Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rinse, Lather, Repeat...and Repeat...and Repeat

Yesterday was the big day.  The Tough Mudder.  Six months of training, miles of running, jumping into Lake Travis in January, all for this.  It was worth every bit of it.  I had such a great time!  Don't get me wrong, it was hard...and really muddy, but that was all cancelled out by the great weather and excitement among the racers.  The idea behind this race is that it isn't about your time, it's about finishing it and helping others do the same along the way.  There were lots of obstacles that would be impossible for someone to do on their own, but with the boost of perfect strangers and teammates, were easily accomplished.  For being in January, we really lucked on the weather.  It could have been much, much colder than it was yesterday.  That didn't stop them from figuring out a way for us to still get the idea of being in winter water.  One of the first water obstacles was a watery mud pit that came up almost to my waist that they kept dumping bags of ice in.  That will wake you up!  The next big obstacle was the sloped 15 ft platform that you climb and then jump off of into a 15 ft deep pond.  The water was so cold that it actually took my breath away.  I've never had that feeling before and it was a little scary.  Every obstacle that had water up to my chest would do that all over again.  The mud, oh the mud.  Some was watery and thin, other pits were like sticky Play-doh, and some must have been quicksand.  I'm shocked I didn't lose a shoe.  There quite a few obstacles that I was really proud for doing myself.  It helps justify all the training!  All in all, this was the best race I've ever done.  I think after three showers now, I've gotten all the mud out of my hair.  
Here we are at the start line, rearing to go!


























The course was built on a motor cross track.  Running up and down hills sure made the legs burn!

Remember when monkey bars were easy?  Apparently they are much harder as an adult.  Plus, my gloves were so caked with mud that I barely made it to the second bar before hitting the cold mud pit below.  Now I know what I need to work on for next year.  
Nice little run through the pastures.  Watch out for cow patties!


This is towards the end, we can see the finish line.  Of course, not until we go through another water obstacle.  

















Up the cargo net and over the tower



I'm still not sure how I didn't shocked by a single live wire.  Beginner's luck I guess!  That poor woman to the side of me got shocked over and over again.

We made it!  We are officially "Tough Mudders."
More pictures from the race can be found on Tough Mudder's Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=321523&id=121520047789

Friday, January 28, 2011

What a Beautiful Day in Austin

We had the most perfect weather ever today in Austin.  The sun was out, blue skies, and a temp that fluttered around 80 degrees.  It was so hard to make myself go back to work after lunch.  I just wanted to go lay in the grass somewhere.  I can't wait for it to be like this every day!  Of course, the rain comes tomorrow and a hard cold front hits next week.  Winter just keeps reminding us that it's still here. 

Big weekend for me.  Tough Mudder is tomorrow!  I'll post pictures tomorrow night.  I can't wait! 
Happy Weekend to you all!

Desserts to Die For...And a Learning Experience

We all know I don't bake.  It's not that I'm horrible at it, but I have a lot of room for improvement.  I think it is because I don't do it that often and practice does make perfect when it comes to a lot of these recipes.  I decided to do a dessert trio when I had my friends over last Sunday for a dinner party.  There were lots of lessons learned while trying to pull this off.  At least it looked pretty...

First up was the Brandied Pear Walnut Tart.  This is the one that my brother made at Thanksgiving, I just made mini versions.  The recipe can be found here on Chow.com.  Lessons learned on this one:
1.  The crust was wayyyy too thick.  I haven't made a tart yet and kept thinking it needed to be thick so that it wouldn't fall apart.  I also pre-baked it a little too long.  Overall taste was amazing but took a really strong hand and sharp knife to cut through.
2.  If you don't have pear brandy and you're in a bind, just use bourbon.  I did and it still tasted great.
3.  Make this one the morning of your party!  The dough and filling can be made 2 days before and the tart 8 hrs before.  It is pretty time consuming so the earlier the better.

Next up, Lemon Creme Brulee.  Recipe can be found here on Epicurious.com.  This one was actually a lot easier than I thought but takes a lot of time to chill, bake, and then chill again.  This is where I screwed up. It was getting pretty late after sugaring the top, I served them right away.  The inside was room temp and no one like room temp egg custard...at least not me.  The lemon flavor wasn't as strong as I'd like so I think if you made these the morning of or even the day before, maybe the flavor would intensify a bit more.  Clay helped me with the topping.  I tried to do it way too thick.  He mastered the caramelizing and they looked really beautiful.

Last but not least, Chocolate Whiskey Cake.  Recipe is also from Epicurious.com here.  No lessons had to learned on this one.  This is a great, moist cake recipe with tons of flavor.  As recommended in one of the reviews, I used the glaze from this recipe.  Beware, it makes a lot!  You could probably get away with cutting it down to about a fourth of this recipe.  I just brushed it over the warm cake a few times and it really made the bourbon flavor come out.  This is a keeper of a recipe for sure.

New York Fashion Week Contest from Polyvore

I know I've posted a lot of these lately, but they are so easy to enter that I wouldn't want you to miss out on it.  Simply create a set using the mini editor below and enter to win a chance to go to a New York Fashion Week with the fashion editor from Bergdorf Goodman, Linda Fargo.  You'll also win a $2500 gift card to Bergdorf, and hair and makeup restyle, and a personal shopping experience.  You'll also receive $1000 towards traveling expenses.  Make sure you put your set together by 11:59pm on January 31st!  Good Luck!

Get your own Mini Editor from Polyvore

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mantelscape

Once I took down all my Christmas decorations, my mantel looked like this:
So sad...

I really wanted to pull the turquoise out of the curtains so I found these great colored candles and hydrangeas that didn't look too fake.  The moss covered E is actually from my wedding and the iron piece was a Christmas gift from my mom.  The bird in the glass case isn't permanent.  He looks trapped.  I'm going to make a terrarium inside with much smaller birds and put him somewhere else.  Geez, our walls are so light!  I still think we need to paint them...all of them.
 Always guaranteed to find one of the dogs roasting themselves in front of the fire.

 All they want to do is snug when its cold outside.  Bruiser has been especially lovey these days.  
 I finally got the setting right on this camera so I can take a pup picture and not have them get alien eyes!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I've Hit the Motherload

I blogged about Lulus.com back in August.  I haven't checked them out in awhile.  I'm on the hunt for a dress to wear on my b-day night.  I already have these awesome shoes (that look like stripper shoes according to Clay) and need a very simple dress to go with them. 


I should check out Lulus more often!  I don't know why I always forget about this site.  All of these dresses are $40 or less.
I think this one is a little too casual for these shoes, but it is a super cute dress.  It would be great with nude patent leather pumps for Easter.
I LOVE this one, but it may be a little over the top... 
 I really like this one shoulder style.  At least one of my arms would be warm!  I'm thinking maybe the navy since I don't have any navy dresses and technically (even though I'm fighting it), it will still be winter next month.  Your thoughts?  Leave a comment!


Great Find on Zulily Today

All of you know by now that I love a good deal and that I don't pay retail for anything.  One of my favorite sites is Zulily.com.  I think I've mentioned it before.  I signed up because they have great deals on baby, toddler, and children's clothing; toys; and clothing for women.  I've gotten a couple of blankets off of here for my bf's daughter and my nephew but it wasn't until today that I found what I've been looking for everywhere!  Since our trip to Belize is a mere three months away, I've started looking for steals on bathing suits, cover ups, and brightly colored clothing.  Between the sale at Victorias Secret right now and today's sale on Zulily, I'm off to a good start.  I really wanted a sheer, but bright tunic to wear over my bathing suit.  Everywhere I've looked, they are so expensive!  Even on Ebay, they are either ginormous or over $100.  So you can imagine how happy I was when I came across these on Zulily from Raj Imports...
What's even better?  They're only $26.99!!  I bought the one in bright green and pink.  If you are interested in joining Zulily, here is the link to my personal invitation:



These scarves are on here too.  I love scarves like these.  So easy to dress up a tank and jeans with a little something like this.  They're priced at $15.99.  Not too shabby.  I love the green/navy combo.





P.s. if you are looking for steals on bathing suits, head over to Victorias Secret!  They have a ton on clearance.  I scored this one for $8!!!  I'll have to make sure to mystic tan a lot before we go so that it doesn't match my skin!

This Month's Book Read

On my 30 for the year of 30 list, #9 is to read at least one novel a month.  I'm really glad I added this one.  I've actually started making time to read, whether it's before work or late at night, and have really enjoyed that quiet time.  I always forget how books really spark your imagination.  You invision the characters, the scene, the action in your own personal way and depending on how good the story is, really feel like you can relate in some way to what is going on.  I have to admit, I love girly, love stories and was thrilled when I was passed the collection of books from my aunt by Norah Roberts.  This is a four book series about a wedding planning company started by four best friends.  Of these four, there is a baker, the main planner, the florist, and the photographer.  Since planning my own wedding last year, it was really fun to read all about the process, the crazy brides, and of course, the hidden love story that is always in Norah's books.  The first book of four is "Vision in White." 
From Publishers Weekly:
The frighteningly prolific Roberts kicks off a frothy series about four friends who form an all-inclusive wedding service called Vows. Mackensie Mac Elliot loves capturing happy and playful moments with her camera, but her own life is all about work—until she meets English teacher Carter Maguire. He's escorting his bride-to-be sister to a meeting with the Vows team and recognizes Mac as the girl he crushed out on in high school. Funny sparks fly: he's a geeky guy who quotes Shakespeare, she's a trendy workaholic who loves shoes. He's crazy about her, which makes him verbally clumsy and, to Mac, charming, though she's saddled with a needy mother, an absent father and difficulties with both that make falling in love complicated. Roberts pulls off a nice switch in making the woman afraid of saying I do, and her gentle humor and likable cast will immediately endear this series to readers. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Overall, an easy, light-hearted read.  Next up in the series is "Bed of Roses."  In addition to this book, I will also be reading "Photoshop C5 for Dummies."  Nice combo, huh?  That book is huge and is going to take me awhile to get through.  However, it is really frustrating to have this great software and no clue how to use it.  Clay recently got the Canon Rebel SLR (which I also have to figure out), so that paired with Photoshop...the possibilites are endless.

Dinner with Friends

I think the cold weather and my horrendous allergies have made me want to curl up and hibernate for the rest of the winter. I'm a true Texas girl, and we don't like the cold. I'm counting down the days until daylight savings time so that it will stay light outside past 6! I feel like I can't get anything done before the sun goes down and then my Benadryl takes over. To get myself back up and going, I invited my friends Tressa and Paige to come with their significant others and baby to dinner this past Sunday. I definitely bit off more than I could chew. Not that I can't cook for that many people, I only gave myself the afternoon to do it and had three desserts...no smart. Everything was okay, but I had so many different things to focus on that they were just okay, no fabulous. However, it was a great time.
The table was set...

And as it usually happens, the girls sit and chat...
And the guys watch football...
And Baby Lily was a perfect angel the whole time...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Get those creative juices flowing

Polyvore is giving you another chance to use your artistic eye and make a great set to win the Rebecca Minkoff "Dee" clutch! Just make a set and click the "enter contest" button. Easy Schmeezie.


Get your own Mini Editor from Polyvore

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dazzling in Diamonds

What girl doesn't love to play with diamonds? Check out the new Mini Editor from Polyvore sponsored by Tacori below. All you have to do is drag items from the bottom of the editor and put together a collection. There are tons of beautiful pieces from Tacori as well as amazing shoes and evening gowns to use to make a show stopping set. The winner of the best set will be chosen by Polyvore to win a piece from Tacori's 18k925 collection.  You can view the 18k925 collection on their website here.  Make sure to scroll through the whole editor so you don't miss out on great items to add.  Once you are done with the set, hit "enter contest" to submit.  I think the more you add to your set, the better overall aesthetic.  Good Luck!
p.s. examples of other entries can be found on Polyvore's website here...just to see what you're up against!


Get your own Mini Editor from Polyvore

Thursday, January 13, 2011

First to go on the list!

I get to make my first check mark on the 30 in the year of 30 list!  Since putting my list together on this post just a meer 2 weeks ago, I can cross # 1 off.  Done, Finito, Completo...you get the point. 


"1.  Finish changing my last name on all my accounts.  Who knew it was such a pain to change your name after you get married!?  I told Clay that is a good reason (among many others) to never get divorced.  I'm about 85% done, but those stragglers need to get done before they get forgotten about."

In those two weeks I have changed my name on three credit cards (even the ones I don't use), on my student loan, my car loan, and got a new passport.  I think that is it.  I'm so glad that is over.

These articles just fuel my OCD

(via)
I'm a huge germaphobe.  I get made fun of quite often because of it, but weird...I'm never sick.  Funny how that works.  Today on GoodHousekeeping's website, they have a list of the 10 germiest places in your home. 
1.  Vacuum Cleaner Brushes & Attachments- You clean out the dust container or replace the bag routinely but when was the last time you cleaned the vacuum upholstery tool or brush roll? Check your manual for the how-to. Using scissors, cut off any carpet fibers or hair entangled around the brush. -Umm, why didn't I think of that?  I use the pet hair attachment like crazy to get Bruiser and Ruby hairs out of every little nook and cranny and the long one to get dust bunnies out from under the fridge and between the washer and dryer.  Mental note to soak them all tonight in a diluted bleach solution...  As far as the brush roll, I have to clean that out all the time anyway.  Seriously, how am I not bald?  I pull enough hair off that thing to make something a really nice wig.  It's ridiculous.


2.  Purse- Spot clean fabric bags with a gentle detergent solution like Woolite and flip the purse inside out to wipe down the inner lining. On finished leather purses, use a leather conditioning cleaner -- I love Guardsman Leather Wipes. And, if you place your purse on the floor in a restaurant or even worse, in the ladies' room, never put it on your kitchen table or counter top. -I'm REALLY hoping that all the women reading this clean their purse at least every now and then.  Just think of all the places you sling that thing around.  It is a germ cesspool.  I wipe mine down with Lysol wipes pretty regularly and then use a clear leather polish to keep it sealed from water and whatever else.  I also use a purse hanger if there isn't an extra chair to put it in when we eat out.  They are popping up everywhere and super cheap.  They hang onto the table and provide a little hook underneath to use for your purse.  I pretty much throw up in my mouth if I see a purse on the floor in a public restroom.  I mean, really?  Use the hangers in the stalls ladies!  Have you ever seen the studies they do on what they find on the surface of most women's purses?  It is disgusting.

3.  Credit/Debit Cards These everyday essentials get handled by lots of people, and germs can lurk in the crevices around the numbers. Give debit and credit cards a quick cleaning with an alcohol wipe and let them air dry before placing them back in your wallet.  This had honestly not crossed my mind before but all my cards are now air drying on my desk as I type this.  The good thing these days is that most places have a swiper that you use instead of handing your card to someone else. 

4.  Blinds The material they're made of -- metal, wood, or fabric -- determines how you dust them. For metal blinds, wipe with a sock lightly dampened with water or multi-purpose cleaner. For wood blinds follow the same procedure using only a little tap water. Do not overwet the wood and be sure to buff dry right away. For fabric blinds, go over the blinds with a dry microfiber cloth. -I just use a diluted solution of Murphy's Oil Soap for our plantation shutters and lightly wipe them off.  They come clean easily, it is just a huge ordeal to do all of them
5.  Yoga Mat After a few sessions, you probably notice that your sweaty hands and feet are leaving dirty marks on your mat, which can lead to yucky bacteria growth. Most mat manufacturers recommend occasionally hand cleaning their products with water and mild soap. All-purpose cleaners can eat away at the material. -I've had a little trouble cleaning my mat after using it for an outside boot camp.  I even took it to the carwash and powerwashed it with soap to try and get the asphalt marks of it.  Have any of you cleaned your mats?  What do you use?

6.  Toothbrush Holder Soak the holder in a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water and rinse. Then air dry upside down. Or simply wash on the top rack of your dishwasher.  -I use the dishwasher for this, easiest and cleanest way to do it.

7.  Plants Outdoor plants are cleaned off by the rain, but houseplants become caked with dust. Spiff them up with water and a soft cloth, like an old t-shirt. Don't forget to inspect the dirt for mold. Overwatering plants can cause mold to develop on top of the soil. If you notice any, replace the soil. -I haven't had to worry about this one yet, I'm not that great at keeping plants alive...but I'm working on it. 


8.  Underside of Rugs To remove dust and dirt that's gone deep down into the rug, simply flip it over and vacuum the underside. -Much easier to do with help!  Somehow dirt doesn't just get under the edges, it's all up in there.

9.  Top of the Refrigerator I guess it's true what they say: "out of sight, out of mind". This definitely applies to the top of the refrigerator. Don't forget to wipe it down when you do the sides and handles.  -I have a husband that is 6'5", it is much easier for him to do it, plus he's the only one that can see it.

10.  Kitchen Trash Can Clean your can or the plastic liner in your utility room sink, the shower, or outside. (Be sure to disinfect the sink and shower afterwards). Thoroughly spray the trash can with a cleaner that contains bleach and let it stand for 10 minutes. Rinse and wipe clean. Before adding a new garbage bag, be sure the can is completely dry. - Yup, the kitchen can gets the worst.  We always make sure the outside is wiped off and do occasionally clean out the whole thing.  The inside isn't usually that bad as long as the bag hasn't fallen down in there.

Where's Your Head At?

My gift from Clay for Christmas was a collection of hand painted oils that he bought while he was in Thailand.  They just came back from the framers and look amazing. We don't have a ton of empty walls in our house because of all the windows, but they all found new homes.  Monet's "Wild Poppies Near Argenteuil" was a perfect fit above our bed.   Even though I was proud to say that I was the one that shot the kudo that was there before, a painting in place of a head sure fems it up!
Before:
After: we still need to center it over the bed, but it looks great in real life.  Now I'm thinking we should paint the walls and change the throw pillows...

 This Van Gough is on the opposite wall above his dresser. 
This Renoir is in the dining room.  It is HUGE!  I love that there are so many colors I can pull from.  The dining room is definitely on my priority list to get finished with paint and table decor. 

I've also started on my "mantlescape."  My mom got me a beautiful iron wall hanging to put there and I'm slowly but surely getting all my elements together to really make it pop.  I found a huge cloche bell jar at TJ Maxx for $19!  The bird I got to put in it is too big and Clay said it looks like he's trapped. I decided to built a terrarium inside it instead and just put the bird somewhere else.  Now that all the Christmas decor is down, it feels like the whole house is a blank slate!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Just when you thought the holidays were over...

Clay and I finally got our Christmas tree out of the house and on to the recycling/mulching center last weekend.  What a huge mess!!  I still can't understand how it takes soo much longer to take everything off the tree than it does to put it on.  Our house looks bare, but cleansed.  It now time to focus on new spots that need a little work and attention.  However, now that Christmas and New Years are over, everywhere I go there are decorations out for Valentines Day!  Geez, can't there be a break in there somewhere?!  Clay and I don't do much for Valentines Day (especially since my birthday is two days before it).  It usually consists are of us making a really great dinner together at home and enjoying the peace and quiet.  But, if I ever had a reason to have a Valentines party, the one featured on Hostess with the Mostess today is beyond words cute.  Gotta give them props for the layered Jell-O cups.  I can't remember if I've professed my love of Jell-O, but it is one of those things I could eat until I'm sick.  Is that even possible with Jell-O?  Plus, I'm a huge fan of candy buffets at parties.  You can put them together inexpensively and still make a big statement.  By only using a few colors like they've done below, the overall effect is much bolder.  Did you notice that the "lanterns" in the second picture are made from paper plates?  They really look cute.  It doesn't hurt that the kids in these pictures are adorable.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Difference Between a Man and a Woman

There are many, many difference between us but the way we shower is a big one. This made me laugh out loud. Guys are so simple.
Just a heads up- this is probably rated a PG13. Just want to make sure no one is offended.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Eve Dessert

Clay and I had a pretty laid back New Year's Eve this year.  We were just happy to be together since he's would usually being travelling this time of year in the past.  We had dinner at a friend's house and then went on to my boss and his wife's home for a small get together.  Dinner was great.  I made that salad that I posted a couple of days ago with the orange vinegarette and Bryan cooked up some filets with green beans and a peppercorn mushroom sauce.  I was pretty tired of all the holiday desserts but it was New Years so we had to have something.  I found this recipe from Tyler Florence and it turned out great.

Ginger Spice Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 egg
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup buttermilk

Warm Cranberries -see note below!!
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup dried cranberries
2 cups water
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup whipped cream, for garnish 
 
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the pan bottom and place it inside; then spray the paper. Set aside. (I used a bundt pan and it came out perfectly)

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg, molasses, sugar, and melted butter until thick. Gradually mix in the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat for 1 minute after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the cake’s structure. Mix until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth down the top of the batter until even. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, combine the ingredients for the cranberries in a large pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow the cake to cool completely before removing it from the pan, then slice it in wedges. Serve with the cranberries and whipped cream.
** I would NOT make these cranberries again...WAYYY too sweet.  I 'd rather just whip up a homemade cranberry sauce like I made for Thanksgiving.  All I did was boil about 2 cups of frozen cranberries with enough water to cover and about a half cup of orange juice.  I put four wide strips of orange zest in there and then made a spice bag with lots of whole allspice, cloves, and cinnamon sticks.  Simmer for about 20 minutes or until it is the right consistency.  I also used about a 1/2 cup of Splenda for Baking as well.  Also, I added a capful of good bourbon to the whipping cream and a little sugar before I beat it.  The bourbon was a good compliment to the cake.  The cake was nice and light and not too sweet at all.  This recipe is a keeper for sure.
Here is what my version looked like: