Monday, June 25, 2012

Sunday Supper

I recently received the newest cookbook for our Cookbook Club.....Ruhlman's Twenty. It's been awhile since we've done a technique-focused book, so I was really excited to get this. The premise of the book is that all cooking can (and should be) centered around a handful of good techniques. This book includes 20, ranging from Eggs to Poaching to Vinaigrettes. Each technique includes 5 recipes that highlight these specific skills. Not only is the book brilliant (and easy enough for cooks of all levels), but it's also beautiful.

While some of the recipes could easily be made on a weeknight, I wanted to focus on something that I could really spend time on. Since I didn't have anything planned for Sunday, I decided to spend part of the day in the kitchen cooking a yummy Sunday supper. My final menu included:

Chipotle Corn Fritters with Cilantro Lime Dipping Sauce (from the Fry section)
Blue Cheese and Bacon Deviled Eggs (from the Chill section)
Greek salad (Hunk's creation)
Watermelon Feta Mint Salad (adapted from Bobby Flay's recipe)

Sunday supper feast

The fritters had a delicious smoky heat to them, tempered by a creamy dipping sauce. The recipe made about 15, and we ate all of them! I hardly ever fry things, so this was a special treat. In fact, Hunk was the one who manned the actual frying, and the fritters turned out great. Also from the book were the deviled eggs. The cooking instructions were just right- with emphasis being on chilling the eggs before taking the shells off. It did make the process easier, and the yolks inside were absolutely perfect. Not to mention that there was blue cheese and bacon going on. I would make both of those dishes again in a heartbeat.

We wanted to do a big salad so that we would at least have something healthy in the meal. It included romaine, red onion, chickpeas, feta, cucumber and a simple vinaigrette dressing made with lemon, olive oil and oregano. We totally could have gone without the salad, but at least we got our veggies in.

The Watermelon salad was a last minute addition. I had grabbed a personal-sized watermelon at HEB and it just looked so delicious. Since cutting the thing up takes time itself, I figured we better get it out of the way while we could. I remembered seeing a Bobby Flay recipe a few weeks back and decided to give it a try. Since I had feta and mint (in the backyard), it was easy to throw together. The recipe suggests mixing red wine vinegar, olive oil, S&P and fresh chopped mint, and then tossing that with the watermelon and red onion. To be honest, it really didn't need the dressing. I could have just tossed the mint in there and left it alone. Regardless, it was absolutely delicious!

A perfect summer supper!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Out and About: South Congress

I've written about the South Congress area so many times I've lost count. It truly is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Austin. With a great variety of restaurants (Boticelli's, South Congress Cafe and Home Slice Pizza to name a few), options for live music (Continental Club and the patio at Guero's), and plenty a quirky shops to browse, it's the perfect one-stop-shop for any occasion. Date night? Check. Hanging out with friends? Check. People watching? Check, check, check!!

My friend Sarah and her adorable boyfriend are in town from Denver for less than 48 hours, and I was lucky to get to hang out with them last night. Evan has never been to Austin, so the pressure was on to show him as much of the city as possible. Sarah toted him around all day yesterday, and then they met Hunk and I at Guero's last night for dinner and cruising around South Congress. You can't beat a good margarita after a crazy work week, and the cold AC was a welcome treat for Evan who was not quite prepared for the Texas heat. It might not be the best Mexican food in Austin, but the atmosphere more than makes up for it.

After dinner, it was just cool enough to handle walking around. Unfortunately for us, many of the fun shops had already closed for the evening. Lucy in Disguise and Big Top Candy Shop were at the top of our list, but no dice last night. The funky vintage shop New Bohemia WAS open though, and we entertained ourselves with all the hipster fashion we could handle. I mean, how many shops have a specific section for "Embroidered Boho Tops"?!

"Vintage" boots. There were some real specials pairs in the line-up.

On our way back down the street, we passed the infamous quote wall, scene of countless engagement and "just for fun" pictures. We couldn't pass by without taking this gratuitous shot:

Last stop of the night was at Amy's Ice Cream (you seriously can't come to Austin in the summer without trying this), and Sarah and I got a kick out of watching the guys order the combinations "Fluffy Bunny" and "Cuddle Monkey". Amy's is known for their quirky employees, and the combinations they come up with can't be missed.

Evan embracing the true Austin spirit.

Sarah and I

It was so nice to get to hang out with them, and I'm looking forward to visiting the cooler Denver area for a football game this fall.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Furry Friends

It's a little bit like the Brady Bunch: Animal Edition when it comes to combining our households. Hunk brings two dogs to the picture, and I bring two cats... all females!! Lucky for us, everyone seems to be getting along ok. The line-up includes:

Bailey the Alpha Calico Cat (age guestimate- 14)
Marley the Wonder Beagle (age- 10)
Maddie the Mischievous Peekapoo (age- 6)
Katie the Shy-Formerly-Feral Cat (age guestimate- 4)

Bailey and Marley pretty much rule the roost, but we'll pretend that Bailey is the only one in charge. She likes it that way. And as long as Marley is getting treats or food hand-outs, she doesn't care what is going on. Maddie is a little perplexed by her new feline friends. She seems to respect that Bailey is the boss, but she's having a ton of fun tormenting Katie. It appears that no one puts Katie in a corner though, and she seems to be fending for herself just fine. Content to find things to sit under, she prefers to watch life from a distance. She also enjoys watching the outside from her new window perch. That is, until Maddie starts tormenting again. Fortunately, neither of the cats have figured out the doggie door and everyone has stayed in one piece.

Marley "Just Give Me a Treat"
Maddie and Bailey getting to know each other
Katie "I Can Nap Just About Anywhere"

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Home is Wherever I'm With You

I made a big decision recently, and I couldn't be happier. Hunk and I have decided to take the next step towards building a life together, and I am in the process of moving in to his house. It's a very exciting time for me, but has also been very stressful. My parents are less than thrilled with the news, and we're trying to work through that. I respect and understand their concerns regarding how quickly things have happened. "You haven't been dating very long" and  "You've made a lot of dumb decisions in the past" are two of their main points. I don't disagree with either of those arguments, but that's not to say I'm making a dumb decision right now.

A lot of thought has gone into this really big step, and I feel confident that it's the right thing for me to do. I've said it before, and I'll continue to say it. I wouldn't be who I am today had it not been for all the experiences I've had in the past. Many did not have the expected outcome, but I've learned a ton along the way, and have a clear idea of the things I need out of a relationship in order for it to be successful.

I've never lived with someone outside of marriage, and really wasn't sure how to feel about moving in to someone else's "space". Hunk has made it so easy for me though, and I appreciate that he is willing to make as much room for me as is necessary. We're on a mission to do things to make it "our" place...not just his. I want to be able to write about some of the fun things we're experiencing in this process, but am struggling with the whole parent disapproval thing. I'm on a mission to be more transparent about what is going on in my life with them, so this is one way of doing it.

So there you go...that's the biggest news in my life recently. I appreciate the kind words of support that I've received from friends, and I look forward to sharing some adventures from this new endeavor.

Friday, June 15, 2012

June Birchbox

This is quite possibly my favorite Birchbox yet! This month's theme is "Jet Set", and the box is devoted to products that will indulge your inner jet setter. There was a day when I used to travel frequently (mainly for work), but not so much anymore. I'm not complaining, but I'd love to throw these fun items into the cute little ziploc bag included and take off for a secluded beach far far away. Maybe when our fiscal year at work is over...

On to the box. There's not a single product in there that I don't like. This box even included a little something for the "Birchbox Man". They just launched a men's version and this is a way to promote it. At $20 a month (I can't believe their box is twice as expensive as the girl's version) I'm not sure that Hunk will be jumping on the bandwagon. But I am looking forward to smelling him as long as his little cologne sample lasts.

Included in this month's Birchbox:

tili Bags ($8.49 for 12): Breeze through security with these super cute plastic ziploc bags. I love that the design hides what's inside! If I was still traveling on a weekly basis, I would buy these in a heartbeat.

beautyblender blendercleanser ($17.50 for 6 oz.): That's a little pricey for essentially what is just soap (be it a soy-based formula that really helps remove built-up bacteria and oil.) But the honest truth is that I don't know that I have EVER cleaned my make-up brushes (gross, I know). And there was a lot of crap that came off of them as I was washing them off with this cleanser. I probably won't buy any of this, but it did trigger my memory that I really want to buy a beautyblender sponge for applying my foundation. A good friend of mine posted the most fantastic video on how to apply a flawless foundation, and I've been wanting one of these ever since!

Comodynes Self-Tanning Intensive ($14.99 for a pack of 8): If this stuff works, I'm totally buying some! I used the towelettes this morning, and should know how they worked in another 2 hours. Anyone who knows me knows that I have some WHITE legs. I've tried a variety of self-tanners, and none have made me want to throw on a bikini and show my fake tan off. But these were super easy to apply, initially weren't very smelly (though I can now smell the typical "self-tanner" smell), and are supposed to adjust to your natural skin tone. We'll see. I'll try to provide an update later today. Fingers crossed.

Number 4 Super Comb Prep and Protect ($32 for 200ml): This great smelling leave-in treatment is for detangling and defrizzing with nutrient-rich botanicals. I've only used it once this week, so the jury is still out on how well it works, but I do love the fact that it has built-in UV filters to protect hair. I need some of that!

theBalm Cosmetics Stainiac in Beauty Queen ($17.00 for .3 fl oz): I am SO ordering this two-in-one lip and cheek stain. The color is absolutely perfect, and it gives just enough color to my lips without overdoing it. Plus, it feels more moisturizing than other lip stains that I've tried. I absolutely love this product!!

John Varvatos Star USA cologne ($55 for 1.7 fl oz): I'll admit, I love a man in a nice, clean cologne scent, and this stuff is about as close as it gets. The blend of ginger, juniper berries and vetiver is very fresh smelling without coming on too strong. I don't normally buy men's cologne, but the price seems pretty reasonable to me, and the bottle is super cool looking. I bet I wouldn't have any trouble convincing Hunk to take on a new signature scent.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Life is Far Too Short

I saw this image on Pinterest this morning, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect. I made a decision recently that has caused a lot of hurt and disappointment to my parents. Our recent exchanges have not been pleasant, and it has made for an even more difficult week. I will write more about that decision eventually, I'm just not ready to do it yet.

The reason why this quote resonates with me is because I really do believe that life is too short, and that we should make the most of all opportunities. Some things work out the way we want them to, and many times they don't. I'm a passionate person- that is one of the most defining traits of my character- and I often make decisions based on that. Some people agree or understand it, and others don't. Some of my decisions have worked out better than others. But I learn from each of them and move on a better person.

Life is too short to be angry at people and hold on to grudges. Forgiveness is too often overlooked. You never know what the next day might bring, and I think it's important that we spend more time being thankful for the great things in our lives. That's how I choose to live my life, and I'm sticking with it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Catching Up

It's another week, and a big round of new product announcements at work. I'm swamped, to say the least. Hopefully it will die down enough to catch up on writing about some of the fun things I've done recently. In the meantime, if you haven't heard of The Head and the Heart, you should give them a listen. I got to see them play on Saturday night, and it was a phenomenal show!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Out and About: Violet Crown Cinema

I have been go-go-going lately, so the idea of movie night was just what I needed this past Saturday. Quiet and relaxing! I had heard (and read) about the movie Bernie quite a bit lately, and our luck would have it playing downtown at the moderately new Violet Crown Cinema. I'm a big fan of Alamo Drafthouse, so I was slightly reluctant to try this place. It almost felt like cheating a little bit. But with ticket and food prices what they are there, this will be a special occasion only place from here on out.

The good news is that a) there is free parking and b) it's a pretty cool place. There is a nice lounge and bar area when you first walk in the door where you can order/eat/drink. They don't have servers in the actual theater, so I definitely recommend eating in the lounge. You can take a drink in with you, but it's a lot easier to deal with that than having a plate of food in front of you the whole time.

We shared the veggie sliders and spring rolls, I had a cocktail and a glass of wine, and Hunk had a beer. I think the total for the night was around $83 (including tickets). That's one expensive movie night if you ask me. Next time, we'll eat in advance and just order a drink for the movie. The theaters are small inside, only about 8-10 rows, so I also recommend ordering your tickets online well in advance. It's reserved seating, so the earlier you get them, the better place you have to sit. And just to note- the front row is a little farther back than most places, and you get a foot rest with your seat. So if that's the only option you see, it's really not that bad!

Now on to the movie, because really that was the best part of the night. Bernie is based on a true story that took place in the small town of Carthage, TX in 1996, about a mortician who befriended (and later killed) a wealthy older widow. The casting could not have been more perfect, with Jack Black playing the slightly effeminate Bernie, and Matthew McConaughey playing a true East Texas lawyer. Part of the movie was filmed at my old high school, and in and around Austin. It's a dark comedy, and the focus on the townspeople is really where the story is at. It was hard to tell if they were actors, or true people from the town. I've seen mixed responses about it, but there is no question that there was some superior casting done for the movie. Even Matthew's mom was cast as one of the gossips. It was a truly great movie, and you should go see it if you get the chance.