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

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

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bow Tie Baby Shower

This past week I had the opportunity to work with two of my favorite running friends to make cookies for a baby shower they are hosting. The theme of the shower is "bow ties", and I used their cute invitation for inspiration.

The Holland House: Invitation

They wanted onesie cookies to serve as dessert, and bow tie cookies on a stick, wrapped in cellophane, to give as favors. The color scheme of gray, blue and yellow was easy to work with, so it was just a matter of coming up with 3 designs for each set of cookies.

I will admit that I am extremely critical of my work. While I think I can bake a really delicious tasting cookie, the decorating part is still something I'm perfecting. But for the first time since I started this little venture, I was truly happy with what I was able to come up with, and I think my clients were happy too.

This was a 3 night affair. I made dough and baked on night one, put down the base layer of royal icing on night two, and applied the bow ties and additional decorations on night 3. They were a lot of work, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

The Holland House: Bow Tie Sugar Cookies

The baking business has certainly kept me busy lately (busy enough to totally slack off blogging for the past couple of weeks), but I'm excited at the opportunities that lie ahead. Yes, I'm still working full time, and I don't anticipate that changing any time soon. But it's nice to have a creative outlet to balance the stress of my job. I have weekly jobs lined up from now through the end of November, and I'm looking forward to sharing more fun projects with you.

And I day soon we will finally have the bathroom remodel post finished (it's too pretty not to share). That post rests on Hank's shoulders though, and I will bug him until it gets done.

Dear October

Dear October,

I'm so glad you're finally here. You are the start to all of my favorite holidays, and bring with you pumpkins, Halloween decorations, the ability to wear jeans without sweating, and all other kinds of goodness. I was all set to complain about that "no sweating" business (98 degrees, really?!) but then you brought the very first legit cool front. We were down at the lake with some friends this afternoon, and within 30 minutes time the temp went from 90 to 75. Just like that, it finally felt like fall.

The Holland House: Pumpkin Patch

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