Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Hope everyone has a spooky and treat-filled Halloween.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mirror, mirror

Ok, we've actually been done with this project for a while now, but I've sucked at blogging this month.

After adding all those pretty stripes to our bathroom, the builder's grade mirror just looked, well, boring. I found a tutorial for building a frame for your mirror and we went to town.

Carefully, we took measurements for our mirror. At home depot we found primed MDF and got the kind man to  cut it to our specifications.

At home, we painted two coats of the same color we're using for the trim in the bathroom, letting it dry well in between. It's important to paint the backs of the boards because parts of it are reflected in the mirror. We used Gorilla wood glue to glue three pieces together to form the top decoration for the frame. Again, dry. Caulk. Dry. Paint. Dry. Lots of drying time.

We then used liquid nails to glue the boards straight to the frame. If you try this project, be sure that you put the glue toward the middle of the boards, otherwise it squishes out and you can see it. It dried pretty quickly and after a couple of weeks, I can say it seems to be holding pretty solidly.

We added caulk to soften the seams where the boards meet, and along the bottom where it meets the backsplash.

It's far from perfect, but I think it adds a little something extra to the room.

It does throw that nasty gold vanity light into stark contrast. Definitely time to replace that!

Fabulous find

Every time we go to the San Marcos outlets, I love going in the Pottery Barn outlet and Hans thinks it's pretty much a waste of time. Even though it's an outlet, the furniture is still outrageously expensive, and it's usually got some pretty significant gouges or chips and stuff.

Well, Hans can no longer complain because this weekend we hit the PB jackpot! We were browsing and came across this lovely console table. Our jaw dropped when we saw the $105 price tag. We kept looking it over for something wrong with it, but couldn't find anything! We've been looking for a good console table for the living room and the two we narrowed it down to (Ikea and Target) were both more expensive and not as well made.

We had to fend some lady off for it, but we brought it home giddy with the rush of scoring such a great deal. I'm excited to have a place to add some decoration to our otherwise sparse living room.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Root Beer Bundt Cake

Well, what's left of it anyway.

With Jalaine and her friend Charlie in town (and with Friday off, for a change!) I decided to do some baking. I've actually never done a bundt before, so it was different! I used a recipe from The Kitchn and am pretty happy with it. I'm not sure where the root beer part comes in - I couldn't taste it. But I also couldn't find root beer with cane sugar and just used IBC. Maybe that would have made a difference. It's very dense, very moist, and very, very chocolatey. We devoured pretty ruthlessly. Must have with milk.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bread needs yeast.

Otherwise it looks like this.

And can be used to break windows.

Make a note.

Where I've been lately

A couple posts back I mentioned that I went to Asheville, North Carolina for a work thing. Now that things have died down a little, I thought I'd reflect a bit on it:

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday we had events. About 70 members showed up and we had an annual meeting, three general sessions, 9 panels, 6 workshops, a speaker, a wellness fair with 5 stops, elaborate catered lunches and dinners every day, two cocktail parties, and a big formal event. Whew!

 It was really neat getting to meet the members. I think I've mentioned before that in order to join the organization, you have to be at least 45, the president or CEO of a major company of at least 65 employees, and you have to majorly involved in philanthropic work. The average age is 62 and most are multi-millionaires. I was somewhat surprised on meeting the members at how friendly, humble and down-to-earth they all were. 

We toured the Biltmore Estate - the largest privately owned mansion in the United States. It was built in the 1910s, covers 8000 acres, and has 250 rooms.It was owned by the Vanderbilt family. The head of the Vanderbilt family, Cornelius, at one point owned 1/20th of all the money in the US. One person had 1/20th of the country's wealth. And it showed. It was kind of disgusting, actually, to see this house. One room literally had gold sheets covering the walls like wall paper. There was imported Italian marble every where, he had electricity every where (in the early 1900s!!) and basically all manner of opulance. It kind of made me angry that one person should have so much and spend it so wastefully. The home is still owned by the builder (George Vanderbilt)'s great grandsons, who are in their 80s and live nearby. We toured the mansion and then we had a private dinner in the gardens. The food was four courses, and exquisite. Everyone dressed like flappers from the 1920s and there was a big swing band and the dance floor was packed. It was a lot of fun. 

The hotel was stayed in was also built in the early 1900s. It was huge! 550 rooms. It's built on a mountain and it's literally built into the face of the mountain. It's hard to explain, but you drive up the mountain and circle around so that you approach the hotel from the high end, from behind. So you go into the lobby and it's confusing when they tell you to go DOWN to your room, not up! The lobby is the top level and then all the floors descend down the face of the mountain. So they all have spectacular views of the country side and the surrounding mountains. At this time of year, the leaves are changing colors so it was pretty much just a sea of greens, yellows, oranges, and reds. So beautiful. Basically, my job is super, super cushy. 

I did a lot of work though. During the day, I mostly helped with running the event - making sure people found their rooms, helping set up, taking roll on the bus, assisting panelists and whatever. But I also got to do a lot of me-specific roles, like take pictures of everything, unveil the new health-improvement website I built for them, and create daily newsletters that recapped the day, showed pictures of the day, and had the schedule for the following day. 

A couple funny stories from the retreat:
- There was a guy named Jerry who I ate a couple meals with and he's very, very nice. Any time someone came or left the dinner table he would stand up, and if it was a woman he'd pull out her chair (sometimes beating her husband to it!) One day at lunch he even requested "may i please be excused to get some dessert?" So cute. Well one day at lunch he mentioned he was flying out at 2:30 or 3 (that should have been my first clue) and I said oh, me too! Thinking maybe we could share a cab to the airport or something. He got really embarrassed and said no, I don't think we're on the same flight. I found out later that he has a private jet that he takes everywhere. Duh. Of course he does. He's a muti-millionaire. But apparently he's so humble he doesn't like talking about it and I'm not the first L3 staff member to walk straight into that landmine. But he'sa nice guy and he certainly didn't make me feel bad about it.

- The second was about a guy named Ed. I was sitting with him on the bus on the way back from a panel. He was working on something and I asked about it and he told me he was writing a screenplay. Then he goes... "Do you know of someone named Robert Downey Jr.?" I was staring at him to see if he was serious and I was like "Ya, he's great! Why?" And Ed says, "Well he's up for the main part in my movie and I've never heard of him. Is he any good?" My jaw just dropped. I listed off Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes and that got no bells ringing for Ed. Apparently, we should be showing movies at L3 conferences. I showed him pictures and he asked me questions about him - how old is he? What kind of character does he normally play? Would you be good for this character? I strongly urged him to get RDJ if he could, saying he wouldn't regret it. And I made him promise that when he does the Hollywood Red Carpet, I get to come, hahaha.

So basically: My job is better than yours. Ha ha!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cute cute

From a wedding I shot a couple weeks ago:

Is he yawning? Coughing? Yelling? I'm not sure, but he's dang cute. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

This is where I've been

I know I kinda went AWOL for a while there - I just got back from a big convention in North Carolina. This is the view from my hotel - not too bad, huh?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

And so it begins

It is October. Pumpkin baking has begun in full force.

To kick off the season, I tried this Ina Garten recipe for pumpkin spice cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting.

What's not to like?
Pumpkin? gooood.
Maple? goooood.
Cream Cheese? gooood.

The pumpkin flavor is delish and the maple flavor is just a hint. All together it's tasty, flavorful and oh-so-delicious.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting
Makes 10 cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Maple Frosting (recipe follows)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving (2 1.4-ounce bars)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.
2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
3. Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
4. Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting and sprinkle with the chopped toffee bits.

Maple Frosting

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon Boyajian Natural Maple Flavor
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Should I be this excited?

The other night Hans and I were driving home from Target and as we passed the shopping center on Brodie, I let out a squeal.

"Was that a HomeGoods sign? Did they put a HomeGoods store in here and I didn't know about it? Is it open? Am I making this up?"

The short answer: No. I'm probably way more excited than I should be.

But I LOVE this store! Austin doesn't have one and I look forward to our trips to the Woodlands or to the temple in San Antonio because I always try and squeeze in stops at the HomeGoods. They always have awesome stuff at really cheap prices - just last week I got new bath mats for the bathroom for $15.

I know where I'll be Oct. 24.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I bet you're all wondering...

"At this point you may be thinking, 'That’s all very find and good but what does it have to do with flying an airplane?!'"