Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Out and About: Deep Eddy Cabaret

This past weekend was full of Christmas parties- Friday, Saturday and Sunday! I was exhausted come Monday morning, but it was a really fun weekend. On Friday we headed to my parent's house for their annual get together with friends. It's amazing the kind-of spread that my mom can put together at the last minute. Not only was there great food, but there was enough alcohol for the entire neighborhood. Two different wine stations, a vodka/martini bar, and even some festive beer. It's unfortunate we had to run early the next morning.

On Saturday night we went to the Gazelle Christmas Party. This is our running group, and this year we were in a new, bigger location. There was a great turnout with plenty of good food, but a shortage of wine. Who knew that runners could drink so much?! The party ended early, as most people had other places to go to next. But we headed down the street to one of my favorite dive bars, Deep Eddy Cabaret, with two other couples. Hank had never been before, and I knew he would love its special charm.

Now that you can't smoke inside any restaurant or bar in Austin (it's actually been this way for awhile, which is awesome), it's much easier to tolerate the dark, cozy quarters of Deep Eddy. The ceilings are low, the bathrooms are small, and there are two pool tables and a juke box in the back. Throw in some cheap beer, and you've got yourself the classic dive bar. We snagged a pool table and rotated couples for at least 3 games. A few pitchers in and we ended up having a really fun night with some great friends.

The Holland House: Amy and Hank

The Holland House: Deep Eddy Cabaret
Random bar decorations- got to love a shout out to the Saints!!
The Holland House: Pool Score
Mature behavior while keeping score. 

In my twenties, there used to be a group who put together Dive Bar Night, where we would crawl between 3 or 4 dive bars. I used to be able to hang back then, but now we're doing good to make it to midnight at just one location. But there's something to be said about a good dive bar, and Austin certainly has plenty to choose from. There's Lala's, where it's Christmas all year long. And then there's Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon, with Chicken Shit Bingo on Sunday afternoons (need I say more). If you haven't taken the time to scout out a dive bar in your own town, I highly recommend it. You never know what kind-of fun you'll run into.

Monday, December 9, 2013

"Will You Be My Bridesmaid" Cookies

I have tried on several occasions to document my cookie making process. But once I get in the cookie zone, I always forget to stop and take a picture or two. So here is my first attempt at showing you how I work.

A client contacted me recently about bridesmaid dress cookies for her daughter (the bride) to put in a little gift box she was giving to each of her friends, asking them to be in her wedding. Other than telling me the wedding colors (robins egg blue and coral), she wasn't exactly sure how she wanted them to look. I'll admit that creativity is not my strong suit, so it's always stressful to me when I don't have a lot of guidance for design. However, after asking a few questions and getting more information about the event in general, I was able to formulate a few ideas.

Since the request was made fairly last minute, I wasn't able to get a cutter that looked exactly like what I had in mind. So I drew my own template to use for the cookies. I usually don't accept last minute requests, but I already had extra dough and royal icing left over from a recent project, so I was able to accommodate the request.

Step 1: Roll out the dough and cut the cookies. It helps to freeze the dough for a few minutes after rolling it out so that it's firm when cutting, especially if you aren't using a cutter. I roll my dough about 1 cm thick. If hand cutting, just run your finger along the edges to smooth out any rough spots.

The Holland House: Hand Cut Cookies

Step 2: Color the icing. This was day 2 of this particular order, so the cookies are fully cooled. I started off with just a toothpick tip each of Sky Blue and Turquoise (I prefer the Americolor brand), and continued to add dots of color at a time to reach the shade I wanted. I use the spray bottle to thin out the consistency of the icing. This was a life saving tip that I learned from The Sweet Adventures of Sugar Belle, as it helps you avoid adding too much water at a time. If you are interested in trying cookie decorating, her blog is full of amazing tips.

The Holland House: Coloring Royal Icing

Step 3: Planning the design of the cookie. I already had a few ideas in my head, but wanted to draw out what I was thinking so that I could ice the cookies correctly. Sometimes a design involves icing sections at a time, and obviously figuring that out after the fact is never a good thing. I like to trace my cookie cutter a few times and draw out my ideas before I actually start decorating.

The Holland House: Cookie Drawing

Step 4: Outline and flood the icing. For these, I didn't want the outline to be obvious, so I used the same consistency to outline and flood. I just used a smaller tip (#2) to outline, and a #3 to flood. After flooding the cookies, I swirled a clean toothpick around to pop out any bubbles, and merge the flooding and outline.

The Holland House: Outlining Cookies

The Holland House: Flooding Cookies
I played around with two different necklines on these to determine which one I liked better. 

Step 5: Adding detail. After the cookies dried, I added the next layer of detail. I always make extra cookies to finalize the design, and I love that it gives me the chance to play around a little (like the cookie in the top left corner where I used sanding sugar). When they were all finished (and I took a little vote via Instagram), it was decided that the bottom left cookie was just perfect for a June ranch wedding.

I typically place each cookie in a cellophane bag and tie with coordinating ribbons, but the bride wanted to do that herself and add a "Will you be my bridesmaid" tag on them. I think this is such a fun and special idea, and I so enjoyed playing a part of it.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Single Cup of Coffee

Many things can happen over a single cup of coffee.  Business deals may be won or lost, new friendships forged, and old friends reconnecting. Today marks the two year anniversary that my life forever changed over a single cup of coffee.

We had made arrangements to meet at a local coffee shop in Austin.  We had already exchanged several emails and phone calls so the next logical step was to finally meet face-to-face.  We agreed to meet for coffee on a Sunday morning.  Amy had a preset schedule so I knew we only had an hour.  In my mind, I thought she was only telling me she had things to do in case she lost interest in our conversation.  Nonetheless, I was excited to finally have the chance to have our "date", if even for only an hour.  Actually, excited would be an understatement.  I was giddy!

I will spare our readers the details of our conversation because that is not really what this post is about.  This post is about what can happen over a cup of coffee. We managed to turn a single cup of coffee into a 5 hour coffee date.  Yes, you read that correctly, 5 hours of engaging conversation.  Neither of us looking at our watches, playing with our iPhones or whatever other distractions came our way.  We never even bothered to refill our cups. My life changed over that cup of coffee, I found Amy and Amy found me.  Think about the possibilities the next time someone asks you if you want to meet for coffee, it could lead you to your happily ever after.

Happy "Coffee Date" Anniversary and I am so thankful that you did not run away :)


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Baby It's Cold Outside

Winter is here (if only for a week or two) and I'm loving this little cold spell. We're laying low, spending time in front of the fire and relaxing a bit before the rush of the holiday season. I've been MIA for a couple of weeks, for no good reason other than that work has been nuts (story of my life), I've been busy baking, and just enjoying life in general. I used to be able to knock out a blog post or two during the work week, but the pace lately has not allowed me to do so. By the time I get home, get dinner on the table, and settle in with my little family, the last thing I want to do is fire up the computer to tell you about stuff that probably isn't very exciting. I made a promise to myself to only post when I have something interesting to share, and I plan on sticking to it.

A little about life lately....

Out and About:

We went to see Head and the Heart at Stubbs last weekend. This was our second time to see them, and their new album is awesome. If you're looking for some new music, I highly suggest downloading it "Let's Be Still". Summertime and Shake are probably my two favorite songs off the new album, but it's hard to go wrong with anything they record.


Our 5 girls keep us entertained on a daily basis. Brees is almost 9 months old and still growing. She's due for a check up, but I'm guessing she's right around 50 pounds. We're hoping she will come up short on her projected weight of 70ish pounds. We'll see. There have been a few rounds of vet visits for the three older ladies, but everyone is hanging in there and for the most part staying healthy (with the exception of our ever depleting wallets). This past Sunday was the coldest day we've had in forever, and we all enjoyed bundling up and snuggling on the couch in front of the fire.

The Holland House: Brees
Brees the wonder pup

The Holland House: Marley and Maddie
Marley and Maddie (Miss Drama Queen)

The Holland House: Katie and Bailey
Katie and Bailey hogging my spot in bed

My little side project, Sweet Elise, is still going strong. In fact, I just had my first repeat customer who is NOT a family member! I've been making mostly decorated sugar cookies, along with a few cakes. I'm hoping to find some time this weekend to work on a few cookie sets that I would like to market for December, but am still struggling to balance my time between baking and making time for family. I'll share some pictures of recent projects in a separate post.


It was a tough year for me professionally. After two massively successful years, I learned the hard way what happens when you blow out your sales quota. They double it. While I still managed to exceed my revenue from last year, I was not able to meet the expectations set for me. I was without a field rep for half of the year, and that certainly didn't help. But all I can do is lick my wounds, and move on to the next year. We're well into the first quarter, and things are already going well. I have two new field reps this year, and I have no doubt we're going to blow it out again. While I didn't win the club trip this year (insert sad face), I'm going to work my butt off so that we can celebrate Hank's 40th birthday in Anguilla January 2015. We just finished our sales conference out at the Hyatt Lost Pines last week, and it was just the right amount of kool aid drinking to get me energized and excited to tackle this new year. Bring it on!

So there's a quick little recap for you. We have so much to be thankful for, and I'm looking forward to celebrating the holidays with my now husband. Tomorrow marks the two year anniversary of our very first date, and what a wild ride it has been. I know there are a lot of great things in store for us, and I'm so thankful to have such an amazing man in my life. I hope that all of you have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Out and About: Swatch Austin Grand Opening

On November 7th I was invited to attend the Grand Opening of the new Swatch store in downtown Austin. It sounded like a fun girly get together, so I invited my friend Molly to check out the new store with me.

The Holland House: Swatch Storefront Austin
Photo credit: Guest of a Guest Photography

Located in the heart of the 2nd Street District, it's a prime spot for an afternoon of shopping. The store front is sleek, and the bright interior makes for a fun shopping experience. The crisp white walls showcase all of the fun colors and designs to choose from. These aren't the 1980's watches you might be thinking of, either. There was a variety of colors and materials to choose from, ranging from sporty to snazzy.

Photo credit: Guest of a Guest Photography

Molly and I spent a fair amount of browsing, while also indulging on some of the eats and drinks that were provided for the VIP party. We tried a few on and definitely found some that made it onto our must-have list. You can't go wrong with the traditional White Classiness or White Bishop models- I think either of those would make great gifts, and there were plenty of options for men, too.

Photo credit: Drew DeGennaro, Do512

Later in the evening Swatch hosted a private performance by the Beach Fossils, who were in town for the Fun Fun Fun Fest. You could also register for a chance to win 3-day passes to FFF, along with a new watch. The store went all out to make their mark on Austin with a great opening event, and I'm excited about the new addition to an already stellar shopping area.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Butternut, Beets, and a few Monday Goals

Last night we enjoyed a sinful Butternut Squash Galette for dinner (thanks to my Sunday Costco haul), and Hank has officially declared it his favorite dish ever. But with a homemade butter pie crust and cheddar cheese filling, it's not the healthiest meal around. To balance that, I wanted to make something better with the second container of butternut squash. I did a google search for a few soup recipes, and with the Classic Butternut Squash Soup recipe from Whole Foods. It was pretty straightforward and didn't require too many ingredients. I made a few tweaks that I'll list below, and the end result was delicious. Fresh, healthy and filling- perfect for an easy lunch when paired with a salad.

The Holland House: Butternut Squash Soup

Speaking of salads….you might remember those little beets I was so excited about yesterday? I wrapped them up in foil and roasted them at 400° for about 20 minutes, cubed them and put them on top of a spinach salad to go with our soup for lunch today. I also added a little crumbled goat cheese, 1 Tb chopped walnuts and a side of balsamic dressing. For dessert we have low fat cottage cheese with a few of the raspberries from Costco on top. Quick and easy to put together!

The Holland House: Beet &  Goat Cheese Salad

Hank requires a few extra calories than I do, so I supplement his lunch with a Clif bar, an apple (and today- leftovers from dinner). He typically gets larger portions than me at each meal too, and that usually makes up for calories. I wanted to make things easy for this week, and this lunch totally fit the bill. The soup made 4 servings, so we'll be having this same exact lunch on Wed. Doing this reduces waste, and doesn't have me slaving over unique lunches each day of the week.

Classic Butternut Soup
(makes 4 servings)

1 2lb. container peeled/cubed butternut squash
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup diced carrots (I used baby carrots that we already had)
1 tsp dried thyme (fresh would be good, but I used what I had)
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 Tb. heavy cream (you could absolutely leave this out, but for just 52 calories it added a little creaminess)
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in large sauté pan, add carrots and onions. Sauté until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.

2. Add remaining ingredients, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow soup to simmer for 30 minutes, or until the squash is fork tender.

3. Allow to cool, and either use an immersion blender to puree, or do two batches in a blender or food processor (my Vitamix was perfect for this.)

Nutritional info:

calories: 144
fat: 5.1g
Sodium: 156g
Carb: 24g
Fiber: 4.8g
Sugars: 7.6g
Protein: 2.1g

Now on to a few goals for this week. I recently came across a new favorite blog, How My World Runs, and I love that she lists a few goals each week and holds herself accountable to how she did. Heading into the holidays, we are trying really hard to eat well and exercise consistently so that we don't feel too guilty indulging a little here and there. I have also had such a struggle trying to lose these nasty 10 pounds that have taken residence on my body, and nothing seems to work lately. But I'm going to keep on trying, and maybe a little accountability will do the trick.

This week my goals are:

1- To not drink alcohol Mon-Fri
2- To run M/W/Sat, and do kettle bell class T/Th
3- To take a 15 min walk every mid-afternoon to give my rear a break from sitting all day
4- To stick to the meal plan I worked so hard on for this week, and enter my intake into the LoseIt app each day

Wish me luck, and feel free to share any goals that you might have for this week too!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Favorite Costco Finds

This morning I made a rare trip to Costco. I don't do it often, only because it's hard to buy in bulk when there are just two people. But items like trash bags, toilet paper, and laundry detergent sure come in handy if I can stock up and avoid buying them every month.

When I do visit, I do my best to balance out browsing and sticking to my list. Much like a trip to Target, it's hard to get out of a Costco store for less than $100 if you're not careful. And while I spent $109 on today's trip, it was at least mostly intentional. But I love coming across products I wasn't expecting to find- and I have a hard time passing them up. One of my favorite things about Costco is that it's totally possible to walk out of there with healthy, quality products at reasonable prices.

The Holland House: Costco Finds

Today's trip yielded just one unexpected find, but it was a good one. Hank LOVES beets. I like them just a little bit, so I usually don't end up buying them since I'm the one who does most of our grocery shopping. They are also a big pain to peel, which is another big reason that we don't get them very often. But as I was browsing the aisles of prepared foods (I really don't know what they call that section- but you can find cheeses, spreads and other random meat products there), I saw a container of organic beets, peeled, for $7.99. Considering how many were in the package, it seemed like a pretty decent deal to me, so in the cart they went.

The whole reason I went to Costco in the first place was to get butternut squash, so I was relieved to see that they still had the 2 lb. containers of peeled and cubed organic squash that I got last year, for just $3.99 a container. If you've ever peeled and cubed a butternut squash yourself, then you know what a pain it is. Like, an hour's worth of time kind-of pain. I'll gladly pay $4 a container to have someone else do it for me. Since the weather is finally starting to feel like fall here in Austin, I wanted to make a Butternut Squash Galette for Sunday dinner so this helped me get it together much faster.

The Holland House: Butternut Squash Galette

Among the other items that I put in my cart:

Ultra Clean Free & Clear laundry detergent (2 168oz bottles) $13.99

Paper towels (12 count) $14.99
Kirkland Ultra Soft Toilet Paper (30 count) $14.99

Non-GMO, organic tofu (3 pack) $4.49
Organic spinach $4.49
Raspberries (12 oz) $2.99
Strawberries $4.99
Mixed Bell Peppers (6 count) $5.99
Kirkland Unsalted Butter (4 boxes) $7.89

Stay tuned this week to see what I made for our lunches with some of these items. I picked up a lot of squash- and we need to eat it somehow. I'm curious to know from other Costco shoppers- what are some of your favorite items?

Texas Women Bloggers

Friday, November 8, 2013

Out and About: Arro

Last Saturday night, Hank and I celebrated 6 months of married bliss with dinner at one of Austin's newer restaurants- Arro. Touted as "Casual French Bistro Fare", the same team behind 24 Diner and Easy Tiger has put together a truly exceptional experience. They make casual look very, very cool! The space occupies the former Haddington's- which was never all that impressive to me. The design team reworked the interior, opening up the dining room while still creating spaces with the use of mixed material. From reclaimed wood and metal, to painted rattan on cabinet doors, they were able to maintain the historical feel of the building while also creating a romantic, intimate feel.

**All photos taken directly from the Arro website. It was too dark (and we were enjoying date night too much) to take our own pictures.

The Holland House: Arro Austin

We made reservations, and I'm glad we did as the restaurant was already pretty full at 7pm. I would have loved to have had time for a pre-dinner drink at the bar though. I mentioned painted rattan- and I seriously could not stop looking at the cabinets behind the bar, lit from the top and covered in these rattan doors. I swore to find a way to use them in our kitchen remodel.

The Holland House: Arro Bar

Upon arriving, we were promptly seated at one of the high top tables against the reclaimed wood wall at the back of the restaurant. I had a great view of the kitchen (I love seeing the hustle and bustle behind the scenes), but could also people watch in the bar area. The room was dimly lit and just loud enough to create an interesting energy in the room. Our waiter greeted us, welcomed us to the restaurant, and went over a few highlights from the menu. He came across as genuinely interested in making our experience a good one. Having waited tables for many years myself, I always appreciate this. Bad service can ruin an entire meal, for sure.

The Holland House: Arro

When we were deciding on a restaurant for our date night we took a sneak peek of the menu, but somehow missed the Bread Pairings section. It's on the back of the menu, and should never ever be overlooked. Start there when planning your meal, unless you want to do what I did and end up eating nothing but bread and cheese for your dinner. It's not a bad thing, by any means, but I was ridiculously full by the end of the night.

Their bread comes fresh daily from Easy Tiger, but the highlight of the board was the salted whipped butter. Don't even bother with the other flavors offered. The plain butter was sinful, and I could have eaten the whole bowl all on my own. We paired it with two cheeses (from our favorite Antonelli's Cheese Shop) and house made pickled vegetables. This bread board told me everything I needed to know about what Arro was all about.  Inspired, but simple, excellence. I think it's far easier to throw a bunch of ingredients together to make a complex dish, than it is to fully execute something as simple as butter into such a memorable part of the meal. Same with the pickled vegetables. They were brined in just the right mix of salt and spice, and added a fresh component to the board. We really could have stopped there (with a bottle of wine, of course) and gone home totally happy.

Thankfully we stayed for the remainder of our meal, and enjoyed a few more dishes. Hank chose steak frites for his dinner. The steak itself was probably the only low note of the meal. It was a little fatty for his taste. But the frites, served with a house made aioli, were out of this world. He opted for a roquefort butter sauce, which was a great compliment to the peppery steak.

I went with the prix fixe 3-course option, which you really don't see on enough menus in Austin. For $25, this is a stellar deal. I had french onion soup (which I shared), a Croque Provencal (vegetarian version) with a fried egg on top, and the dark chocolate pot de creme for dessert (which I reluctantly shared). I mentioned a lot of bread and cheese, right? It probably was too much, but that didn't take away from how delicious the sandwich was. The dessert though… I don't even know how to describe how perfectly it ended our meal. The orange meringue on top balanced the rich chocolate mousse. It was also the perfect portion for sharing.

With a long drive back to our neighborhood, we wanted to be responsible drivers. So we did not partake in any of the cordials that they offered. But I think this would be a fun experience to pair with dessert, and I absolutely love how they present them on a cart by the front door.

The Holland House: Arro Cordial Cart

Overall, Arro seems to really get what their patrons are looking for. While it's not an inexpensive night out, it's also not a break-the-bank meal either. The portions, quality of the food, ambience and impeccable service all come together for a really nice experience. We value those things over most creative menu, or most hard to come by ingredients any day.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Stronger Than I Think I Am

The Holland House: Run for the Water

This past Sunday morning Hank and I ran the 10 mile Run for the Water, the largest fundraising event benefitting the Gazelle Foundation. I know I've mentioned how much we love our running coach and group- Gilbert Tuhabonye and The Gazelles. Gilbert is from Burundi, a country where the life expectancy is only 59 years, and two of the leading causes of death are from waterborne illness. It is Gilbert's mission to give back to his country by providing clean water systems. Each $25 donation to the foundation helps to provide clean water for one person, for life. If you click on the Foundation link above, you can view a  video of the amazing work that is being done.

This post isn't really about that though. It's about what the run meant for me on Sunday. I'll be honest in saying that I really haven't been training. I knew it was coming up, and I knew that I should be working to prepare for it. But my longest run (in a year) has been just 6 miles. I was not the least bit ready, and I had a really bad attitude going into it. Yes- I wanted to be a part of the event, but I just wasn't sure how my body was going to handle 10 hilly miles.

To make matters worse, I spent all day Saturday standing in the kitchen working on my niece's cake. I wouldn't trade that time for the world, but it's not necessarily what you want to be doing all day before a run. I didn't drink enough water, and I didn't eat the right foods either. I was digging myself into an even bigger hole, and started finding ways to talk myself out of running. But Hank kept supporting me, and my running partner Nikki had such a great attitude. I just kept telling myself to get out there and do what I could do.

We woke up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to rain and lightning. I secretly hoped that the race would be called off, but I knew how disappointed Gilbert and all those who worked so hard to put it together would be. So we got dressed and took off for downtown. After a short delay, the race start was on. Before I knew it, we were running. It was humid, but not too hot. Overall conditions really weren't so bad for a Sunday morning run.

The Holland House: Run for the Water

Our plan was to start off at an 11:00 minute per mile pace, and warm up for the first couple of miles. We would take it easy over the hills, and stop for a fuel break at mile 6. From there- we would just see how we felt. The hills weren't easy by any means, but at mile 6 I wasn't feeling nearly as spent as I thought I would. So we kept going.

Miles 8 and 9 flattened out and ended up being our fastest times- averaging a pace of 9:55-10:05 minute miles. Holy cow....how was that happening?! I had to dig deep for mile 10, as I was starting to form a blister on my left foot. But we ran slow through the last water stop, and then hit it hard for the rest of the race. Before we knew it, we rounded the corner and saw Gilbert cheering everyone on, and then saw the Burundi drummers right before we crossed the finish line with smiles on our faces.

The Holland House: Gilbert Tuhabonye

The Holland House: Burundi Drummers
 It was a great feeling finishing that run, knowing that my body somehow pulled through and pulled out a decent average time of 10:41 minute miles. After being so down on myself lately, beating myself up for getting out of shape and not doing enough about it, there was a glimmer of hope that I'm not too far off from making some real progress. At the end of it all, I kept telling myself "I'm stronger than I think I am", and trying to use that motivation to keep going and improving on my fitness.

Overall it was a great day from start to finish. I'm so glad that I was able to get out of my funk and enjoy the run for what it was- the Austin community coming together to support Gilbert and a cause that we believe in. He always says it's a blessing to run in the rain! Even though the skies cleared up, it truly was a blessing to participate in this event, and I can't wait to do it again next year.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday, Georgia Ann

It just doesn't seem possible that my niece Georgia has turned 4. It has been so much fun watching her grow into the sweet and sassy little girl that she is, but oh how I wish time would slow down. We celebrated her birthday on Sunday, and I just couldn't get over how much she has grown over the past few years. I realize that's how things work, but it's still hard to wrap my head around.

The Holland House: Georgia Ann Turns 4

She has so much personality, and such a mind of her own. In fact, she went through several different birthday themes before deciding that she wanted a Halloween Costume Party. I made the cake for her Tinkerbell party last year, and I was excited to make a cake for her again this year. I'm not sure how I'll top it, but this is what I made (design by mycakeschool.com):

The Holland House: Witch Cake

My sister has tried to coordinate their family Halloween costumes since having Georgia. This year it was all about Ariel and the Little Mermaid theme (driven by Georgia, of course). Holly was Ursula, her husband was King Triton, and little Blair was the flounder fish. They seriously could not have been any cuter!

The Holland House: Little Mermaid Family

The rest of my family was also pretty clever. My brother and sis-in-law went as Thing 1 and Thing 2. Hank and I ran a 10 mile race early Sunday morning, and went straight to the party afterwards. So we dressed up as the super original marathon runner and support crew. 

The Holland House: Halloween Costumes

My sister outdid herself as always with fun themed food, games and crafts for the kids. My mom also dressed as a witch and created a "feely table" that she used to do for us as kids. She had different containers filled with guts (spaghetti), hearts (peeled whole tomatoes), eyeballs (cipollini onions), fingernails (sunflower seeds) and a brain (a round sponge). 

The Holland House: Party Food

The Holland House: Party Crafts

Overall it was a really fun party, and I think Georgia and her friends had a great time. Can't wait to see what's in store for this next year of her life.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Weekend in Nashville

Hank and I took a much needed vacation in Nashville last weekend, and had an absolute blast. One of my best friends from high school Aline (and her husband) moved there recently, and I have always wanted to visit that city. Hank has been several times and talked about how similar it was to Austin, and how much I would love it. He wasn't lying!

We arrived on Saturday just in time to watch Vanderbilt beat Georgia while eating a late lunch at Rotier's on campus. Nothing like starting off the trip with a pimiento BLT sandwich and a side of fried okra. Then we headed downtown to Broadway St. to catch some live music at Robert's Western World. The whole strip was pretty much like the country version of Austin's 6th street- neon lights, interesting people and tons of live music. Lots of fun! We rounded out the day trying to get into the famed Bluebird Cafe to see the Songwriters in the Round, but we got in line a few people too late. Due to it's rise in popularity thanks to the show Nashville, it's considerably harder to get into without a reservation. We still got to see and hear a little of the show though, so it wasn't a total waste of time.

The Holland House: Nashville Music Scene

Sunday started with a morning run (had to take advantage of the much cooler temps) and then turned into a ridiculously awesome day, as we got to head to LP Field to watch the Titans/49ers match-up. It gets better- my friend Aline was able to score us pre-game sideline passes (thanks to her husband's job). I've gotten to experience this once before, but it was a first for Hank. I had so much fun watching his reaction as he saw these players up close and personal for the first time. TV just doesn't do justice how big the players actually are. After watching both teams warm-up, we headed to our 50 yard line seats to watch the game. It's a bummer they couldn't pull off the win, but we still had so much fun!

The Holland House: Titans Game

The Holland House: The Titans Game
Aline had to work on Monday, so Hank and I borrowed her car and headed out for a little sightseeing outside of Nashville. We really wanted to have a true "diner" experience, so Aline suggested eating at Loveless Cafe. It was only a (very pretty) 20 minute drive from Nashville, but we had been warned that there is a wait nearly every day. It was an absolutely gorgeous day though, so we really didn't mind hanging out for an hour while waiting for a table. And it was so worth the wait. We completely splurged with a true southern, meat & two meal. It started with homemade biscuits and preserves. Hank had chicken friend chicken with fried okra and mashed potatoes, and I had meatloaf with friend okra and hashbrown casserole. I wanted so badly to finish every last bite, it was all so good! But my stomach could only eat so much. There was no way we could finish the meal without some of their homemade desserts though, so we shared a blackberry cobbler. Yum!

The Holland House: Loveless Cafe

After lunch we drove over to Franklin, an affluent town about 30 minutes outside of Nashville. The downtown area was filled with so many fun shops, and we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling down the main street. My favorite store was The Shop Around the Corner, an adorable store in a historic home, filled with a variety of pretty things. I left with a Franklin-scented candle to commemorate our trip.

The Holland House: Franklin, TN
We drove back to the house in time to get dressed for an early dinner and the Patty Griffin show at the Ryman Auditorium downtown. The Ryman was originally built to house a Gospel Tabernacle, but soon turned into a popular location for community events. Music quickly took over, and the Ryman served as the original Grande Ole Opry house for 30+ years. The auditorium has an intimate feel to it, with superior acoustics, and it was the perfect location to see someone like Patty Griffin. She put on an amazing show that left us wanting her to play much longer than the hour and half she performed for.

The Holland House: Patty Griffin

After the show we weren't quite ready to head home yet, so we went to 12 South Taproom in the Hillsboro area to catch a little more music. The people watching and music was great, but I probably could have done without those few extra beers. Made for a rough travel day back home on Tuesday.

Overall we had so much fun exploring Nashville, and got to enjoy a great mix of food, music, football and shopping to give us a good taste of what the city has to offer. I highly recommend a long weekend there if you're ever looking for somewhere fun to visit.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Master Bath Remodel: It's a Wrap...for Now!

Sincerest apologies to our readers (and my wife) for the tardiness of this blog post.  First, I would like to mention that we survived the master bath remodel with all fingers (and toes) intact.   Most importantly, our marriage survived!  Now on to the goods.  When we embarked on this journey, we were committed to transforming our standard builders-grade master bath into a modern coastal retreat.  We also had a strict budget requirement (as little as possible).  Here is a picture of the bath before work began.

My favorite part of any remodel is the demo.  What guy doesn't enjoy tearing stuff apart? Unfortunately for me (and fortunately for Amy), the only demo involved was to remove the large vanity mirror.  After demo, it was time to prepare the walls and do some cosmetic work to the vanity cabinet. I wanted to add some detail to the end panel on the cabinet to give it a more "custom" look.  So with a sheet of 1/4" plywood and 1x3 poplar, I added a recessed panel to the end.  The bottom right picture below shows the recessed panel during the construction phase.  In the top right image, you can see that we removed the false drawer fronts.  I had big plans for those little guys that would give us additional functionality while reducing clutter on the countertop. More on that in a bit.

One of the most exciting things about any renovation project is color and material selection.  We had decided on a color palette: Benjamin Moore Gray Owl for the walls and ceilings, and Benjamin Moore Whale Gray for the vanity.  We upgraded to the Aura paint and let me say one thing....BEST PAINT EVER!  The quality of the paint was well worth spending the extra money for.

To bring our Modern Coastal Bath to reality, we had decided to run wood planks on the walls and ceilings.  There was a lot of debate about whether we should go with tongue and groove wood flooring, bead board or dimensional lumber on the walls and ceiling.  We found a few great tutorials on DIY wood wall planks.  In an effort to stick to our budget, we decided to go with 1/4" plywood that we would cut into 5" wide planks.  Not only was this economical, $13 per sheet, but it was much easier to work with than 4'x8' sheets of bead board.

Next on the agenda was to actually get to work.  First, I had to repair the holes in the wall from removing the old mirror. Luckily for me, it didn't have to be too pretty since the new wood planks would cover the wall.  Next we (read: I) painted all the walls and ceilings.  <Amy's edit....I helped with the cutting in!!!!> Why you ask? Although we were planning on cladding the walls, we planned on a penny size space between the wood planks.  Since we planned on this, we didn't want to take the chance of the old wall color peeking through the gaps.  We also painted the old built-in wall cabinet the same color as the walls. This may have had the largest impact on the space.  Now instead of what I considered to be an eye sore, it blended beautifully into the wall.

One big surprise occured when I went to remove the old fixture so I could convert it to two outlets.  Apparently the previous owner had located the existing light on a stud, cool right? Well one concern is that there was no electrical box. I literally had exposed wires popping out through a hole in sheet rock.  Now, I may claim to be an expert in a lot of things but electrical is not one.  It didn't look right and definitely looked beyond my skill set to repair it.  This was the only part of the project that I called a contractor. While he was at  it, we had him move an outlet a few inches to give us ample room for one of our double mirrors.

Now that we had the walls painted, electrical moved, and the vanity painted- it was time to start the wood planks on the wall.  If you remember, we had decided on wood planks on the walls and ceilings. Due to the amount of time this project had taken, we VE'd (value engineered) the planks to one wall.  I spent a few hours on the table saw ripping the plywood to 5" strips.  We had purchased the plywood at Home depot and had them cut it, however the worker apparently had issues with measurements.  The planks ranged from 5-1/8" to 6-1/2" widths.  Anway, I love to play with power tools so I was happy to correct the errors.  Next we (read: I) sanded the edges and primed the boards.  Note to self, this takes forever! Eventually I surrendered and just began installing the planks, primed and unprimed.  My company had recently purchased a headless pin nail gun which was a little bit of awesome!  This handy dandy nail gun made filling in nail holes a thing of the past.  With some Liquid Nail and a few shots with the nail gun, presto, the wall was done.

After all the planks were installed, I finished priming and then started the paint process.  This is where I made mistake #1,000,001 in the process.  Hank, meet paint sprayer. Paint Sprayer, meet Hank. Since this post is already a novel, I will give you the short version.  The paint was too thick, there was some sanding involved, followed by some painting by hand. Lesson learned!

At some point we would like to replace the countertops and most definitely the floors.  However, for the sake of our marriage (I tested her patience by having the room in full fledge remodel for 7 weeks) and our budget, it can wait.  I am happy with the way it turned out and really happy with the price (around $500).  Like every project I undertake, I learned several lessons. But for now we'll enjoy a more relaxing space, and rest up for the next big project.

Cheers till next time!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lunch in a Box: Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Spread

I've seen this combination in a variety of ways, and wanted to make it my own for an easy lunch spread. I was worried about the avocado keeping, but had no problems with it turning brown. This is super easy to throw together, and makes enough for four sandwiches or salads (put a big scoop on top of some spinach for an even healthier lunch!)

The Holland House: Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Spread

Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Spread
(4 servings)

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 avocado
2 T finely diced red onion
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried Oregano
juice of 1-2 limes
salt to taste

1- Mash chickpeas and avocado in a bowl using a fork or a pastry blender.
2- Add juice of one lime and remaining ingredients, then mix well.
3- Taste and adjust seasonings.
4- The end.

The Holland House: Smashed Chickpea and Avocado Ingredients

The Holland House: Smashed Chickpea and Avocado

Helpful hint for storing: Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the spread, and then seal the container. This will help the spread keep for several days.

The Holland House: Smashed Chickpea and Avocado

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