Friday, June 28, 2013

Foodie Pen Pals

A few months ago I started participating in the Foodie Pen Pals exchange hosted by Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean. Each month the box that I have received has contained such fun, thoughtful and tasty items, and they just keep getting better. It's really a fun exchange to participate in.

The first month's box contained some southern goodies from Ocracoke, NC. The second box had delicious midwestern treats, and this third box was all about great ethnic flavors. My June Foodie Pen Pal Dan, a bad ass librarian from New York, reached out to me and asked some great questions to help guide his food choices. I told him that I love Indian and Asian food, regional fare, and any kind of condiment. He took my suggestions to heart and sent me a fabulous box!

The Holland House: Foodie Pen Pal

The box included: green tea soba noodles, soy wrappers, tamarind candy, Yuzu juice, and two different spices- Zaatar and Vadouvan, along with a fun handwritten card. Given that there was a general theme, I wanted to do my own version of "Chopped" with the items he included. Of course the soy wrappers were the driving force in putting together something fun and healthy for lunch. So I baked some Yuzu juice marinated tofu, cut up some veggies, and cooked the noodles to make a fun Tofu Wrap (though mine didn't turn out as pretty as the ones on the cover of the package).

I also made the most amazing Yuzu Vinaigrette to pour on top of the wraps, and also to use with the leftover noodles. It was delicious, and I will be making more to use again in the future. In case you're wondering, Yuzu is a citrus juice, a combination of lemon/lime/orange. It's a great condiment to add to a variety of dishes if you want to freshen them up a bit. I made the dressing up as I went along, so there is no way I can try to recreate the "recipe", but below are the ingredients that I used. (Yes- I dissolved a candy or two in the dressing to sweeten up the tanginess just a bit.)

The Holland House: Yuzu Vinaigrette

The final product was a fresh, tasty and healthy wrap that made for a fun Monday lunch. The only ingredient that I did not use was the Zaatar, but I have plans to make a roasted beet dip with it this weekend.

The Holland House: Tofu Wrap

The Holland House: Tofu Wrap with Yuzu Vinaigrette

I'm so thankful to Dan for putting so much thought into this box, and sending some fun (and very new) things to try out. The Tamarind Candy was an experience for sure, and I probably never would have thought to try them on my own. Thanks Dan!!

This month I sent a "Texas Peaches and Pecans" themed box to Cora at The Cereal Mom. You can check out her blog to see what she thought.

If you're interested in joining the fun, click on the link below to read more details about Foodie Pen Pals.

The Lean Green Bean

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lunch in a Box: Veggie Drawer Frittata

Everyone has those nights where they don't feel like cooking dinner. You get home from work, you're tired, and the last thing you want to do is spend an hour (or more) throwing something good together. But you also don't want to spend money on a dinner out, or risk eating something that doesn't fit into your "I eat really well during the week so I can splurge on Saturday" mentality. Or maybe that's just me. Regardless....on nights like that, I clean out the veggie drawer, pull out eggs that I always have handy (really, you should always have eggs in your fridge), and whip up a Veggie Drawer Frittata. Dinner (and leftovers for lunch) done in about 30 minutes.

The beauty of this dish is that you make minimal mess (I usually dirty up a cutting board, small bowl, and a skillet). You can cook it completely on the stove top if you want, and it's a great way to use up things in your fridge that might otherwise be wasted.

My winning combo is usually this: eggs+chopped veggies+herbs+cheese (only if I have some on hand)= one delicious, and reasonably healthy, dinner. It's hard to write a "recipe" because really it all depends on what I have. But I'll include how I fixed ours last night, and any options for substituting.

Veggie Drawer Frittata
(feeds 2 for dinner, plus leftovers- increase ingredients if you're feeding more)

6 eggs, mixed with about 1/4 cup water or milk and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 cup chopped veggies (I used 1/4 red onion, a huge handful of chopped spinach and red and yellow bell peppers
1/4 log of goat cheese
1-2 T fresh chopped herbs (anything that you grow is fine- we had some nice basil to use)
1 tsp oil

Heat oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat, and sauté veggies. I like to cook harder veggies like onions and peppers first, before adding in ingredients like spinach.

Once veggies are mostly cooked, reduce the heat to medium-low and pour in egg mixture, stirring slowly while the bottom starts to firm up. Add in crumbled cheese and fresh herbs on top, then walk away. It should not take more than 10 minutes for the eggs to cook through, but I like to pull mine off the stove and finish in the oven at 350 until the top is slightly browned. Just be sure to cook it long enough so that it doesn't jiggle in the center.

When it's done, serve with a simple salad, fruit salad, or nothing at all. It's pretty hearty on its own. Then use the leftovers to pack yourself a fun little lunch! I added bell pepper sticks and a vadouvan yogurt dipping sauce, with a mandarin for dessert. It's even great eaten cold.

The Holland House: Lunch in a Box Veggie Drawer Frittata

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dresser Restoration-Take One!

Greetings!  I am the "other" half of The Holland House. For those that have been reading Amy's blog, you may be aware that I am a self proclaimed handyman.  Sometimes it works, most of the time it does not.  The most important thing is that I like to learn the "how" just in case my talents are ever in need, which they rarely are--thankfully. 

With that, I introduce my new obsession, Chalk Paint®.  Chalk Paint® is an easy to use product.  It rarely requires any preparation, such as sanding or priming.  As an added bonus, it may be used on almost any surface - from wood to metal.  I was sold on Chalk Paint at the moment I read "rarely requires any preparation".  You can read more about chalk paint at Annie Sloan or Maison Blanche. So after a few hours of research, Amy and I had developed a plan.  First, we needed a test piece of furniture before I went all out on a piece visible to everyone visiting our home.  Second, I had decided to make my own chalk paint.  Why?  Well we had a sample quart of Benjamin Moore Gray Owl that I desperately wanted to use and I am frugal.  Chalk paint runs approximately $35 a quart.  While I have no doubt it is worth every cent, for my first go at this, I felt making my own would make the most sense.  With game plan in hand, we located our test furniture piece - a 9 drawer dresser for $25.  Awesome because we would actually get some use out of this in our closet!

After picking up the dresser, which obtaining it was quite an ordeal that I will save for another day--or never, I made my shopping list for my new project:

  • Paint--lucky us, we had it on hand.
  • Plaster of Paris, Home Depot $9
  • Purdy paint brush, Home Depot $12
  • Minwax Paste Finishing Wax, Home Depot $9
  • 2 clear quart paint jars (one for mixing plaster, other for paint), Home Depot $3
  • Fine Grit Sandpaper, Home Depot $4
First step was to make my special brew.  It was quite simple, really.  You can add more Plaster of Paris for thicker texture or add more water for less.  It was very much a trial and error process.  Be mindful though, Plaster of Paris dries very, very quickly.  The recipe I used is below:

  • 1 cup paint
  • 2 tablespoons Plaster of Paris
  • 1 tablespoon of water (less for thicker, more for thinner).
  • Mix the plaster in a separate container then add to paint. Stir well.
This paint dries very quickly.  I did 3 coats on the dresser unit but only did one coat on the drawers--see "what I learned" notes for details.  After the paint dried, I sanded the edges to really get the antique, well worn aesthetic that I was looking for.  Also since this was a test project, I sanded through on several of the flat surfaces to allow more of the original color (brown)to show through.  I even took my finish nail tool to create "worm holes".  

The final step is to apply a wax.  I applied using a clean, lint free clothe, then buffed with another clothe.  It really took care of a few of my problematic sanding marks--yes, I got a little carried away--and also adds a protective varnish on the furniture without too much sheen.  Here is the finished product:
For my first attempt, I was pleased and it only took 4 hours.  So for $65 we have a dresser in our closet that provides us additional storage and satisfied my newest obsession.  I will continue working on my technique, next up is an old rocking chair and then our china cabinet.  I did learn some valuable lessons.  So here is my "What I Learned" section:
  • Put your OCD aside and realize that the base coat does not need to be perfect.  After all, it is supposed to be antique. I did a better job on the drawers when I threw caution--read perfectionism-- to the wind.
  • The Plaster of Paris dries very, very quickly.  Don't mix then walk away to grab a beer  before adding to the paint.  You would have thought I would have learned this just once but no, I am an over achiever and did this twice. Genius.
  • If your furniture has already been "refurbished" with a pebble texture then you should just walk away or sand. Your call.
  • Dogs have no business being your painting assistant.  Think you know where that is headed.
Cheers till next time!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Paradise Vacation 2013: Nevis (Part II)

Wednesday morning started just like the rest, with a delicious breakfast buffet at the Coral Grill,  at a table overlooking the beach. We had another early start, as this time we had planned a Rainforest Hike with a group of Apple folks. We boarded taxis and headed towards the volcano. I thought it was just for effect when we were handed walking sticks, but it turns out they were very necessary. The climb was harder than we anticipated, but still lots of fun! The higher we got, the muddier it was, so we had to be very careful on some of the steeper parts. Our guide pointed out lots of different trees and plants (including a cinnamon tree and the "leaf of life"- a leaf that never actually dies). Hank was a little disappointed that we hardly saw any monkeys, but we were treated to a beautiful view once we reached the peak of the trail.

The Holland House: Breakfast Table
Our lovely view at breakfast each morning. 

The Holland House: Rainforest Hike

After the hike, we hosed and off and hit yet another pool. We wanted to take advantage of having some alone time away from the group, so we found a quiet spot at the Garden Pool and enjoyed lunch and drinks through the afternoon. Miss Jackie (our favorite staff person of the trip) took good care of us! Leisurely dips in the pool, followed by a nap, made for a very relaxing afternoon.

The Holland House: Pool Day

We headed around the corner for dinner again, this time eating at Double Deuce. We had read great things about it, and were not disappointed. The restaurant is run by a local family, and the British chef had previously cooked on one of the plantations. I caught a glimpse of the kitchen and could not believe there were only two people doing all of the work. Hank had fish and I had coconut shrimp, and everything was delicious! We were pretty worn out from the week, and I wasn't feeling so hot, so we skipped another late night at Sunshine's and opted to head back to our room instead.

Thursday morning finally brought the opportunity to sleep in a bit. We grabbed a late breakfast and decided to walk the "challenging" trail along the golf course. There were 3 options, and they weren't joking by deeming this a difficult one. Hank tried to run it our first morning there, and the hills nearly killed him. But the best part was that we finally saw monkeys. LOTS of monkeys! They got so close to us that we could have reached out to pet them. For fear of having our faces ripped off, we opted to just snap a couple of pictures instead. When the British originally settled on the island, many of them brought Vervet monkeys with them as pets. There is now a huge population of them on the island, but they aren't all that welcome. They're known for eating fruit and flowers, but they are awfully cute to look at!

The Holland House: Vervet Monkeys

The Holland House: Nevis Volcano
About once a month you can see a clear view of the volcano- we got lucky while on our golf course hike!

When we got back to the hotel, it was time to hit the beach for an Apple-hosted beach bash. They reserved all sorts of water sports (paddle boarding, jet skis, sailing, etc.) and served lunch and drinks. It also happened to be Hank's birthday, so I tried pulling it off as the best birthday party ever- all just for him! He didn't seem to mind. We had fun jet skiing, napping and hanging out with friends, all while sipping on cold drinks. The highlight of the day though was when four Frenchmen swam from their catamaran (at any given time there was a variety of boats and yachts just off the shore) and made friends with our group. A game of volleyball ensued, and there was all sorts of yelling in English and French. Watching Hank interact with these guys was hilarious, and I think everyone had fun watching.

The Holland House: Beach Party

Our final night in Nevis was the Apple awards dinner, held under a tent on the 18th green. There was a cocktail reception first, which included a performance by an adorable Nevis children's choir. The view from the event was gorgeous, and of course everything was top notch. We were served a three course dinner and treated to a slide show with fun pictures of all the Apple employees who were on the trip. After a day of drinking on the beach, and cocktails and wine with dinner, we got to show our stuff on the dance floor to a really fun band. The evening definitely got a little crazy, but we had a blast. There was a ton of dancing, and it was such a fun way to wrap up the trip.

The Holland House: Awards Dinner

We were sad to say goodbye on Friday, but ready to make our way home to see our fur babies and sleep in our own bed. The ferry didn't leave until 1pm, so at least we had time to sleep in and have one last lunch by the pool. Nevis had one more surprise in store for us though, a view of a $300 million yacht parked right outside the hotel. Each day the yachts seemed to get bigger and bigger, and this one took the prize. We found out that it belonged to a 38 year-old Russian billionaire named Andrey Melnichenko, and his yacht was simply named "A". You have to click this link to get a video tour of the inside- it is just ridiculous! It's hard to even wrap my head around what their lifestyle must be like. We also saw his matching plane as we flew out of the St. Kitts airport- it was hard to miss the matching A on each of the engines. Rough life!

The Holland House: "A" Yacht
In the middle picture, the open hull contains 2 matching James Bond-style 30-foot speed boats, and another small tender boat.

After an overnight stay in Miami, and a 6:20 AM flight the next morning, we finally made it home Saturday afternoon. I don't think I need to say again what an amazing experience the entire trip was, but I will! We so enjoyed getting away to paradise and shutting off all the stress of work, home, etc. We relaxed, experienced the islands as much as we had time for, and just enjoyed being together. I was ready to get back to work tough, and getting busy working towards this year's goal so that we can do it all over again in Hawaii for the 2014 Circle of Excellence trip.

Paradise Vacation 2013: Nevis (Part I)

On Sunday of our trip, we met the ferry to take us to Nevis. After a 45 minute ride, we pulled up in front of one of the most beautiful resorts I have ever seen- the Four Seasons Nevis. We were greeted by our own staff member who escorted us to the Apple hospitality lounge for check-in, where we received a fun welcome gift of a beach bag and matching towels. It was then on to our room overlooking a hammock, the beach, and the 18th hole green. Seriously, I could have died right there.

The Holland House: Four Seasons Nevis
After settling in, grabbing some lunch and touring the property, it was time to head to the beach for the welcome reception. There were drinks, great food, and even a band playing. It was fun to see a few coworkers who I knew, and also to have a chance to meet some of the ones from the field who I rarely get to see. But Sunday also meant football play-offs, and those of us from the Texas team migrated to a tent set up closer to the hotel that had the games on TV. We drank beer and watched football, with the sound of waves in the background and sand beneath our toes. A girl could get used to that for sure!

Monday started with a mandatory business meeting, which ended with a Ray-Ban rep handing out pairs of sunglasses. Score! We then settled by the Reflection pool (one of 3 pools on the property) for a few hours of relaxation. I scheduled a body scrub at the spa later in the day, so I eventually had to go inside to clean up for that. I wanted to try a treatment that I had never done before, and that sounded like a great way to get the dead, flaky winter skin off my body. The spa area was nothing short of amazing. I could have stayed there for hours! There were two small "pools"- a waterfall pool and a dipping pond. Such a relaxing space.

The Holland House: Four Seasons Spa

The Holland House: Rainbow

After my spa visit, we met up with friends to walk around the corner to Lime Beach Bar for dinner. The Four Seasons is nice, but as you can imagine- the food was very pricey. It was also not as good as we were expecting, so for meals on our own we decided to try places off property. Lucky for us, there was a string of beach bars just a 10 minute walk down the beach, with fresh fish and lobster for only $20 a plate. The pace of life on the island is a slow one, so we were prepared for a long evening and made the most of it with familiar and new friends. Hank ordered lobster, I ordered shrimp, and everything was delicious!

After dinner we made our way to Sunshine's Bar, where the Killer Bee drink was made famous. It's made with moonshine rum and fresh fruit juice, and topped with bitters and fresh grated nutmeg. More than one is guaranteed to mess you up big time! But it was so tasty and definitely worth trying.

The Holland House: Lime Beach Bar

Tuesday morning rolled around a little too early, as we had signed up to do a kayaking excursion that started at 9. We took a cab a few miles away from the hotel and met our tour guide Greg. He was great and made sure that we were all set up and ready to go. We kayaked for 3 miles back to the hotel, stopping twice to snorkel and have a little picnic. It was so fun seeing Nevis up close from the water. It was not an easy excursion at times, but we really enjoyed it.

Back at the hotel, we changed into swimsuits and got lucky by snagging one of the beach-side private cabanas. Apple had rented them out for 3 days, and I was so glad we got to spend a few hours in one. After being out in the sun all morning, I needed some shade. These were like fancy little huts with a sitting area, TV and small fridge inside, and lounge chairs under the covered area. We also had someone waiting on us, and quickly ordered lunch and drinks. We only got to stay for a few hours since we had to get ready for an Apple hosted dinner, but it was a great, relaxing afternoon.

The Holland House: Private Cabana

After a brief cocktail party, the whole group (there were about 130 of us) boarded buses to the Golden Rock Inn, an old sugar mill plantation-turned nature preserve and boutique hotel. It was breathtakingly beautiful! The grounds were meticulously kept, and many of the old buildings had been repurposed into a restaurant, pool bar, etc. They also turned the old sugar mill into a 2-story room. We were greeted with drinks and appetizers, and had plenty of time to walk around exploring all the trails.

Dinner was served next to a multi-level pond area, and this ended up being one of my favorite meals. Fresh food, lots of variety (including a ton of vegetarian options) and even a cheese and fruit platter served before dessert! It was heavenly. After dinner the DJ turned up the tunes and there was plenty of dancing into the late night hours. We were tired from our morning excursion, but made our way onto the dance floor a few times before calling it a night.

The Holland House: Sugar Mill

The Holland House: Golden Rock Inn

Part II of the trip coming right up....

Paradise Vacation 2013: St. Kitt's

These next vacation posts were originally posted on the Amy in Austin blog,  but I wanted to preserve our "pre-wedding honeymoon" on our new blog as well. We took advantage of a nearly all-expenses paid trip back in January, and went ahead and made it our honeymoon since we knew it would be unlikely that we'd be able to take a trip of this caliber on our own dime.

I'm breaking this trip up into multiple parts. We have so many fun pictures and stories to share, and I'm not looking to break any records with an epic post of this trip. I won the Circle of Excellence Award at work (for sales performance and meeting set goals), and was rewarded with a trip to the Four Seasons, Nevis. We decided to head out a couple of days early so that we'd have plenty of time to ourselves, and booked 2 nights on the lovely island of St. Kitts.

After 12 long hours of traveling, we arrived a 9pm in St. Kitts on Friday night. We chose to stay at the Marriott St. Kitt's Resort & Royal Beach Casino because it seemed like the easy thing to do. With a long name like that though, we should have known it was going to be a monstrous hotel. But we just needed a place to land for 2 nights that wouldn't be much of a hassle. After a very lame bar dinner and less than impressive service the first night, I already knew that we would likely never visit it again.

But when we woke up Saturday morning, we were treated to a beautiful view, and were so excited to start our vacation. We took off for a short run and made our way over to what is known as "the strip"- a small string of beach bars/restaurants that seems to be popular for late night dancing and revelry. There are several international schools on the island, and apparently the strip is where they like to party.

The Holland House: View from balcony in St. Kitts

The Holland House: Hank on The Strip

After our run, we grabbed a quick breakfast in the lobby and then got ready to hit the beach. We really didn't want to be stuck at the hotel all day, as it was on the rougher Atlantic side. Several people recommended that we taxi to a small beach bar on the Caribbean side of the island called Shipwreck. It's tucked away on a secluded strip of the beach, and I swear it's where you go when you don't want to be found. We snagged two chairs covered by a little palapa roof, and quickly ordered a round of Pirate's Punch (for me) and a $3 Carib (for Hank). We napped, swam, ate, watched monkeys and mongoose, and snorkeled. This was seriously one of my favorite days of our whole trip. We could have stayed there forever, but ran out of cash just in time for our taxi guy who came back to pick us back up.

The Holland House: Day at Shipwreck St. Kitts

After a day of drinking on the beach, and a few hours in the hotel lobby looking for other Apple people to trickle in, we finally decided to clean ourselves up and head out for some dinner. Another interesting fact about the island is that many of the stores are owned by Indians, and therefore the island has a significant Indian population. The only thing that really means to me is that there was good food to be found. There just happened to be an Indian restaurant a short walk from the hotel, and it had good reviews online, so we headed to Bombay Blues. Full disclosure- we had been drinking all afternoon, so our judgment might be slightly skewed. But my recollection of the meal was fabulous. I had the Malai Kofta (one of my favorite dishes) and the sauce was flavorful and hearty. Hank had his favorite- Aloo Gobi. It was all reasonably priced, our server was nice, and overall we enjoyed the meal. The restaurant was pretty crowded, so I got the impression that it was a local favorite.

After sleeping it off in the next morning, we decided it would be fun to take a tour of the island before we had to meet the ferry for Nevis. The island is only 18 miles long, so it doesn't take long to make the big circle. Through the hotel, we hired a really nice driver to give us the tour. First stop was a high point overlooking our hotel from the beach.

The Holland House: St. Kitts
Below Hank down on the right is where Shipwreck was- the South part of the island.

The Holland House: View of Marriott
View of the Marriott (red roofs) on the far right side.

After a little driving and story telling, the driver waited patiently while we toured Brimstone Hill Fortress. It is no a national monument that was originally designed by the British, and built by African slaves. After an extensive preservation effort (that is still ongoing), it is one of the best preserved fortifications in the Americas. You can read more information in the link- but my brief description is that it was breathtaking. We really, really enjoyed walking around viewing the amazing construction and beautiful views of the island from one of the highest points.

The Holland House: Brimstone Hill Citadel

The Holland House: Brimstone Hill

The Holland House: Brimstone Hill

We finished the loop around the north side of the island, and got to view where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean, and also black rocks formed by the now dormant volcano on the island. Our tour ended just in time to catch an early ferry to Nevis, where the rest of trip continued. Stay tuned...

The Holland House: Atlantic meets Caribbean
The Atlantic is the darker blue water on the left, and the Caribbean is where the lighter water begins.
The Holland House: Volcanic Rocks
Volcanic rocks.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wedding Slideshow

This is the last of the wedding posts, I promise! But I wanted to put together a slideshow of pictures that really told the story of our day. I wish I had the time, energy and knowledge to make it something really cool, but I only had time to throw a bunch of pictures into iPhoto and add a little music. Maybe one day....

We chose the song because our very first date was at a coffee shop. It was Hank's suggestion, and I think the song is perfect!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Weekend Recap

It's getting HOT in Austin, and the only way to cope with it is to a) be in a pool, or b) stay in the cold AC. We did a little of both this weekend, and had a lot of fun in the process.

We kicked off Saturday morning with a miserable, muggy run. 81 degrees and 80% humidity! Not fun, but I did get 4.5 miles under my belt, so at least something good came of it. Finally starting to feel some improvement in my fitness level, and looking forward to making more progress. But you can't do a hard run without treating yourself to something afterwards. So of course we rewarded ourselves with breakfast tacos at Taco Deli at our standing breakfast date with friends Keith and Bonnie.

We followed up breakfast with a family poolside BBQ celebrating Father's Day. We actually lucked out with the weather since it stayed cloudy for most of the day, resulting in a slightly more comfortable temperature. My mom had a great spread with all the necessary accompaniments: BBQ chicken, baked beans, potato salad, fruit salad and cornbread. It was a great meal, followed by plenty of cold beverages and lounging in the pool. My siblings were in town and everyone had fun entertaining Georgia in the pool and just catching up on all our busy lives. There is a family cruise in the works for my mom's 60th birthday next year, and we're all getting excited talking about that too!

The Holland House: Grilling

The Holland House: BBQ

The Holland House: Nonnie and Georgia
Georgia helping her Nonnie open his presents. LOVE her outfit.

The Holland House: Georgia's Curls
Those curls just kill me!

After the party we went to a friend's housewarming party, followed by dinner at a new sports bar/restaurant in our hood. It will be a great place to go to when football season rolls around, but not our favorite place for Saturday date night. We were hungry though, so it worked for that night. 

Sunday morning rolled around along with our favorite part of the weekend- being lazy! Since we always wake up to run on Saturdays, this is our only morning to sleep in. Hank fixed breakfast and coffee, and we watched Moneyball in bed while the animals participated in the laziness. It's like they know that we just need them to chill out for a few hours as well. Of course- this was only after Brees' latest shenanigans, pulling toilet paper from the guest room all the way out into the living room. Got to love that crazy girl.

The Holland House: Brees playing with toilet paper.

The Holland House: Lazy Animals

We finished up our weekend with a delicious Sunday supper with friends Keith and Tony. It was a great excuse to make a meal we wouldn't normally eat on our own, and also a good chance to use some of our fun new dishes. I cooked a chicken dish out of my new Smitten Kitchen cookbook, and made a corn and orzo salad with fresh basil. A cold salad, paired with the chicken and arugula/fennel salad, really made for a perfect combination. Of course, no supper is complete without dessert. I was tempted to make a lemon pie, but Hank talked me into going simple with angel food cake and berries. I whipped up some fresh cream right before serving, and it was a great way to finish the meal, and a super fun weekend!

The Holland House: Hank and friends

The Holland House: Sunday Supper

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Fancy: Living Room Inspiration

We are slowly but surely making improvements to our house by bringing in more color and style. We started with the master bedroom, and I love the (almost) finished product. We had one peacock colored wall, and Hank painted the rest of the walls the same color to bring some warmth to a very large room. We added a beautiful tall painting and a tiered etagere, along with neutral bedding from West Elm and mercury glass lamps. The result is a beach-inspired, warm blue retreat. I love it so much, that I want it to set the tone for the rest of the house.

The Holland House: Bedroom Inspiration

Our next project is to add the same pizazz to our rather plain living room. Hank already made and installed a beautiful European Oak mantle, but the rest of the room is rather....brown. We have a large brown sectional, and that's about it. We're keeping the couch for awhile (it's perfect for having so many pets), so I'm doing my best to work around that and find other ways to add character to the room. We love the clean lines that often come with a modern style, but we like the warmth of the color blue, and the character of some rustic/natural accessories. When my sister asked to describe the look I was going for, the best that I could come up with was Modern Beachy Chic. I want it to look nice, but warm and comfortable. As we start to look for pieces to add, I thought it would be helpful to create a board of inspiration.

The Holland House: Living Room Inspiration


My goal is to have the room completed by the end of the year. First we'll line up painting, as we plan to paint the entire main living areas and kitchen (we're blessed with a very open floor plan). I'll be picking up accessories throughout the summer, and will try to save the big purchases (like art and rug) for early fall when I usually get a larger commission check (fingers crossed). Just the addition of fun pillows will have a tremendous effect, and I'm looking forward to hitting Target for the adorable ruffled Threshold pillows shown in the picture above.

What inspiration do you draw from when you make changes in your home? 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lunch in a Box: His and Hers

If you have followed the Amy in Austin blog for any amount of time, you will know that I love to pack lunch. A little over a year ago I came across the fabulous Easylunchboxes containers, and they became my inspiration for packing healthy lunches. Their original intent was for kids, and you can find blog after blog dedicated to adorable and creative "Bento" style lunches for children of all ages. Kelly Lester (the creator) has done a great job of fostering this community through multiple social media channels.

While I may not have kids, I'm all about having something appealing to eat. I usually pimp out my own lunches on social media in an effort to foster growth around grown-up lunches. But the truth is I often pack lunches for Hank, too. Since we each have different preferences for food, and certainly different needs for calorie consumption, our lunches aren't always the same. I thought it would be fun to compare what I send with him, along with a typical lunch for me. Boys gotta eat too! And since we're both trying to stay on the fit & healthy wagon, it eliminates most opportunities for making bad choices at lunch time.

I recently got a copy of the lovely Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and was eager to try out a few new recipes. As I flipped through and saw a recipe for Spiced Turkey Meatballs, I knew I had found a winner for Hank. Since I don't eat much meat- he doesn't get to eat much meat. But these were the perfect things to make and pack for him throughout the week, and he loves them! I also made Curried Chicken Salad, along with a Cucumber Dill Cabbage Slaw from Smitten Kitchen, and the Smashed Chickpea Salad that she paired with the meatballs in her book. We had an abundance of food, to say the least.


Turkey Meatballs over Smashed Chickpea Salad
2% Cottage Cheese
Apple with almond butter (snack)
Veggies with hummus (snack)


Tofu lettuce wraps with bell peppers (and a peanut sauce on the side)
Smashed Chickpea Salad
Veggies with hummus (snack)

Tips for packing lunches:

*Think ahead. Plan easy dinners with enough to eat the next day. Use leftover meat/tofu to make things like lettuce wraps, use as salad toppings or on a sandwich.
*Choose at least one dish that will keep for the week and will make several lunches (or freeze half for later).
*Cut veggies and fruit for easy access throughout the week.
*Pack lunch the night before, so that running late can't be your excuse.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Mumford & Sons @ COTA

This past Saturday Hank and I attended the Mumford & Sons show at the beautiful Austin 360 Amphitheater at the Circuit of the Americas racetrack. This new facility was finished last fall just in time to host an F1 race. I'm not really into racing, but I do love that they are using this space for a variety of purposes, and bringing some really great events to our already fantastic city. (You can come visit, just don't move here!)

We were lucky enough to win the early ticket lottery that Mumford arranged (in an effort to avoid scalpers getting all the tickets), and purchased them the second I got the email. We felt like little kids waiting for Christmas, and were so excited when the big day finally arrived! Since we live WAY out in West Austin, and the concert is WAY out in East Austin, we knew we had to find a responsible way to get to and from the concert. There were rumors flying around our 'hood that there was an inexpensive shuttle that made trips downtown. Hank did a little google searching, and sure enough he found Responsible Ride.  A quick call confirmed that they were shuttling to the concert for $15 round trip, per person. Uh, hello?! $30 to safely get to a concert that is at least 40 minutes from our house? Sign us up. We met the van (and our fellow concert go-ers) and then this happened:

The Holland House: Cheers

About an hour later, we rolled up right to the front of the amphitheater, checked in with our credit card, and went to get ourselves some ridiculously overpriced tacos and beer before finding our spots. Not gonna lie- my one and only complaint was how expensive food and drinks were. $11 for two piddly tacos (filled with corn and black beans) and $10 "specialty" beers. But...small price to pay for an otherwise stellar concert experience. The place is beautiful, the people were really nice and it's just a really well put together venue. Wish I had taken more pictures, but I was too excited to just be there.

The Holland House: Austin 360 Amphitheater

When I bought the tickets, I didn't realized that I had purchased them for the pit. I wasn't in the mood to stand with a bunch of people though, so we initially found a spot on the lawn and got comfy. Knowing I would never find my way back in the dark after a bathroom visit, I decided to go before the band started. While up, I got a good view of the pit and realized that we really should take advantage of it while we could, and told Hank I was willing to move down there (he really wanted to from the start). I'm so glad we did, because we got pretty close to the stage, and stood around a fun group of people. It made the concert that much better being so close! Not sure how long the band played, but they performed all of my favorite songs, and closed it out with a stellar encore that included a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire". (Video at bottom of post if you don't mind poor quality- just give it a few minutes and you can hear them.)

The Holland House: Munford & Sons

It took forever to make our way out of the venue and get home, but neither of us were driving so we really didn't care. I fell asleep on the bus and probably missed a lot of fun with our new friends, but at least we made it home safely. So glad to know we have the option of a really inexpensive van to get us where we want to go for a fun night out!

Sad to hear that the bassist for the ban was hospitalized after the Austin shows due to a blood clot, and is hopefully recovering from surgery by now. They cancelled the remainder of their Texas shows, and I hope he gets to feeling better soon. He performed like a true rock star, and I can't believe he was feeling so badly while putting on such a great show. If you ever have the chance to see them- it's well worth any amount you pay. They are truly fantastic live!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Wedding Series: The After-Party

When we initially picked the date for our wedding, we had no idea that it fell on Kentucky Derby Day. And since we planned a brunch reception, we wanted to be able to spend a little extra time with our family and friends who had traveled a long distance to celebrate with us. So it worked at perfectly that after the reception, we were able to walk across the street to the W Austin. We lucked out by getting almost an entire room to ourselves and toasted with drinks and watched the Derby for the rest of the afternoon. We ended up staying for about 3 hours before we finally called it a day and headed to our hotel. It was such a great extension of an already perfect day, and we had so much fun just kicking back with our friends. We suggested the idea of ladies wearing fascinators, and I know we must have looked like an interesting bunch to the other guests surrounding us. But it made the day even that much better, if that was at all possible.

The Holland House: Kentucky Derby After Party

The Holland House: Kentucky Derby After Party

After our post-wedding fun, Hank and I headed a few blocks away to the Hotel San Jose on South Congress. We ordered a pizza from Home Slice, put our feet up and relaxed on the balcony of our beautiful hotel room. We ended our wedding weekend with breakfast tacos and a relaxing morning enjoying our room before heading home to start the rest of our lives.

The Holland House: Hotel San Jose

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