrate two milestones here at my blog,  27 & Counting, Margaret has graciously offered to host a giveaway and I’m including some surprise gifts of my own too. Please check for updates on this exciting event, I’ll be celebrating my 100th post soon and more than 5,000 site visitors.

I couldn’t do any of this without YOU, my visitors, so thank you. Again. From the bottom of my heart.

In the meantime, visit Margaret Feinberg or her Facebook Fan Page and Twitter @mafeinberg.

Check it out:

And they’re off!!!!

Today is the first Saturday of May. No big deal, right?


Today is Saturday, May 7, 2011, the running of the 137th Kentucky Derby. It’s a holiday. Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s more like a religious experience.

When Kevin and I announced our engagement and we started planning our wedding, the first thing I did was look at a calendar. If you are a native Kentuckian, or planning a wedding in Kentucky or inviting guests from Kentucky, you CANNOT get married during Derby weekend. It’s sacrilegious. Not only would this be frowned upon, no one would attend because everyone is either at Churchill Downs or at a Derby party! 

Another Derby tradition is the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home’ It doesn’t matter where I am — at Churchill Downs or the living room of my house in Joshua, Texas — I stand and sing at the top of my lungs. Every. Single. Word.

Photo courtesy of Churchill Downs

The Derby, along with Churchill Downs and the Twin Spires, is to horseracing as Augusta National is to golf; Wrigley Field to baseball; and Lambeau Field to football. It’s majestic and exhilarating all wrapped into the fastest two minutes of sports. Today, in front of 164,858 excited and screaming fans (a new Derby attendance record), Animal Kingdom won the 137th Kentucky Derby. I’m glad I didn’t place my bet because I would’ve put my money on Pants on Fire, who finished ninth in the field of 19.

Photo courtesy of Churchill Downs

But enough about the Derby. I want to share what most Kentuckians consider to be the treasured gem in the Commonwealth: the Kentucky Oaks. It’s the day for the ladies, most specifically the fillies (that would be a female horse) running at Churchill Downs the day BEFORE the Derby.

Just as the Derby winner receives a garland of red roses, the Oaks winner gets a garland of star-gazer lilies. Thus the saying, lilies for the fillies!

Most people don’t even know the Kentucky Oaks exists. I almost cried yesterday when a native Kentuckian asked me to explain the historic event. Are you kidding me?! The Oaks is a day for traditionalists and those wanting to enjoy a day at the racetrack without the splendor, pageantry, and celebrity chaos of the Derby. In its own right, the Oaks is meant to be reserved. 

My favorite thing about Kentucky Oaks is pink, pink, and more pink! The day is all about PINK. Everything at Churchill Downs is pink, from the decor to the drinks. In fact, the Oaks has its own official pink drink: the Oaks Lily®. 

All PINK'd out at the Kentucky Oaks - photo courtesy of Churchill Downs

If you’re in Louisville area the first weekend of May and you have the opportunity to attend the Oaks and/or the Derby, you have to go! However, when selecting your attire for the big day, please consider these two tips:

  • at the Oaks, wear anything (within reason) you wish as long as it’s PINK
  • Ladies: if you wear a hat, keep your dress and accessories simple – the hat is the star

Since I’m so generous (by the way, have you entered my giveaway?!), here’s one of my favorite Kentucky recipes: Woodford Reserve Bourbon Slush.

Everyday is a good day to be a Kentucky Girl…..but I”m especially proud this weekend!

Love y’all. 🙂

Village Idiot: All Max’d Out

The local village called, their idiot is missing…….

I feel really stupid. Until a week ago, I didn’t even know what a “maxi” was. Well, that’s not entirely true. My first thought was a female’s worst nightmare at a particular time of the month when tampons are not available. However, I consulted with a fashionista and learned that a maxi was the opposite of mini.


I’m so glad to have gone through 20-plus years of schooling to earn my higher-education to know the opposite of mini is maxi. Now I feel like a smart-ass. Moving on.

This month’s clothing challenge at Every Body Every Wear is a maxi skirt. Of course I did not own a maxi until a week ago. While waiting to meet a friend last week, I went into Ross and figured this “thing” would be worth the $5.99 gamble. I call it a “thing” because according to the label it can be worn multiple ways. Don’t worry, I’m NOT that brave and have no intention of being brave with this particular item of clothing now in my possession. I already had the white polo and brown sandals.

I guess this would be as good time as any to admit another IDIOT move on my part with this whole EBEW / maxi event: I was dressed in this exact outfit last Thursday morning all ready and willing to take pictures when I realized I was SIX days early!!!!! Thank goodness I checked the website and allowed plenty of time to change into more “Nicole-ism” clothes. I think I wore capri pants and a cashmere sweater to school instead. I wasn’t at all concerned if a big burst of wind was going to blow my skirt up to my eyeballs.

Shirt, Wal-Mart; skirt, Ross; sandals, Target - total cost of ensemble: less than $40

Again, my sincere apologies at this terrible self-portrait. My husband laughed out loud when he saw this picture and is STILL making fun of me not only that I’m blogging about the clothes I wore today, but also because I stood outside (before dawn!) in front a camera that was sitting on the trunk of my car. Yeah, I need a life. Or more friends. Or both.

After scrolling through the other pictures on EBEW, I don’t feel worthy of being called a participant because my skirt is not long enough. At least it doesn’t look like the other pictures. Mine does not drag the ground or hide my knees and legs. Where is the manual for wearing a maxi skirt correctly? I’m an epic failure.

I hope you like my feeble attempt at being fashionable for a day………I’m returning to the village now.



This little piggy went to the market
This little piggy stayed home
This little piggy ate roast beef
This little piggy had none
And this little piggy went “wee wee wee” all the way home!

My mom used to tell me this nursery rhyme and I would giggle as she tickled my toes. My favorite part was “wee wee wee” and I’d always scream with delight. Today, I thought of this nursery rhyme again…along with a few others who showcased their little piggies (toes) too, in honor of One Day Without Shoes.
While I did not go completely bare (feet, that is) today, I supported One Day Without Shoes by wearing my TOMS shoes. After all, the founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, created this awesome event with a bunch of college kids wanting to make a difference…and a difference they made!

Since 2008, more than a quarter of a million people have gone barefoot and this number is expected to rise with the event’s increased media attention and popularity. I would have gone barefoot today, except: 1) it’s not allowed in my school district; 2) the floors at school are really gross; and, 3) did I mention it was against district policy for teachers to be barefoot?!
This year, Microsoft is participating (the company even encouraged employees to go barefoot at work!) and says it will purchase 1,000 TOMS shoes – which means another 1,000 shoes will be donated to the needy. Wow! This remarkable event has quickly stretched beyond our nation and reached global audiences. Click here for more information on this really cool – and really beneficial – event!

TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie says that not having shoes puts kids at a heightened risk of injury, disease and infection. Among the soil-transmitted risks that most can’t afford to prevent and treat are:

  • Hookworm: Causes anemia, stunted physical and mental development and, on occasion, congestive heart failure. Affects up to one-fifth of the world’s population.
  • Podoconiosis or “mossy foot disease”: Causes swelling of the feet and legs due to prolonged exposure to certain types of irritant soil.
  • Chiggers: Bites on the feet and ankles from these mites can cause severe itching and hives.
  • Tetanus: Potentially fatal infectious disease caused by bacteria entering the body through cuts or other open wounds. Causes painful muscle spasms and locked jaw.

In addition, many schools in rural developing nations require students to have shoes to attend schools, so not having shoes is a roadblock to opportunity.

One thing I love about TOMS shoes (besides being soooo comfortable) is the fact that for EVERY pair sold, the company donates a pair to someone in need. That’s so cool!

Think about it: if half of the world’s population would buy a pair of TOMS shoes, the other half would get a pair too! We’d all be wearing some really comfy shoes, PLUS we’d all being making our own contribution to helping those in need. I’ll let you in on little secret: the TOMS website has a clearance section. (That’s where I got mine for more than half off the regular purchase price!)

Here’s my sales and marketing pitch of the day: It doesn’t matter if you pay full price or clearance price, help someone in need by buying a pair of TOMS shoes – plus they are really comfortable AND worth whatever price you pay!
My seventh-grade students are mighty impressed when Miss H (that’s me) comes to school wearing TOMS shoes. I score style points from a bunch of cranky teenagers – that rates among “creating a cure for cancer” on my Bucket List.  

The best part about wearing TOMS? Knowing that somebody, somewhere, is wearing a pair too, because of me. That makes my little piglets go “WEE! WEE! WEE!”

While taking these terrible self-portraits of my feet, Curtis and Blue started walking toward the barn…and a lightbulb lit (figuratively, of course). Blue wears horseshoes, and he was being stupid, so he didn’t participate in the fun. Instead, Curtis (our retired rope horse) and I showed off our feet (without shoes, of course) for the special day:

Curtis supports "One Day Without Shoes" every day!

We couldn't show off our pretty feet without showing our pretty faces too. (*smile*)

Fried Steak and a Cheap Sweater

There is something about a dinner plate filled with fried steak, mashed potatoes, and soft, warm biscuits all topped with creamy (and completely dairy free, made with soymilk) brown gravy. I am one lucky girl.

FYI: The day I married Kevin was the last day I bought beef at any grocery store. His family processes (is this a politically correct statement?!) at least two steers every year, so our freezer is ALWAYS stocked with 100-percent grass-fed beef raised at Kevin’s parent’s place in East Texas. Any fresher and it would still be on the hoof. Literally.

Last night, before going to bed, I set two packages of tenderized beef out to thaw. Before I left for work/school this morning, I put the meat in the fridge. I thought about that meat ALL DAY!!!

During lunch, I ate my sandwich with one hand and surfed the Web with the other. I came across a new blog, The Pioneer Woman, that you MUST visit. This woman, Ree, is really talented. And pretty. And cooks. She married a cowboy. (Score!). She has four beautiful children. (Awesome!) My favorite thing about Ree: she has a basset hound. His name is Charlie. He’s really cute.

Fried Round Steak – PW’s recipe if you want CFS in less than 20 minutes.

Chicken Fried Steak – PW’s recipe if you have a little more time and want something more traditional.

I’ve made chicken fried steak a hundred times, but tonight’s tasted soooo good! I think it was PW’s blog that got me craving CFS delicious-ness long before it was time for the dinner bell. Lucky for me, the afternoon was smooth sailing. Seriously, I did not get stuck in rush hour traffic (it was 5:05 pm when I left Fort Worth), every light was green in Burleson (miracle!), and Kevin was hungry and biting at the bit for something fried and fattening. He’s one lucky man too. 

I am so disappointed and deeply regretful that I did not take a single picture of my culinary creation. I didn’t think about it until I was scraping gravy off my plate with a biscuit and licking my fingers. I’m really sorry. You gotta believe me when I say it was REALLY good.

I did find time to snap some awful-dreadful-pathetic self-portraits of myself in a skirt (I really have legs, contrary to what some of my students believe). I also wore my new Talbot’s sweater. Now, before you get all huffy-puffy about me wearing Talbot’s, let me assure you that it came from their CLEARANCE rack. The only item I buy full price is Charmin ultra-soft toilet paper. The sweater’s original tag price was $119.00 – ouch. Who would pay that for a thin sweater made of cotton? I also bought a pair of dress capri pants (tag price $129) for a cool $11.46. Score another one for this girl!

OK, enough Frugal Frances (hey, that could be a whole other blog or post!!!). Check out these Best of the Terrible Self-Portraits.

I’m glad I could provide you with a good laugh and CFS recipe. I apologize profusely for not taking pictures of supper, I will try better next time. Happy Monday y’all!!!!

“BLAZin” a trail…

Classic Blazer | Everybody, Everywear

I did it, I really did it! I was super nervous about participating in the Every Body Every Wear challenge, but I wore my new, very red, sweater blazer today. I’m impressed…even if no one else is.

Question: how does a person take decent pictures of themselves? Seriously, I took two hundred pictures but just a few were presentable. I’ve got a lot of learning to do. I somehow managed to activate the self-timer on my camera this morning. That was the highlight of my day, achieved before 7:00 am!!!


I love this necklace ~ a gift from Mom ~ and wear it daily.

Snowed In – Day 3

The thermometer refuses to climb above 20 degrees and the solid coating of ice everywhere will not budge. It’s day three of this snow-bound adventure and I have to be honest: cabin fever set in today. I was irritable, sensitive, and moody. It’s also that time of the month. At least I was productive. The mirrors above both sink vanities in our bathroom are up, as well as the toilet tissue holder. Kudos to my husband for doing the latter, I was too busy measuring the precise location of the mirrors and figuring out where I would insert the Hercules Hooks into the wall. Have you used these magical wall-hangers? Everything mounted on the wall in my house is held by a Hercules Hook – I swear by them!

Kevin and I put on a couple extra layers of clothing to venture out into the freezing cold. The Dodge was low on diesel fuel and we were interested in people-gazing, so we carefully drove to Burleson for fuel. The truck was thirsty and we were hungry. The county road could easily suffice as the ice rink for the Olympics and the main roads were not any better. Fortunately, we have four-wheel-drive but even that does not guarantee a safe trip. The car wash at H-E-B suffered a major water leak last night, but the icicles were beautiful. I can imagine they are going to be a very expensive repairs too. I imagine others were suffering cabin fever as well, Wendy’s was busy when we stopped for lunch. We made it home safe and sound. Kevin, in true fashion, dropped me off at the house and then did donuts in the yard with his truck. A boy and his toy. I love that man.

I think it is safe to say our bathroom remodeling project is officially COMPLETE. The mirrors are up, the toilet tissue holder is on the wall near the toilet, and our stuff is in the cabinet, rather than the card table in the bedroom. It’s amazing – and disgusting – how dirty a house can get during a reconstruction. I had to wipe everything down before taking it into the bathroom. Yuck! I also filled two more LARGE garbage bags of knickknacks and clothes to donate to Goodwill. I have five bags needing to go, might do that tomorrow (if I’m brave enough). I also vacuumed the carpet in our bedroom…GROSS. ME. OUT. At least I got my money’s worth out of the Dyson today. Wow.

When’s the last time you had a meaningful conversation with someone you really like? I had one tonight with Rev L (she’s my pastor, friend, confidant, and partner-in-crime). She’s leaving for Angel Fire tomorrow and said she had to hear my voice before she left town for a week. Now that is a friend. Life’s been pretty crappy lately and I don’t know why I think I have to tackle all of life’s stresses by myself when I have wonderful friends to confide in. She’s so insightful and encouraging about so many things.

BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ~ I interrupt regular programming to announce Fort Worth I.S.D. will be closed Friday, February 4 due to inclement weather, hazardous driving conditions, and power outages.

Surprise, surprise. Didn’t see that coming. Actually, tomorrow was already a scheduled waiver / professional development day for teachers but the District has cancelled all of those meetings. Another day off from school. Another day I get to sit at home in my pajamas. YAY!!!!!

We now resume regular programming…

I decided earlier tonight that I was going to participate in something that is totally in left field for me: a fashion blog event. A former co-worker of mine, Lisa D., is a fabulous blogger with serious fashion sense (something I terribly lack). Lisa – The Coastal Chicster – has been participating in these 30 for 30 challenges and her outfits have been crazy good. I’m sure I could assemble 30 outfits from my very pathetic wardrobe, but it would be quite the embarrassment compared to all of the perfectly pressed, well-put-together ensembles of these ladies. Besides, I doubt I even have 30 items in my closet, including accessories, that are picture worthy! Anyway, I found something that I think I can do – or at least I’m going to try – on Tuesday, February 8 with Every Body, Every Wear : wear a blazer. Yeah, that’s right. I’m going to wear a blazer, take a picture, upload it, and pat myself on the back. Gosh, I’m nervous as all get out.

Image courtesy of

Besides eating lunch with other humans (don’t you love being a social creature?!), completing our re-mod project, cleaning our bedroom, having a heart-to-heart with Rev L, and accepting a lofty challenge today, I also finished reading my first book of 2011, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I began reading it when Kevin and I flew to Kentucky for Christmas. It’s a really great book. Beautifully written, poignant language, and a timeless story of injustice, friendship, heartache, and finding one’s own life.

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