Thursday, July 29, 2010

Too white or just right?

As I'm figuring out what to do with the bathroom, I noticed that I'm gravitating toward bright whites and hues that are barely-there color. I've done this with our bedroom in the past, and I tend toward whites in the kitchen, too.

Hans has questioned in the past whether you can have too much white/light tones. Are white rooms calming, ethereal and serene? Or are they boring, washed out and sterile? What do you think?

(White Kitchens via Apartment Therapy)

(Apartment Therapy)

(Restoration Hardware) 

(Popular Wealth via Apartment Therapy)

(Brooklyn home company via Design Sponge)

(Design Shoot via Apartment Therapy)

 (Desire to Inspire)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

That's what Omas are for

Last weekend we got to play host for Hans' family. His mom, stepdad, older brother, and niece all came to stay with us and it was so much fun! There was a lot of chatting and catching up, playing with the dogs, going to the park and, of course, eating. Isn't that what you always do with family, eat?

We wanted to have dinner/see a movie at the drafthouse, but tickets were sold out by the time we got there :( sad! Since budget is an issue for everyone and we wanted something very Austin-y, we opted to go to Torchy's Tacos. I think I could eat the green chile pork taco five days a week. It was a big hit with Hans' family AND we found out that Torchy's gives a freakin' SWEET military discount. I wanna say it was something like half off. Amazing.

Back at the theater, we saw Despicable Me, the animated movie with Steve Carrell. I expected it to be funny, but not as funny as it was. We all really, thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and I wasn't really expecting that flick to be such a crowd pleaser. Wish it wasn't 3D though. Hate that.

Katlyn wanted dessert and Oma promised her she could have some. Being 7, I think she naturally gravitated toward the biggest thing on the menu. I think that milkshake weighed as much as she does. Karin just shrugged "I'm her Oma. I am *supposed* to spoil her."

Also note: Karl and Katlyn both managed to spill most of their food on themselves. I wonder if this is a genetic trait....

Climbing the walls at the Domain. Too much sugar!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ha, ha!

During the great house hunt of 2010, Hans and I really liked this house.

It's a great house, mostly for the location. It's on the end of a cul-de-sac and backs up to a green belt. Very quiet, very wooded. It's a good size floor plan and the location is slightly more accessible than our house.

But the woman selling it played hard ball, and lost. And Hans and I still enjoy a private chuckle about it every once in a while.

The woman had the house listed much higher than we were willing to go, and much higher than we thought the house was worth. Nothing (and I do mean nothing) in the house has been updated since it was built, so it needed a lot of work. The kitchen in particular was horrifying.

So small and dingy and.. blah. We planned to gut the kitchen and re-do it, if we got this house. So we made an offer accordingly. We wanted to pay about $10k less than her asking price, so we offered her $15k less, hoping to negotiated to where we wanted to be. Her counter offer was just $1k below her asking price. That's not even a counter offer, lady.

But fortunately for us, the circumstances were heavily in our favor. Her house had been on the market for seven months, with no offers (that shoulda been her first clue her price was too high). She had already moved and the house was sitting vacant. It didn't show well... On top of that, her realtor told us that she needed to get the house sold by the end of April so that she could buy a new house and get the Obama tax credit before it expired.

We figured we'd wait her out. Let her sweat. We'd always said from the beginning that if we didn't find the house we wanted for the price we wanted, we'd just walk away. We weren't in a situation where we *had* to buy.

While we waited for her to get nervous, we looked at other houses. We found our house and loved it, but didn't think the woman would accept our low offer. So we put offers in on both houses, the last weekend in April. Both came back and accepted them straight out, not even counter offering for higher. At this point, we'd fallen in love with our house. While the location isn't as awesome, the layout is better and it needed far less work. Sorry lady, you snoozed. You lost.

I got curious, so I checked the MLS to see if her house ever sold. And because I like to gloat a little that she made a bad gamble, and we ended up the better for it. And check it out!

Not only is her house still for sale, she's come almost $20k off her price. Bet she wishes she would have accepted our offer now.... Muahahaha!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shower: Check!

On Saturday, I threw my first-ever bridal shower and it was really fun to plan!

Molly's pretty laid back, so we kept things simple. I picked easy, nibble-y food and many recipes that could be prepared ahead of time.

The cake is the Pink Lady Cake I shared last week, except I went back to white frosting and added a fourth layer. I made it Friday night, wrapped it in Saran Wrap and refrigerated over night. I iced Saturday morning.

The breakfast casserole was also made Friday night. It didn't take long to prepare. Saturday morning, I baked for 50 minutes and it was done. So easy. I was a little nervous because I'd never tried the recipe before, but I was really happy with it. It was gone by the end of the shower.

The punch I was less than pleased with. It was supposed to be "Pom-ade" - lemonade, club soda, and pomegranate juice. It ended up too sweet, too flat, and kind of bland. Won't be trying that one again.

Then, I just hit up Central Market for bread, fruit, and cheese. Ta-da!

Cute picnic decorations are from Target. Yay, summer clearance!

We had a pretty good turn out and Molly got many lovely gifts that I know she and Tom are looking forward to using.

And I promise, the bridal party in no way coordinated these outfits. We're just *that* good.

Pink Lady Cake from Smitten Kitchen

For the cake
4 1/2 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
5 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups pureed frozen strawberries*
8 egg whites
2/3 cup milk
1 to 2 drops red food dye, if using (to make the pink color pop more)

For the cream cheese frosting
3 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks; 6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350»F. Butter three 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pans. Line with parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the electric mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend the ingredients. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes; the batter will resemble strawberry ice cream at this point. (Deb note: I must warn you not to try the batter at this point. Not even a smear of it. How unbearably good it is will shock you, and lead to more dipping. Only you can stop this from coming to pass.)
3. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, milk and red food dye, if using, to blend. Add the whites to the batter in two or three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl well and mixing only to incorporate after each addition. Divide the batter among the three prepared pans.
4. Bake the cakes for 30 to 34 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the layers to cool in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert and turn out onto wire racks and peel off the paper liners. Let stand until completely cooled before assembling the cake, at least an hour.

Make the cream cheese frosting
5. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Store in the refrigerator after use.

Breakfast Casserole from Epicurious
(I subbed Jimmy Dean turkey sausage and used Sharp Cheddar. I also subbed thick cut french bread and used 2 percent milk).
  • 8 white bread slices, cut into cubes
  • 1 pound bulk pork sausage, crumbled and cooked
  • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar
  • 10 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk (do not use lowfat or nonfat)
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper
Grease 9x13-inch glass baking dish. Place bread in prepared dish. Top with sausage and cheese. Beat together eggs and next three ingredients. Season with pepper. Pour over sausage mixture. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Chill.) Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake casserole until puffed and center is set, about 50 minutes. Cut into squares.

As seen in...

Dress shopping.

Not the most fun, amiright?

I spent a good chunk of my weekend hunting for a semi-fancy, yet modest, dress. I've gone to just about every store I can think of and had zero luck. Everything's either too short or doesn't have enough sleeve. What gives?

It's not like it's impossible for a dress to be on the longer side (No Lindsay Lohan peep shows here, please) or have sleeves and be a cute dress. In fact, I've been noticing lately how many shows right now feature cute, modest dresses. Why don't they have stuff like this in the stores??


(Pushing Daisies)

(Mad Men)

Friday, July 23, 2010

And just like that, my day got better

It's been one of those days. Ya know, the one where you get a contact stuck in your eye and even though you get it out, your eye still hurts for the rest of the day.

And you spend 30 minutes at Hobby Lobby gathering materials for a party only to find that all the computers at the cash register have crashed and they don't know when they'll be back up again.

And your husband gets locked out of the house and you have to figure out how to get him keys.

But it's all better, universe, because you rewarded me with this:

I've never gotten that many for one search before - Woot!! KitchenAid Mixer, I'm on my way.

[Normal plug, Sign up here. Fridays are Mega Bucks days!!]

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cool gray

The original color in the living room wasn't *that* bad. In most lights, it just looked like a neutral tan. But there's this weird tinge to in some lights that looks like baby poo after strained green peas. Or maybe a super old velvet couch left on the side of the road because you can't even sell it on Craigslist. Too drab.

Major shout out to Miss Amy Lam for helping me tackle this room last Friday. It was a lot bigger than I realized and we all know I'm not nearly tall enough for the high bits. Thank goodness my former roomie is a paint pro.

Here's my inspiration:

We went back to Benjamin Moore's Regal Matte line, using Storm. I think it's pretty funny that our living room is Storm and leads into our "clear skies" kitchen. We like sky color paint, I guess?

I was a little nervous about gray because it's a pretty dark color choice. But it ended up feeling calm and more subtle than I imagined. We plan on putting some thick white crown molding up and hanging some white roman shades. I think the contrast will help the room pop.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Brand new kitchen

Mmmm... I love my new kitchen.

I was inspired by this:

It just feels clean and crisp. We used Benjamin Moore's Natura Paint, semi-gloss finish, in "Clear Skies." We liked that Natura is zero-VOC. I don't mind so much for other rooms, but for the kitchen it seemed like a good idea. And we went with the semi-gloss so it'd be a little easier to keep clean.

I think it makes the room feel bigger, brighter and fresher. Now we just need some curtains on those bare windows!

Painting begins!

Our house needs painting.

First, because the woman was dirty. The walls just felt dirty, even after cleaning. So. Every wall. Every door. Every trim. Will eventually be painted, until it feels and smells clean again.

Second, crazy woman was lazy. She haphazardly slapped paint up on the walls without taping, without removing nails, without even taking off light/electrical plate covers. She missed several spots painting, so that you could actually see white coming through. Or, on places that had already been painted a different color, she used just one coat and you can see straight through it. Awful.

Third, she must have been blind because the colors were horrible. The kitchen is a nasty, dirty looking brownish yellow. Think mustard that has been sitting out for days. She seemed to think that faux sponge paint look made things look more sophisticated or something, because she used it everywhere. And our master bathroom? The color of  Latin cantina on fire. Lovely.

And so, we paint.

We started in the master bedroom, so we could finally feel like the room is finished and settled.

I've discovered it's hard to photograph walls in a way that reflects what the color really looks like. These will have to do.

We didn't do a drastic change in the master. Before it was very orange and in your face. We just wanted to mute it a little, so we went with a cooler shade in a tan color.

A while back, we painted some walls in a condo Hans used to own. We were going from blue to green so we went to Home Depot and picked up some primer and a couple gallons of Behr paint. We put on the primer, waited, one coat, wait, two coasts, wait, third coat ... ah, yes. There we go. And that was only two accent walls.

This time, I did some research. Everything I read recommended that we go with Benjamin Moore paint. We decided to give it a try.

Now, BM paint is almost twice as much per gallon as Behr. But after using it, I'm never going back. First, you don't need primer. Nope, not even when going from a pretty dark to a light color. Second, it looks good after even the first coat. We didn't think it needed a second coat, but put one on just to really lock in the color and finish. Third, BM paint has a wonderful consistency and texture. It goes on so smoothly and coats so evenly. And it dries super fast! The second coat was difficult because we couldn't tell where we'd already painted and where we hadn't. Because it rolls so evenly and dries so quickly, we were able to tape and paint and be done with the room in just one evening. Lovely.

So even though it costs twice as much per gallon, you only need to buy half as much. You save on primer, you don't need as many coats, and most importantly you save on time and labor. Excceeellllent.

* We used Benjamin Moore's Regal Matte finish in "Yellow Squash." It took maybe a gallon and a half.
* BM paint dries darker than it goes on. So if you put it on and it looks too light, just wait. The second coat also helps to darken it.
* The paint on the walls looks much darker than the paint on the chip. So if you're looking at the chips, consider going one lighter than the one you're eyeing.
* BM sells pre-mixed two ounce samples of their most popular colors for $3.99. They're quick and easy to pick up and test out. While I've heard that you should test next to each other, I didn't like this. I put two up right next to each other and thought one had a more purple hue and one had a more blue hue to it. The contrast made the bluer one seem more blue, and the purple one seem more purple. I put another swatch on a different wall and it didn't look nearly as blue anymore.
* If interested in BM paint, go to Hill Country paints on S. Congress and Stassney. The people there are incredibly helpful and nice. It was so different than our previous Home Depot experiences. They weren't trying to sell us on stuff ("Do we need primer?" "psshh, nah. This paint's good enough you don't.") They helped us pick out colors and finishes. And they recorded everything in our "file" so we can come back and pick up more without having to remember what we got in the first place. We even had a little incident that proved how great these folks are.

When I went in to get samples, I asked for Woodland Snow and Kahlua and Cream. I got the samples, went home, put them on the wall, and determined I liked the lighter one better. I then went back and asked for two gallons of Woodlands Snow.

We taped, put down tarps, got all the stuff set up, poured the paint into the tray. After one roller on the wall, we knew something was wrong. It was so, so, so much whiter than the swatch we had up there. What happened???

It turns out, they gave us samples of Yellow Squash instead of Woodland Snow, and Acorn Yellow instead of Kahlua and Cream. So the one we liked, we thought was Woodland Snow but was actually Yellow Squash. Their fault for giving us the wrong samples, our fault for not looking at what they had written on the bottom of the sample and checking to make sure it was what we wanted. We went back in and explained what had happened, fearful they'd just tell us it was too darn bad. Instead, they were incredibly nice and accommodating. She added more pigment to the Woodland Snow to darken it to the yellow squash shade. Then, since we had already pour out a fair amount from one of the gallons, she mixed the open and the untouched gallons together so there would be no shade variation. It was a huge relief that we hadn't just spent a ton of money on the wrong color.

When I went back for other rooms later, the guy working there remembered my name, Hans' name, and that we'd painted our bedroom in regal matte. I was impressed. I highly recommend you speak with Sanders at Hill Country Paint if you are considering painting any time soon.

More blueberry pics

Just found the cord to my camera, so you get to enjoy more pics. It was fun!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Good for a while

Growing up, my mom used to take us to a U-Pick blueberry farm every summer. It was hot, but it was fun.

Lately, I have been eating a lot of fruit. I didn't use to love blueberries that much - I like them IN things (muffins, pies, etc). But lately I've been buying 1-2 cartons every time I'm at HEB. And thinking, "Geez, I can't believe these little things are $2.50 each."

I looked into blueberry picking around Austin, but they were all "organic" and fairly pricey. Not a good option. Out of curiosity, I looked up the farm in Houston where our family used to go - $1.50 per pound.

Since we were in The Woodlands this past weekend for a wedding shower for Aaron and Karina, we decided we would go to Moorhead's Blueberry Farm. We took Hans' sister-in-law, Heather, and her daughter Katlyn.

It was just how I remembered it. Hot. But fun. I remember going a few years and having to really hunt for berries because the crop wasn't good. Not so this year. There were so many, and they were huge! I actually only did half a row of bushes, because that's all I needed to fill my bucket.

Katie lasted all of maybe 30 minutes. I'm kind of surprised she lasted that long. That's a lotta hot for a six year old. She and her mom went to wait it out in the shade and fans.

We came home with a load of almost 22 pounds! I washed them, bagged them, and they are now filling up our freezer. Yup, I think we're good on blueberries for a while.

Ahhh, much better

Trial run #2 of mission find-a-good-recipe-for-a-bridal-shower-cake was much more successful than cake wreck trial #1.

And it was easier! It turns out, this oven really IS a lot different than the last, and takes some adjusting. Like... Use the bottom rack, the top rack burns things. And there is no indicator for when it is preheated, I just have a little thermometer inside the oven to help me figure it out (New Oven is high on our need-to-buy list). I also discovered it cooks faster than my previous oven. So while this recipe said 30-34 minutes, 26-28 would have been sufficient.

I also learned that lining pans with parchment paper really does make a huge difference. I've always discounted that step before. Never again.

Anyway, cake number 2 is strawberry with cream cheese buttercream. It was excellent! I used a recipe for Pink Lady Cake from Smitten Kitchen. This recipe was very moist, but not super soggy. I used frozen strawberries and found it was best to defrost in the microwave for a bit before pureeing them. Next time I'll leave the bag out over night or something.

The cake felt very sturdy. I didn't have trouble stacking and it was easy to cut and shape. I've never encountered that before, so that was nice. It did, however, called for eight egg whites and as I don't yet own an egg separator, that was a bit of a pain.

The frosting tastes strawberry, but actually isn't. It's just cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. I added several drops of red food coloring to make it pink. I also added food coloring to the batter to punch up the pink color of the cake - the strawberries didn't quite do that on their own.

Unlike last time, I gave myself some more time on this cake. I baked the three layers Thursday night and let them cool over night. Friday I put a thin "crumb" layer and then let it set for an hour or two. THEN I went back and iced the whole cake, which made it a lot easier for the icing to go on smoothly. The whole process took longer start to finish, but was much less frustrating and yielded better results.

Glad again for the test run. I know that it's a good recipe now and I think I'll increase the amounts a little and do a fourth layer, just for some added height. I'll let you know how it goes.

Oh! And I bought a new cake stand. Yay for Macy's One Day Sale. Pictures to come.

Interesting intersection

I have been meaning to blog this since last Thursday, but this is the first chance I've had!

Friday was our nine month anniversary. It's a notable one for two reasons.

1). Everyone at work is finally convinced that my 10-week engagement was not indicative of pregnancy. 9 months later and still a flat tummy (and no bouncing infant) means they finally believe me.

2). Everyone at church wants to know why we're not pregnant yet.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Choose to be happy

A few months ago, before we left the Buda Ward, a nine-year-old girl got up to bear her testimony during sacrament meeting. Now I used to sit behind this girl during sharing time, so I was already well aware that she's scary smart. But her testimony was wise beyond her years and it has really stuck with me. I think about it often and was thinking about it today, and figured I would share with you.

She was talking about happiness. She said that it is a choice. We can have something bad happen to us and we can let it ruin our day. I don't remember the example she gave, maybe a bad grade on a test or something. Or, she said, we can choose to be happy anyways. Our happiness is up to us.

I'm amazed that at such a young age, this girl has such a clear grasp of that concept. We choose to be happy. We can't choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we handle it.

It's something I need to work on. Earlier this week, I was in a bad mood because of a bunch of little things. A spider landed on me while I was cooking. A stupid latch in my car broke and now I can't get to my garage door opener. I dropped a bowl and shattered glass all over the kitchen. Like I said, little things compounding on top of each other.

But the thing is - these things happen every day. And if we let them put us in a bad mood, we'll always be in a bad mood. There is always something we *could* be unhappy about. I don't make enough money. I want a bigger house. I want to go on an expensive vacation. I want to be thinner. I want to have kids. I want my kids to be good. On any given day, we could find something to be unhappy about.

Or, as Alayna suggests, we could choose to be happy. We could actively, consciously choose to focus on the many good things we have that bring us joy each day.

Thanks, Alayna, for the great testimony. Like I said, I think of it often and each time I do, I resolve to tweak my perspective and CHOOSE to be happy.


"I iz King."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Pretty new outfit

For my blog, that is.

I've had that yellow one for a while and thought it was time for something new. You like? I really only know of one place to get cute backgrounds ( so if you know of others, I'd love to hear 'em.

My very own cake wreck

I like baking. Usually. This time was not so fun.

Molly's bridal shower is coming up and I wanted to make a nice cake. I decided to do a trial run this weekend. Good thing...

Not so pretty, huh?

I pulled this recipe from Epicurious. It's supposed to be a lemon-raspberry cake. The actual cake itself tastes pretty great. It's very light, sponge-y and has a great lemon taste without being over powering. But that's about where the good stuff ends. I don't know if I'm just not used to our new oven or if it just sucks (which is highly probable), but some how it ended up being perfectly baked inside with a layer of burnt all the way around. No problem, I'll just saw that off with a knife.

Then I was supposed to put this raspberry syrup stuff between the layers. But the recipe calls for liquor, so I made some substitutions. I'm not sure it's supposed to be as runny as it turned out.. I felt like it just drenched the cake and made it a little too soggy. Nice flavor, though.

But then the cake started crumbling when I tried to layer and frost it. And the buttercream wouldn't stick to the syrup-y cake. That's supposed to be plain, vanilla buttercream. The pink and the seeds are the syrup bleeding through.

So while it tastes pretty delicious, it's a horrible eye-sore and I'm not hunting for another recipe to try. I fear there may be many test runs in my future.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

One step closer

Hubby hung my pot rack. Doesn't it look loverly?

As American as apple pie

So, I've been gone for a while. Sorry. I have been lost in cleaning for two weeks now. The good news is that the house is *finally* almost clean. The bad news is I think I have Lysol sloshing around in my lungs. At least they'll be clean, too.

Anyway, we had a great time this weekend celebrating the Fourth of July with some good friends. Molly, Tom, Andrew, Abinadi, Matt and Lisa came over for dinner and we had a ridiculous amount of delicious food - hamburgers, hot dogs, tons of fruit, chips, potato salad, jello salad and tasty drinks. It was delicious.

A few weeks ago, I saw a recipe for personal pies in mason jars. They were so cute and I thought it'd be fun to try! I went with apple because I figured that was appropriately American. I was really pleased with the results! I pulled a recipe off Epicurious and found the small Ball jars at my local HEB. I made the pies before church, stuck 'em in the fridge, and moved 'em straight to the oven when we got home. They didn't need any greasing or anything and the crust came out of the jars smoothly. Yes, those are little hearts cut out in the tops, instead of regular slits. That was my favorite part.

Here's the original posting (and their much prettier picture) if you're interesting in trying yourself.