Monday, December 31, 2012

I Said Yes!

What a fun, special, WONDERFUL holiday it was! I have good stories and pictures to tell from my birthday and Christmas, but I wanted to share the biggest news first. Hank asked me to marry him on December 28th, and of course I said yes!

After a broken tooth issue put a snafu in his plans to speak with both of my parents, he was able to pull my dad aside on Christmas Day to get my parent's blessing. I'll be honest, I've thought it would happen for about the past month, and was starting to get a little perturbed that it had not. All I asked was that he was able to surprise me, and that he did!

We packed up the car the day after Christmas to drive to his parent's house in Oklahoma. After celebrating with his family on Thursday, he convinced me to have a little date night on Friday. I argued with him because we were there to spend time with his family, not each other. He won though, and we went for a late afternoon coffee downtown, and then the most adorable little restaurant called Stella. If you click on the website, the first picture in the top right corner shows a banquette. We were seated at the very end, right against the wall.

Scott was our server, and he couldn't have been any nicer to us. The food was amazing, and the atmosphere was so chic and pretty. It was the perfect spot! Hank steered the conversation towards us, and all I really remember him saying was that everything so far had led up to this moment, and the next thing I knew he was coming around the table and getting down on one knee. I'm pretty sure he told me he loved me, and asked me to marry him- and obviously I said yes! Scott came by to check on us, having no clue what had just happened. He asked if everything was ok, and I said it was even better as I flashed my ring. He was so excited, and ended up having the owner of the restaurant stop by to say hello. They had never had an engagement take place there, and were thrilled to be part of it.

They sent dessert to the table, and we toasted with a glass of Prosecco before heading back to celebrate with his family. It was a special night for sure!!! We got back to Austin last night and were able to have a nice dinner with my parents and toast with them as well. It will be a fun and exciting few months as we plan an intimate spring wedding, and I'm looking forward to all the great things to come for all the years after that.

For all my friends who followed my old blog, and know of my stories of heartbreak, frustration, and unfortunate dating decisions, just know it's possible for a happy ending! I've waited a long time for this, and couldn't be more thrilled to have found such a loving and caring man.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Entertaining

I say it every year- December is my favorite month! The hum of festivities for a whole month is always so fun to me, and I love the opportunities December brings to get together with friends and family. We hosted a little get together this past Sunday as a chance to see some friends we don't get to see often enough, and while it was a lot of work getting ready for it, we had a great time! Hank was a huge help in getting the entire house cleaned and the "bar" set up. We made our first trip to Costco to get the food, and then I spent a day and a half in the kitchen baking (seriously one of my favorite things to do.) I made 3 sweet treats, and the rest of the food just had to be warmed and/or assembled. I thought everything turned out great, and was glad that friends came and went throughout the 4 hours on Sunday afternoon. It was nice to toast the holidays with everyone!

The menu:

Cheese tray
Veggie tray with dill dip
Cranberry Meatballs
Spanakopita Triangles (from Costco)
Hot Corn Dip (our neighbor brought this amazing dip, and said she found the recipe on Pinterest. Not sure if this is the right one, but it was so ridiculously good!)

Sweets: Red Velvet Peppermint Brownies, Lemon Cookies, and Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
Drinks: Beer, Wine, Prosecco with Cranberry Juice, and a non-alcoholic Sparkling Pomegranate Juice

Simple evergreens and tulips made for a pretty little flower addition to the table.

Big thanks to my mom for letting me borrow so much of her entertaining dishes!

Christmas cheese tree idea from Pinterest! So easy to do, and it looked so pretty.

View of the sweets and veggie tray.


Below are a few of the treats that I made this year. They turned out great and are pretty enough to share if you like to give away baked goods as gifts. I didn't get a good picture of them, but the Red Velvet Peppermint Swirl Brownies that I made for the party were a huge hit!! You have to be careful not to over bake them, and I used peppermint oil (found at a bake shop) instead of extract. They are so, so delicious!! I also made Mini Chocolate Cupcakes with Hot Chocolate Frosting (I doubled the amount of hot chocolate to get a richer frosting). I had a hard time finding the itty-bitty marshmallows, so I just used a few of the small sized ones.

For my cookie exchange, I made Sparkly Lemon Cookies (the edible glitter was also purchased at the bake shop I frequent), and Chocolate Crinkle Kiss Cookies. I found the candy cane Hershey kisses at Target, and I thought they were a perfect touch for these.



Unfortunately, Hank and I were too busy talking to everyone, replenishing food, etc- that we didn't get any pictures of us together, or any of our guests. I wish we had been able to, but I was just glad we had so many people who took the time out of their day to come and visit with us!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sandy Hook

Like pretty much every other person in the world, I have struggled over the tragic event that happened at Sandy Hook Elementary this past Friday. I watched the news in horror throughout the day as details (some right, some wrong) were released, and cried when it became apparent that so many innocent children lost their lives.

While I have been out of the classroom for 5  years now, I will always be a teacher. I taught Kindergarden and First Grade for 7 1/2 years, and this senseless tragedy hit way too close to home. All I have been able to think about are the sweet children (even the ones who weren't my favorite) and what it would have been like had I been in that situation. I picture each classroom I was in, and how few spaces there really were to hide a group of 20 children, much less keeping them quiet and still.

My heart just absolutely breaks for those families, the children who lost their friends, the staff at that school and the community that will never, ever be the same. There will be many discussions about why and how it happened, and I know we might never get the answers we want so badly. In my humble opinion though, schools are no place for guns. Teachers are there to teach, and having an "armed" Principal would not have prevented this from happening. The level of training and practice needed to effectively stop an attack like this is a ridiculous request to make of someone who should be leading a school and supporting the teachers.

The attacker had some serious issues, obviously. And from the news that I have read, his dad bought his way out of his marriage and responsibility for his son. The mother was tight lipped about her son's struggles, and it has not been made apparent that he was receiving any type of help for his mental problems. Until our society stops judging others who have, (or the people who care for them), serious mental illness, then we will not be able to make the changes that need to be made. Should he have had access to assault rifles? Absolutely not. I think it was irresponsible for his mother to have them in the house. Did she have a right to have a gun for protection? Absolutely. It's a conversation we need to address, but it's not one that will fix all the issues at hand.

In the end, it's nothing but a tragedy, and hopefully one that will not have happened in vain. Let's have the tough conversations, let's help the people who need to be helped. But most importantly, let's just be nice to one another. Like 9/11 prompted many to join the service, this event has made me think about my career, and what I'm doing with my life. The draw to teaching has pulled even harder these past few  days as I wonder how much of a difference I'm making with my life.

The opening number on The Voice last night was such a beautiful tribute to those who died too soon, and I thought I would share it in case you missed it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Costco Newbie

I just had my first Costco experience.

We're hosting a party this weekend and decided to give Costco a try for buying some things in bulk. I ran by there at lunch (yes, I was actually able to get in and out in 40 minutes) just so that I could price some things and get a better idea about what they have that I need. I made a quick sweep through the liquor store, and then browsed the perimeter. I had no intention of actually buying anything today, until I saw this:

2 pounds of cubed butternut squash, for HALF the price that my HEB sells it at.

Already ecstatic over this amazing find (I don't buy it as much as I would like at HEB because it's $4 for a piddly little styrofoam tray full), I continued to browse the "deli" section. And by deli, I mean all kinds-of things that would make lunch packing so much easier. Including this awesome vegetarian find below. Only 60 calories and 2.5 grams of fat per grape leaf. I could pack 2-3 of those, plus some veggies/fruit sides, and I'm in business. It was $10.59 for a box of about 20. At first I thought that sounded like a lot, but I can get 5-6 lunches out of that, making it only $2 (ish) per lunch. Not too shabby. Plus- I won't spend hours in the kitchen trying to make something like this (which I totally would try).

I've been to Sam's once (over 10 years ago) to buy stuff for a party, and I know there won't be a ton of need for us to go on a regular basis. But I'm already excited about some things I found, and can't wait for our big trip shopping tomorrow night.

So I'm dying to know from others who regularly shop at Costco- what other great finds should I be on the look-out for? Keep in mind we eat mostly vegetarian, so I won't be stocking up on meat any time soon. But are there other good vegetable deals, or frozen foods that I should seek out? I get irritated around crowds, so I can't imagine spending hours browsing all the aisles. Any help that will limit my amount of time in there would be much appreciated.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lunch in a Box: Spaghetti Squash with Kale and Chickpeas

I love having leftovers for lunch- it makes packing my lunch so much easier than planning an extra meal! After attending a cookie exchange yesterday afternoon (more on that later), I was in the mood for something light and healthy. Thanks to Pinterest, I came across this dish (Oh My Gosh, Spaghetti Squash) AND the healthy blog it came from. I've now added My New Roots to my Google reader and am looking forward to more delicious dishes.

The dish was super easy. Just go to the link above for ingredients and directions. Aside from splitting open the spaghetti squash, it took under an hour from start to finish. While the squash is baking, assemble the remaining ingredients and start sautéing them when there is only about 10 minutes left to go. It made enough for barely 4 servings, so I would recommend maybe using 2 bunches of kale for a heartier serving. I sprinkled dinner with a little parmesan from the fridge, but you could leave it out for a vegan dish if you wanted.

Dinner last night

So I had already prepared my lunch box last night, but needed to fill the other two compartments. We had gone to a Christmas party on Friday that had a Mexican food theme. Knowing that we would be gorging on tamales, I made a crudite tray with a spicy Chamoy dipping sauce to take. I found the recipe in one of my Rick Bayless cookbooks, but lucky for you it's also online. Click on this link for the Mexican Crudite Platter with Chamoy Dipping Sauce. I purchased 2 whole pineapples (because they're half the price of buying them already cut up). I have a nifty tool that takes out the center, so it wasn't too hard. It sounds weird to dip pineapple in a spicy sauce, but just trust me on this one. I passed on the jicama and radish in the recipe, and instead used yellow bell pepper, mini carrots, cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumber. I so wished I had taken a picture because the tray came out beautifully, but I was in a rush to get out the door on time. The sauce was so easy to make, and the heat can be adjusted to your taste. This is a winner dish in my book!

So...long story short is that I had some sauce and veggies left over, so I threw those in my box too. Tasty, healthy, but still hearty enough that I won't be hungry in an hour. But in case I am, I have an apple to snack on later.

When it rains, it pours...

They say that bad things happen in 3's, right? In the scheme of things, I guess our trio of bad things could have been worse. But I'm hoping this is the last of it for a bit (at least until after our big trip)!

It started on Friday, when Hank's car wouldn't start. I went to pick him up at the store that he was stuck at, and luckily it started and he was able to get home. But he dropped it off at the shop this morning, and fingers crossed that it isn't something too expensive.

Then yesterday morning, Maddie (the Peekapoo) was acting funny, and it looked like she might have hurt her leg somehow. She wouldn't get on or off the bed herself, so Hank went to pick her up so she could go outside. He must have grabbed right where it hurt, because she yelped and then bit him on the face. Ouch! She wasn't doing it to be mean (we think), but she hurt and lashed out and he happened to be the unfortunate victim. Maddie is known for being a bit of a drama queen, so we decided to administer some doggie aspirin and she how she was feeling today. Our theory is that she got into a tangle with one of the cats, got her butt kicked, and her ego was suffering more than anything. She appears to be on the mend, and back to her usual bossy self.

After the biting incident, Hank went outside to do some yardwork. I opened the garage door to ask him something, and we both watched (in horror) as the shelving unit that was attached to the wall, with ALL of his tools, yard stuff, etc....detached and went crashing down onto the garage floor. Stuff spewed EVERYWHERE. At least Hank, and his car, were not harmed in the process. But we both just looked down at the mess and started to laugh. I mean seriously, WHAT ELSE COULD GO WRONG?!?!

I put my work clothes on and went out to help him untangle the mess. The only good thing that came of it was that we got a new shelving unit (one that stands on the ground), and after a few hours he had everything organized and looking even better than before. Bless his heart!!! Again- I realize all of these are first world problems. But I love the month of December, and want it to be a good, FUN month. Save the headaches for January, please!

Where the shelves used to be, just above the ladder.

Where the shelves (and stuff) ended up. And yes, that is anti-freeze leaking on the floor.

After a trip to Home Depot and a little hard work, his stuff was nice and organized!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

Too bad it doesn't feel like it yet. The temps this week have been in the upper 70s/lower 80s, and it's all I can do to not break out the flip flops again!  But the house looks beautiful, and I couldn't love all our decorations any more. If only it would cool off enough to build a fire.

Moving into a new house meant combining (and cleaning out) a bunch of Christmas decorations, along with the chance to start a new "look". I love combining silver and gold, and had my eye on a beautiful sparkly wreath from Crate and Barrel. So I had the broad vision of what I wanted in mind, and just needed help making that happen. That's where my mom and sister usually come in.

Hank was out in Sacramento, punishing himself in monsoon-like conditions for the California International Marathon. So I invited my parents to come over for dinner, and help with the decorations. I had taken the day off work and was able to meet my mom at Z Gallerie to buy a few more things that I knew we would want. And the final result is just beautiful. It's a sparkly mix of nature, gold and silver. I really don't quite know what to call it, but it works!

Gifts are wrapped, stockings are I'm ready to enjoy the month of December!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Year Ago Today

One year ago today, I walked into a coffee shop for what I thought would be a 1-2 hour date. Little did I know what an impact that day would have on my life. 4 plus hours later (with a second date on the books), I walked out thinking that something special might be in the works for me.

I remember the day before Thanksgiving, when Hank first showed up in my eHarmony daily email. I had only recently gotten back on the site, and was already discouraged by the choices being offered. Then his adorable bald head and big smile stuck out, and I decided I had to at least find out a little more about him. Long story short, we maybe set a record for completing all eHarmony communication steps in a ridiculously short time. We continued to email over the holiday, and then decided on meeting for coffee on Sunday morning.

As soon as I walked in the door and saw him sitting across the room in his handsome straight-off-the-Banana-Republic-mannequin outfit, I knew at the very least that I would enjoy looking at him across the table for a bit. But then the first hour flew by, and then the next, and the next thing I knew...I had completely missed all of the things I had planned to do that afternoon. We just had so much to talk about! I finally had to wrap things up, as the day was quickly ending and I really had things to do. Hank was smart enough to say that he wanted to see me again, and so plans for dinner the following Saturday were made.

It felt like the longest week ever, but the anticipation was half the fun. He picked me up and we ate at La Sombra and then had drinks next door at Apothecary afterwards. It was a great second, first date (because often the first ones are too nerve-racking to count). And the rest, as they say, is history.

To spare you all the gagging details, it has really been a wonderful year, and I expect that it will only continue to get better. Things have moved quickly, and maybe not in the usual order, but it has worked for us. As you all know, I had to deal with some family struggles surrounding the issue of me moving in. And in hindsight, it was actually a good thing. I have been going to counseling and had the chance to really deal with some things that should have been dealt with a long time ago. I know my parents love and care about me, and only want me to be happy. We're finding ways to move forward and this past Thanksgiving I couldn't have been more thankful to spend it with Hank AND my family. I appreciated how welcoming they were to him, and that we were all able to enjoy celebrating together.

My life was already pretty fantastic when he came into it, but I love that he has been able to bring even more good things to it. He makes me laugh, he gets concerned when I'm not taking good care of myself, he makes me coffee, and brings breakfast and the paper to me on Sunday mornings. He doesn't mind when I bring animals home to foster, and even looks for new ones on his own. He feeds my cats and scoops the litter box, and I never had to ask him to. He's my partner- he looks after me, has my back, would do just about anything for me. He makes me smile each and every day. And most importantly- he loves me exactly the way I am. In turn, I'd do anything for him. And I look forward to all the other things to add to my list as time goes on.

So tonight, we'll have fun celebrating at the restaurant where we had our second first date. It's now a different place, but the thought of going back just sounded too fun. I think it's important to celebrate all the little memories that have brought us to where we are, and I hope that we will always find fun ways to celebrate going forward.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Black Bean and Corn Empanadas

Our latest cookbook for Cookbook Club is "Year of Pies". I'm almost ashamed to admit that I had never made a homemade pie crust prior to getting this book. And now that I know how easy it is, I'm even more ashamed. It's seriously as simple as flour, salt, butter and water. Sure, a little elbow grease is needed when it comes to rolling it out, but it really is so easy!

I love that the book is broken out into seasons, but winter/holiday/pie all seems to fit together so perfectly. Last week I made a Gingersnap Crust Pumpkin Pie, and Salted Pecan Mini Tarts (of which I over cooked and therefore didn't take pictures of.)

Pumpkin Pie

Since the butter dough recipe makes enough for two pies, I was left with one dough ball that hadn't been used. I hated to see it go to waste, so I put my thinking cap on for a dinner/leftover lunch idea. I wanted it to be easy though, and I wanted to use what I already had in my pantry. Empanadas came to mind, and a quick Google search resulted in the idea for a black bean and corn concoction.

I didn't really follow a recipe- instead I just used what I had (with the exception of some pepper-jack cheese I got at the store), and added the flavors we like. You'll notice that I left out amounts in the "recipe", because I really did the seasoning to taste. I was more than happy with the end result, and leftovers were even better today since the flavors had time to settle in.

I like to place my ingredients together to get an idea of where I'm headed with the dish.

Final result- perfectly browned (and delicious) empanadas.

Black Bean and Corn Empanadas
(makes 10-ish)


1 small onion, chopped
chopped garlic
1 can black beans, drained
1 cup corn (I used frozen straight from the bag)
tomato paste
cinnamon (start with just a sprinkle- a little bit goes a long way)
cayenne powder
roasted red peppers (tomatoes would be a good substitute)
cubed pepper-jack cheese

dough** (This link for a dough recipe provides a lot of great info about why I like all-butter, and why I make my dough by hand. Just omit the sugar when using dough for a savory dish.)

1-2 T melted butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sauté onion in a bit of oil until soft. Add garlic, and stir for a minute or so (until fragrant).
Add remainder of ingredients, stir to mix well, and then cover and cook on low for about 15-20 minutes.

While mixture is cooking, roll out the dough (thin, but not too thin- you don't want it to tear) on a floured surface. Cut circles about 6 inches in diameter. I just used a large ramekin and cut around the outside.

Lightly grease a baking sheet, and add the dough circles two at a time. Fill them with a spoonful of mixture, and a cube or two of cheese, and then rim the edges with a little melted butter to help seal. When you fold one side over, be sure to pinch the seams well to keep the filling inside. I also brushed the tops of mine with a little melted butter. (I used less than 1 T. of butter for all 11 empanadas that my batch made.) Press the edges with a fork to give it a pretty look if you want.

Bake for about 15 minutes- just be sure to check that the dough is cooking, but not overcooking.

Serve with salsa, guacamole, sour cream.....whatever your little heart desires!

**Quick note about pie dough- I mentioned that I prefer an all-butter dough recipe. I also do mine by hand, using a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour. Don't even bother getting your food processor out- it's just one more thing to clean. Get a big bowl, and do it by hand!

Friday, November 16, 2012

In The Weeds

Just when I thought work couldn't get any did. And to make things worse, I was pulled out of the office for 4 days of training last week with no access to email. In the restaurant industry, we called this "in the weeds." It's been difficult to get my inbox to below 100 emails, and return even half of the voicemails that have piled up. But the good news is that I can finally see the light again (and also have time for Facebook/Pinterest/Blogging).

I inherited nearly 65 new accounts a few weeks ago, and I'm not quite sure how I'm going to scale the new workload to fit into my 8 hour work day. I have to find a way though because I cannot continue to function the way these past few weeks have been. I'll figure it out...someway, somehow.

There is a good story here- I promise! Our entire education sales force spent all of last week on the beautiful property that is Hyatt Lost Pines Resort. If you haven't been there before, it really is spectacular. Unfortunately, the location in Bastrop made for some really long days for me. I left my house at 6am, and didn't return before 10pm pretty much every day. But for once in my life, I got to attend a training that was engaging, interactive, and very informative. I actually walked away with a ton of information and inspiration, which made that time totally worth it.

I also walked away with two awards. One was slightly expected, and the other was a total and complete shock! I have worked my arse off this past year, and was able to surpass my sales expectations that at first seemed impossible. My main motivation was simply that I like to be successful. Give me a goal, and I'll do what it takes to meet it. There was also a shiny carrot (besides a nice commission check) dangled in front of me...a trip to the island of Nevis! You may remember that I attended the club trip to Hawaii earlier this year. But stakes were higher and they made the trip more exclusive by limiting exactly how many people would be invited this year.

I remember being at the final dinner in Hawaii when the new "Circle of Excellence" program was announced, and thinking how hard it would be to make it. Going in to last week I knew that I had met at least the main criteria (obtaining sales quota), and thought I had a good chance to be awarded the trip. What I did not plan on was also being awarded Inside Sales Account Executive for my region. I had not even given a moment's thought to it. So imagine my excitement at the final awards dinner last week, when my field counterpart was announced as Field AE for our region. And when they begin describing the Inside AE....and I realized it was me....I just couldn't believe it. The two of us as a team really beat the odds and had such an amazing year in a territory that was notoriously difficult to crack. I couldn't have done it without her, and it was so rewarding that we were able to win the honor together. All of the frustration, stress and headaches were totally worth it at that very moment.

My shiny, beautiful award

Accepting our awards on stage. just two short months, Hank and I will be basking in the sun on what appears to be heaven on Earth. I absolutely cannot wait to get away for an extended time, with no email or work calls, and just relax and enjoy a true vacation. I thought Hawaii would be hard to beat, but I think this trip will be spectacular.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Out and About: A Girly Weekend at the Domain

**Disclaimer- I have been buried alive in work, and am so far behind on posting anything exciting. This is from 2 weekends ago.**

I celebrated the 30-something birthday of a good friend who drove into town for the weekend. My sister booked a room at the Westin at The Domain, and we treated it like a little "staycation". It was so much fun!!! The hotel was nice, and it was perfectly located- close enough to all the fun shops and restaurants. They even offered a shuttle service making it quick and easy to get around.

I'll be honest, I haven't spent a ton of time at The Domain. There are some really great shops there, but it's not the most convenient place for me to shop. I've eaten at a few restaurants before, but that's about it. There really is a little bit of everything though, and it's totally worth spending a day there.

On Friday night I met my friend and sister at the hotel room and then shuttled us all to dinner at 2nd Bar & Kitchen downtown. I have heard nothing but good things about the two bars connected to Congress, so I was really excited about eating there. We weren't sure if we would go to Bar Congress, or 2nd Bar & Kitchen. But once we got there, the choice was easy. Bar Congress was darker, quieter, and full of couples. 2nd Bar & Kitchen had a more open space, with lots of people hovered around the bar and in tables. We waited for maybe 30 minutes at the bar and sipped on drinks. Our table was ready just as our order of truffle fries were, so we carried them with us to the table.

The menu had plenty of options, and I thought overall the pricing wasn't bad. Entrees were just over $20, but you could also get salads or pizzas for less. There were even a few vegetarian options. I chose a beet salad and a pizza, while the other girls got short ribs and a flank steak. Everything was delicious!!! Our server, Moe, was absolutely wonderful, and so attentive. His interaction with us made the evening even more fun. I can't tell you how much I appreciate good service. We finished dinner with several good desserts, my favorite being a pumpkin cheesecake in a jar with homemade graham crackers for dipping.

I had to get up and run the next morning, so I called it an early night while the other two had some fun people watching at the W bar. Running 8 miles the morning after a big meal and a couple of glasses of wine was no fun, so I was a little slow joining them the following morning. I made it back to The Domain in time for lunch at California Pizza Kitchen, followed by a little shopping. We then walked down the street to watch the UT/Texas Tech game at The Park. They are known for having a great brunch, but it's also the perfect sports bar. They have good food, reasonably priced drinks, and a huge patio area where we got to enjoy the game AND the perfect weather. Even better was the Horns beating the Raiders in one of their best played games of the season.

White sangria with St. Germaine. Yum!

After a quick nap, another friend (who recently had a baby) came out to join us for another dinner. We haven't seen her in awhile, so we were glad she could join us for the evening. We headed over to Sushi Zushi where we had reservations. Let me just say this- after the amazing dinner we had on Friday night, I was extremely disappointed by our experience here. To the point that I might email the manager. I already had to approach him at dinner when our server had not acknowledged us after far too long. I hate to do it, but nothing chaps my hide more than poor service. When you add sub-par food on top of that, it's even worse. But the company was great, and that was really all that mattered.

After dinner we walked over to Cru Wine Bar for some birthday fondue dessert and a nightcap before making our way back to the hotel. We were all exhausted from the festivities, so we called it a night and went to bed.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Pumpkin Carving Tradition

Every year for about as long as I can remember, my mom hosts a family Halloween party. It's been difficult as the "kids" have gotten older- especially being in 3 different cities. But now that my 3 year old niece is old enough to participate and enjoy it, the party is back in full swing. My family has always been pretty competitive, and pumpkin carving is no exception. We go to great lengths to make them look good!

My parent's hosted the annual party on Sunday evening, and we were able to attend and enjoy a perfect fall evening. The temperature was great, and we enjoyed being outside eating, drinking and carving. I wish I had taken pictures of the pretty buffet and table she had set-up, but I had a one track mind, and that was winning the pumpkin carving contest.

To my shock and near horror, I learned that Hank had NEVER carved a pumpkin before. I don't even know how that's possible. I didn't really believe him until his mom later confirmed- it was just something they had never done before. So Sonny gave him a quick lesson on carving out the top and scooping out the insides. He did just fine with that. But then it came time to picking out a stencil from the kit that I got at Target, and that might have been where things went a little wrong. 

I got wrapped up in the overall vision for the pumpkins in front of our house, and might have led him into picking out probably the hardest design in the bunch. And then maybe I also gave him the tool that wasn't the best one to use for punching out the design before actually cutting it. I swear it wasn't intentional, but I nearly set him up for total failure. Thankfully, we prevailed, and ended up carving (in my humble opinion) the two best pumpkins of the night. Overall we had a great time, dinner was delicious, and it was fun spending time with family (even if my brother and sis-in-law couldn't make it.)

Hard at work prepping the pumpkins.

The finished product. Ours are the front two on the right.

Out and About: Revival

My parents were the first to tell us about this place, and we finally made it over there to get some pumpkins on Saturday afternoon. Revival brands itself as Furniture. Gifts. Vintage. That's an accurate description, but the actual place is so much more. From the road it looks pretty small. But once you get inside, and then out through the back, it turns into this playground of beautiful things.

A super nice, young couple owns it, and they have big plans for expanding it into a real shopping destination. Basically, they have traveled all over and collected old "things". They refinish much of the furniture, but they also leave enough of it up to your imagination. The chandeliers and old doors were probably my favorite.

A line up of some of the old doors. The turquoise one is my favorite!

Hank checking out the really cool old doors.  I'd love to find a way to use one of these.

The building in the back of the property where much of the refinishing work takes place.

The main reason why were were there was to pick out some fun pumpkins. My parents got a great assortment, and I hadn't really seen a place that had much of a variety. Lucky for us, all pumpkins were 50% off. We ended up taking home 6 pumpkins of various shapes and sizes. I loved that their pumpkin patch was spread out throughout the property, and there were so many great decorating ideas that we were able to take away too.

Crystal chandeliers and pumpkins.

Such a fun decorating idea for next year,

More pumpkins cleverly displayed.

It's hard to see, but these are branches that were spray painted black, and have netting hung over it to look like a web. Looks so easy!

My sister saw this picture and called my outfit "granny gone wrong." Note to self, long bulky sweaters must be worn with skinny pants.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Home Improvement

I took a much needed 4 day weekend, and feel so relaxed and rested now. On Friday, I literally spent 6 hours straight in the kitchen, working on the "Tinkerbell" cake and cupcakes. On Saturday, I ran 8 miles, took my foster kitten to an adoption event (she was adopted!!), and then drove down to San Marcos with Hank for the birthday party (see previous post). So a day of rest today was well deserved. I slept in a little bit, made a quick trip to the grocery store, and then spent some quality time out in the yard with Hank making things look not so dead.

We had a hot, dry summer, so we had some cleaning up to do. Last weekend I made a soup using 3 types of squash, and decided to plant the seeds into one of our beds. They took, and have already started sprouting, so I was motivated to add a few more things. I planted broccoli and brussels sprouts, and Hank did his best to Marley-proof them with some iron fencing(the Beagle will eat just about anything).

Brussels Sprouts front left, with 3 types of squash in other rows. I know- I need new soil for the rest of the bed.

Broccoli, with rigged fencing to hopefully keep Marley out. She ate all the broccoli plants the last time I planted some.

In the front, we finally filled in an empty pot that was driving me nuts, and then added a little color to the front corner of the yard (most visible from the street). Hank also put down some new mulch. Drainage is tough in that section, so we're trying to find a way to keep things alive there. At least the mums add some color, and hopefully the asparagus ferns will grow big and fill in that space behind them. 

Before- Empty!
After- Full!

Before- sad, empty flower bed.

After- we have color, and new mulch!