Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving leftovers

Wednesday, I took off work and that really helped off-load some of the cooking stressed. I made pies - pumpkin, pecan, and cherry (just 'cus) - dinner rolls, breakfast cinnamon rolls, and got the turkey brining.

That made Thursday really easy! Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing and jello salad. It didn't take long - I even got in a nap.

We were joined for dinner by Hans' parents, our friends Rob and Danielle and their beautiful daughter Ryleigh, and our friends Paul and Andrew. (I'm sad I didn't think to take a group photo. Whoops). Somehow, everything turned out just right and finished all that the same time. And Yes, we all ate ENTIRELY way too much.

While I'm grateful for so many things (the list is far too long, and probably a little mushy), one thing I was so grateful for last week was the Pioneer Woman's cooking blog. I used her turkey brine recipe, pecan pie, mashed potatoes, and cinnamon rolls and all were a huge hit. I don't think you can go wrong with any recipes she puts out.

I hope that everyone else had as wonderful a Thanksgiving as we did.

We did it!

I'm not much of a runner. I try, I just really suck at it. I just keep trying, though.

As a young women's leader, I'm encouraged to complete the Personal Progress program along with my girls. To encourage them to do it, show them how, and learn a few things myself. For the Knowledge value, one of the project options is to create a regular workout/fitness program. I decided to take it a little farther and add a 5k to it.

So I signed up for the Turkey Trot. And in one of our discussions about PP, told the Beehives that that is what I'd be doing.

Only later did I discover the Turkey Trot ain't no 5k. It's a five MILE. Oops. Hans and I both really wanted to back out. But I couldn't face my girls and tell them I hadn't done it!

That meant that Thanksgiving morning found us freezing our butts off on the S. Congress bridge with 21,000 of our closest friends.
But you know what? It went so much better than I thought it would. I had fun! And I went faster than I did in any of my practice runs. Don't get me wrong - it was still a snail's pace. But I finished at 1:08:14, and that included a rather lengthy pit stop at a port-a-potty with a too-long line.
It was a great incentive to keep working at it - get a little faster, a little stronger. We're even contemplating the Cap10k next year!

I'm glad I did it. And rewarded myself with an extra-large slice of pie at Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, November 21, 2011

DIY floating wall clock

Here's another great craft-y pinterest find. This blog, Faded Plains, gives some pretty detailed instructions, including links on where to buy supplies. I used her same vendors (all three from etsy) to order two sets of wooden numbers (in different sizes and fonts) and the clock hands/mechanism.
Then you just paint everything with acrylic paint. This brand seemed a little thin and took several coats (which frustrated painter Hans).

After that, we stuck it to the wall. With sticky tack. For reals.
And it's pretty and fun.

Fall felt flower wreaths

After taking down my Halloween decorations, my house looked a little bare. I saw these cute wreaths on Pinterest and thought they seemed easy (and cheap!)

It takes a couple hours per wreath, depending on how fast you roll. Here's what you need:

Grapevine wreath
Fall floral stems (mine have orange and red berries)
Felt in 3/4 different colors
hot glue

Start by cutting out squares from the felt. Make them all different sizes. Then cut a spiral pattern out of the square. It should look like this:
Starting at the outside edge, roll it up. I kept a finger on one end to make that bottom flush, and then the "petals" spread out on their own. Secure the inside end (which is kind of rounded, based on how you cut it) to the bottom of the flower with some hot glue or double-sided tape.
After you have a variety of sizes and colors of flowers, just glue them on to the wreath and stick in the floral stems. Easy peasy. They bring some color into my otherwise cool dining room.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Table upgrade

Next week, Hans' parents will join us for Thanksgiving dinner. Knowing that I'm cooking anyway and that we have several friends sticking around Austin for work and otherwise, I've been tossing out invites to dinner to anyone who needs them.

Then Hans pointed out that our dining room table seats six. Oops. Hadn't thought of that. A dining room table has been on our "house updates" list for a while, but kind of a low priority (behind dishwasher, oven, and bed frame). We decided we'd look around and if we could find one for a decent price, we'd go ahead and do that now. Otherwise, we'd just stick some cheap-o card tables on the end (and make Paul and Andrew sit on them :)).

So the search began. We hit the usual suspects and narrowed it down to a few for consideration:
The Cheap Option: Ikea's Stornas table. Seats 6 but can seat up to 10 with two extendable leaves. At $449, the price is alright, but the light color seems too light and the dark color seems too dark and it's kinda boring and basic looking.
The Dream Table: The Benchwright dining table from Pottery Barn. We love everything about it, except the  $1,699 price tag.
The Middle of the Road Option: Crate and Barrel's Basque table.  I wasn't impressed when I saw pics on the website, but in the store I really loved it. The color's darker than I expected, and very rich. The table is solid, but classic feeling. And for a 104" table that seats 12 comfortably (it's really wide!), $999 isn't too shabby. Our only concern was that how often would we need to seat 10-12? And would we want this hulking thing in our dining room at all times? An extending table seemed like the better fit.
As we tried to make our decision, something kinda crazy happened. We walked into Pottery Barn to drool over the Benchwright, and found a table styled called Montego that has been discontinued and was heavily discounted - more than 50% off. It was a little darker than we had planned on, and maybe a little more formal, but it felt solid and sturdy and had a gorgeous shine to it. And the price was great. It seats six normally, but with two leaves can easily fit 10.
We took a couple days to think about it, even trekking down to the PB outlet to see if they had it and cheaper. They had it, but it cost more than at the actual store - go figure. And it was all scratched and dented and chipped and stuff. Doesn't make sense, but there ya go.

When we finally went back to Pottery Barn, determined to buy the table, we discovered they only had three left - two espresso finishes (too dark!) and only one of the mahogany that we fell in love with.... but they had just put it out as a floor model. So they offered to sell us the floor model... for an additional 20% off. Um, deal.

We packed it up and carted it home in my little Rav4 (It's amazing how much that thing can hold, really). And here she is!

Old table

New table!

We haven't figured out what we want to do about chairs yet. I wasn't thrilled with the Montego style chairs. I suspect we'll find some at the PB outlet we like eventually. Maybe sooner than later, because the old chairs definitely clash with the new table. But we ended up getting this almost-perfect (except for one tiny scratch) Pottery Barn table for about $200 more than the cheap-y Ikea one. Done, and done.

Now time to cook.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Nine and doing fine

Nine years ago today, a cute, shy, long-haired trumpet player asked me to be his girlfriend.
Happy Anniversary.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day

Thank you to all those men and women who serve our country. We are especially proud of our "family" veterans - We love you and thank you.
Hans' brother, Karl. Served multiple tours in Iraq and is currently stationed in Hawaii.
Erika's Grandpa Bob
Roommate Parker, who after three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, still has to be talked out of trying to go back over.

Dr. Pepper Cupcakes

Monday was roommate Blair's birthday, but he hasn't been home since Sunday (let's not talk about how the kid literally sleeps at his office most nights....). So he finally came home last night and that means birthday treats! He has a major sweet tooth, but wouldn't even point me in the direction of a flavor that he likes, so this is what he got.

I found these Dr. Pepper cupcakes from BS in the Kitchen via Pinterest. I was reluctant to make them because the "recipe" is hardly a recipe. Ingredients, but no amounts. And weird ingredients at that. You can check hers for her original comments, but below is what I ended up doing. I'm estimating on amounts since I was just throwing stuff in there.

The results is super sweet (almost too much - could use less sugar), but delicious. The cake is extremely light and fluffy, which I love. The icing has a little bit of the bite on the end. And it really does taste and smell like Dr. Pepper. If you're a DP fan, you'll love these.
What you need for the cake:
1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Betty Crocker milk chocolate)
3 eggs
1 cup Dr. Pepper
1/2 cup melted, unsalted butter

Now here are the fancy directions: Beat 'em all together. Yup, that's it. Beat until well combined. Scoop into cupcake liners and bake at 350 for 12 minutes. It makes 24 cupcakes.

What you need for the icing:
1-1.5 lbs powdered sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 T. Dr. Pepper
2 tsp vanilla
4 tsp maraschino cherry juice
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp finely ground pepper (I used white pepper)
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 cup Dr. Pepper reduction (boil 1 cup Dr. Pepper with 1/2 cup sugar and then reduce heat and simmer 30 min)

Beat together the sugar and butter until smooth. Then add in the DP, vanilla, and cherry juice because those amounts are pretty accurate. Then you throw in the lemon juice, pepper, ginger and nutmeg and adjust until it tastes right to you. The original recipe calls for licorice and apple flavoring, too, neither of which I had on hand. Happy guessing to you.
Ice and stick the cherries on top. Cuz they're cute.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happily Ever After

I've been a busy bee the past week preparing for tonight's Young Women in Excellence program. Malinda - I had no clue how much work went into these things. Thank you.

We're using Jenny Smith's "Happily Ever After" script and going with a whole princess/pink theme. Here's the program I designed for it:

Sisters Briggs and Barclay did most of the decorations, but I did make tissue-paper poms! Ok, Hans helped. I've always messed them up before. Dang Martha Stewart makes it look easy. But after finding a good youtube tutorial, I learned that the trick is more tissue paper (10 sheets, not 8) and pipe cleaners to tie it off. Amazing. (No pictures... my camera died :()

I also did food.

The pink lemonade cupcake recipe is from Sweet Cheeks. It's not my favorite, but they turned out pretty well and fit with the theme. My oven was causing me fits last night - I tripled the recipe for the first batch and about half of them burned in 18 minutes, though the recipe says to bake 20-25. Last night was NOT the night I wanted to re-make cupcakes, but I did another double batch and set 'em for 14 minutes. I kept having to add time and I think they finished in 20-22 minutes. Gosh darn inconsistent oven....

I've never used gumpaste before and was pleasantly surprised that I didn't have any difficulties with it. I bought the pre-made Wilton stuff from Hobby Lobby and added some light pink food coloring. Then I just used a small crown-shaped cookie cutter and let them dry wrapped around the round handles of every cooking spoon and rolling pin in my kitchen.
The sugar cookies are the same ones I made back here (apparently I only make pink royal icing. Oh well). I wanted to do some scroll designs on them but by that point it was midnight and I had icing in my hair and 2 dozen burned cupcakes and didn't care. So I just threw some edible pearl sprinkles on them.

The girls sounded beautiful and it was a great program. I'm so proud of all of them.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Freezer Meal Update

You may remember that about a week ago, I cooked three weeks worth of meals and stuck 'em in the freezer. It's been going really well - everything tastes great, there are less dishes to worry about, and it's made our weeknights a lot less stressful.

Last night, we had our first mishap. It was supposed to be chicken pot pie night. Hans and I both love chicken pot pie and have been looking forward to it. I pulled the tin foil wrapped pie out of the freezer in the morning to let it defrost during the day. When we got home, I popped it straight in the oven for 45 minutes. When I took off the foil later..... I realized that underneath the foil, I'd also wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap to discourage freezer burn.....

We had pizza for dinner last night.