Friday, February 28, 2014


Yesterday was a sad day at the Holland House, as we had to say a sudden goodbye to one of our beloved furry friends. Hank is going to do the honor of writing about it, but we need a few days to adjust and reflect (and cry). Just so happens that we are leaving town today for a much anticipated trip to Napa. At first I thought about canceling the trip, but I think it's going to be good for us to get away from the house for a few days. Our fantastic house sitter will be here to love on our girls in our absence, and I know that coming home will be hard.

We're excited for this trip, as Hank will be running the Napa marathon with about 40 other "Gazelles" from our training group. We also have some wine tastings and good meals planned throughout the weekend. I've never traveled with so many people before, but we're expecting it to be a really fun time.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sneak Peek

I'm out of town for work today, but couldn't help but post one picture from a little photo shoot we did over the weekend. I'll do a post with details once our photographer has a chance to go through all the pictures. But she sent a few today and I'm in love. I wanted some pictures that reminded me of our first date at a coffee shop. And here we are a few years later, still smiling and laughing at each other. Instead of being nervous over a first date though, we were instead nervous over having someone else staring at us the whole time. Emily was so much fun to work with, and I can't wait to see the rest!

The Holland House: Coffee Date

Monday, February 24, 2014

Austin No-Kill 3rd Anniversary Party

If you've read our blog for any amount of time you know that we are nuts about animals. I was a volunteer at the city shelter for 4+ years, Hank and I have fostered several dogs, and not quite a year ago we adopted our most recent addition to our fur baby family. We are most certainly advocates for animal adoption, and couldn't be more proud to live in a city that has truly set the standard for "No-Kill". We were thrilled to help celebrate Austin's 3rd year anniversary as a No-Kill city at the Austin Pets Alive! hosted event last night.

The Holland House: APA No-Kill Anniversary

And while there was much to celebrate, it's still only the beginning and we have a lot of work left to do. The definition of No-Kill actually means a 90% or higher live outcome rate for shelter animals. So there are still 10% of animals who don't make it out of the shelter alive. Oftentimes those are animals with serious health issues beyond treatment, or behavior issues so bad that they aren't safe to adopt out in society. But included in that 10% are the animals who are sometimes just harder to find the right home for. And when the shelter and partnering agencies are full, those animals don't always make it out alive. It's sad to think about, but it's the truth.

Take this little guy for example, Al Pacino- he's been at the shelter for 500+ days. He was working the crowd last night like a rock star. He would show off his sit/stay/down for anyone who had a treat, and accepts pets from anyone who would give them to him. But he's a pit mix (and not deserving of the bad rap that comes with it) who needs to continually work on his behavior training, and should be an only dog. He just hasn't found the right home yet. But if not for an organization like Austin Pets Alive, he never would have made it 10 days at the shelter. It truly takes a village, and then some, to achieve the status that Austin has.

The Holland House: Al Pacino

But back to the fun stuff. The party was a blast, and I'm so glad we went out on a "school night" so that we can continue to support this cause. We might not be able to volunteer/foster/adopt right now, but we're more than happy to financially contribute. And if there's a party involved, then sign us up! There was a silent auction and a raffle. Hank was convinced that we would walk away with this gigantic cat tree house...but no such luck.

The Holland House: Cat Tree House

We also bid on a custom pet portrait by the talented Coats & Tails. We were quickly outbid, but still plan to have a portrait made for each of our pups. Bryce, the artist, was on hand at the event working on a commemorative poster throughout the evening. It was fun to see the progress of his work- he really has a gift.

The Holland House: Coats & Tails

There was also live music, yummy bites by Pink Avocado Catering, and a super fun photo booth featuring live kitties (no kitties were harmed during the picture taking, I promise)!! Le Photo Booth had a great backdrop, fun props, and a digital set up that allowed you to either email or Facebook the photos right there. It was brilliant!!  Overall it was a great party benefitting a wonderful cause, and we're glad to be a part of the solution.

The Holland House: APA No-Kill Anniversary Party

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Peach and Turquoise Bridal Shower

A friend of mine recently co-hosted a bridal shower, and graciously asked me to make a cake and cookie favors for the party. We got together for a quick consultation (something I wish I could do more of), and reviewed the invitation and overall theme of the party. Other than deciding on the cookie shape and color scheme, she left the remaining details up to me. When I saw the chevron design on the invite, I knew exactly the kind of cake I wanted to make.

I have been following the oh-so-talented Jessicakes blog for quite some time, and even signed up for her "Clean & Simple Cake Design" Craftsy tutorial, in the hopes of attempting her offset chevron cake one day. This party was the perfect opportunity! I really, really wanted to practice this cake before making it for her party, but my crazy schedule just did not allow. I ordered a pasta maker, made some marshmallow fondant, and crossed my fingers that all would turn out ok.

There were a few minor bumps (like the fettucine attachment not working, resulting in me hand cutting each and every stripe on the cake). But good things happened too, like the new cake and icing recipes I tried. (Orange-lemon chiffon cake with an orange buttercream filling, and swiss meringue buttercream on the outside.) It was a long night, and I actually did the chevron completely wrong per the tutorial I watched, but I was overall really happy with the final product.

The Holland House: Peach and Turquoise Chevron Cake

The few nights before the cake, I worked on the wedding cookie favors. I had searched a hundred different ideas on Pinterest, but all of them seemed so fussy. I wanted a simple and pretty cookie design. So using the SweetSugarBelle ribbon rose tutorial, I whipped up a bunch of peach roses and used those as a color accent on an otherwise very simple cookie with a bead trim. I LOVE these cookies! In some bags they went, and I tied them with ribbon that matched the actual wedding invites.

The Holland House: Wedding Cake Cookies

The Holland House: Wedding Cookie Favors

The Holland House: Dessert Table

Monday, February 17, 2014

Austin Half-Marathon Report

My second half-marathon is on the books, and while I didn't reach the time goal that I wanted, I'm still really proud of the accomplishment. I ran my first half two years ago on a down hill course, with a finishing time of 2:15. I really wanted to beat that, and for the first 6 miles thought I had a good chance of it. But I made the ultimately error of starting off too strong, and paid the price on the second half of the course. My finish time was 2:17:07. So close....

The Holland House: Austin Half-Marathon Race Bib
Spi belt essentials include Gu and Burt's Bees....can't live without it! 

The Austin Half and Full Marathon course is notorious for being challenging and hilly. (You can check out the elevation map here if you want to see what I'm talking about.) It starts and ends with the exact same double hill, and there are plenty more scattered about the course. We've run on all of them before, but I think I have more training to do if I'm going to improve my time again.

About 3 miles in, my running partner Nikki asked what our pace was and only then did I realize we were averaging a 9:26. We were supposed to start out with a conservative 10:30 and work our way down from there. Ooops. It didn't help that the temps were hovering in the high 60s with a decent amount of humidity. I think we did a really good job of staying hydrated, and didn't feel like the weather hurt us too much. Can't say the same for others, as we saw at least two people drop on the course, requiring medical attention. Even the marathon winner collapsed at the finish and had to accept his medal from a wheelchair. The weather certainly wasn't doing anybody any favors.

At mile 6 I had to stop at a medical aid table to grab some bandaids. I had not broken in my new pair of shoes enough, and I could already feel them rubbing the inside of my feet. I didn't want to get to mile 10 with massive blisters, so I felt it was worth the time to try and prevent that. Then about mile 9, when the hills really picked up again, my legs started to feel the effects of our fast start. By mile 11, I just wanted to be done. Nikki helped me get up that last hill, and then we had a short downhill and a turn to the finish line, and somehow finished with smiles on our faces.

There's just no way to describe the feeling when you finish something like that. There really is such thing as a runner's high, and even though my legs were hurting, it still felt great. I tried not to let my disappointment over our time get to me too much, and just celebrate what we had just accomplished.

Hank and our friend Keith were out on the course cheering us on, and I loved getting to see him 3 different times along the way. They were also at the very end, and seeing his face right before crossing the finish line was all I needed to make those last few steps. Like we do after all of our weekend runs- we went for coffee and breakfast tacos. And of course we started talking about the next race to add to the calendar. I'm looking forward to doing a few shorter races, and maybe even another sprint triathlon later in the spring. But for now I'm going to enjoy a couple of weeks off before heading to Napa to cheer on Hank and the Gazelles at their marathon.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


After completing our Master Bath Remodel, we took a few months off home from improvement projects. We wanted to enjoy the holidays, and just weren't quite ready to bite off our next big project- the kitchen. However, we knew that we eventually wanted to repaint the entire living area (we have an open floor plan) and kitchen, and figured that was a fairly easy ongoing project to handle.

We absolutely LOVE the Gray Owl color that we used in our bathroom remodel, and I wanted that same cool tone to flow through the rest of the house. I've mentioned before that we have a lot of brown. Brown couch, neutral taupe walls, brown least 10 different shades of brown all over the place, and it drives me crazy. I'm a blue person, and it's my personal mission to set a new tone in the house. Thankfully, Hank is on board with the plan. So bring on some more Gray Owl!!!

Instead of shelling out big bucks for Benjamin Moore paint, we took advantage of a sale at Lowe's and bought the Valspar brand (color matched) for a whole lot less. Hank tested out a small patch first to make sure we liked the quality, and luckily it worked just fine. It should end up costing about half as much going with this brand, and our budget really likes the sound of that!

One thing that we aren't good at is taking before pictures. We tend to act fast on getting projects started, and that usually results in forgetting to document how things look. So the picture below is the "we're halfway through" before picture. Meet our entry hall:

The Holland House: Entry Hall

When Hank started painting the wall around the front door, the windows that you see were actually covered in a frosted film. The (not so attractive) light fixture that you see doesn't really provide a lot of light. So the result is that it's a pretty dark entry way, when really it should be bright and cheery. After all, it's a visitor's first impression of your home, and ours wasn't doing us a lot of favors.

So Hank started peeling away the frosted film, and hallelujah we had light! The plan for this space includes: finish painting (all the cutting in will be my job), repaint the door white, replace the door knobs, and replace the light fixture (with something like this). We have a little desk and chair that belonged to my grandmother that goes in the space where the wall plug is- and it needs some updating as far as the knick knacks that go on it. But I think once all of the above is done, we will have a very inviting entry space into our home.

We've made some good progress getting the front half of the house painted, and already it makes such a difference. The color is like a breath of fresh air, and I can't wait to get the rest of it done. With each wall that gets painted though, the laundry list of additional changes I want to make grows.

Here is my wish list:

repaint our big brown china hutch
hang new curtains by the dining table
get a new dining table- something a little more farmhouse style
replace the light fixture above the dining table
add canned lights to the living area
get new pillows for the big brown couch (it's staying for awhile, but I can live with that)

Until then, I'll continue to be happy with the little facelift that's currently taking place. It has taken years off the house so far. :)

The Holland House: Gray Owl Facelift
New color on the left, old color on the right

Monday, February 10, 2014

Lunch in a Box: Panko Edamame Cakes

I first came across the idea for this dish when a similar one was offered at our work cafe. It had a little more breading than I preferred, so I set out to make my own version of it. I was pretty happy with the end result, but might try tweaking it a tad more. I would definitely make these again, which is always a good starting point.

The Holland House: Panko Edamame Cakes

When I set out to make a new dish, I'm not always very organized about it. I usually gather the ingredients that I *think* I'll use. But more often than not, additional things get pulled out during the testing process. So in the ingredients picture below, that was just my starting point.

The Holland House: Panko Edamame Cakes

At first I tried just mashing the edamame, but that didn't work so well. I ended up putting it in my Vitamix and getting a smaller chop using the 1 and 2 speed. This was so much faster! Once I had mixed all of my ingredients, I used my cookie scoop to (somewhat evenly) get a heap of ingredients onto the baking sheet. It didn't adhere together enough to form into patties, but once it was on the tray and I used my hands to form the cakes, it seemed to hold together just fine.

While the cakes were baking, it was time to address the mess that I made. I couldn't pass up an opportunity to show you what a disaster I am when I cook. It drives my husband crazy!

The Holland House: Behind the scenes

Panko Edamame Cakes
(makes 12 cakes, about 4-6 servings)

2 cups edamame (I used frozen, and let it thaw out in a measuring cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup shredded carrot
2 green onions, white and light green parts finely diced
2 Tb tamari (or soy sauce)
1/2 tsp Sriracha (more if you like it spicy)
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs, whisked
3/4 cup Panko

Preaheat oven to 350ยบ.

1- Pulse/chop the edamame in a blender or food processor. You don't want to pulverize it- just get a good quick chop on it.
2- Mix the edamame with bell pepper, carrots and green onions in a large mixing bowl.
3- Add the seasonings, and adjust to taste. (I would probably add more sriracha next time!)
4- Add the whisked eggs and panko, then stir to coat the mixture.
5- Using a cookie scoop or large spoon, spoon a mound of mix onto a sprayed cookie sheet. I was able to get 12 cakes. Flatten them and shape with your hand to form it into a cake.
6- Bake on one side for 12-15 minutes. Flip and continue baking for about 8-10 minutes. They should be crispy, but not too dark.

These are great eaten warm, but I decided to serve them cold as a salad topper, along with a Sesame Garlic dressing made by a company right here in Austin- Sass Sisters. I usually make my own dressings but if I can't, then local is the next best thing.

The Holland House: Panko Edamame Cakes

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Late Bloomer Revolution

I wish I had time to start a bigger discussion about how much this girl and her dream moves me. I think I've repeated this phrase 100 times today, and it's still not enough.

"It's never to late to live your dream."

Michelle and I first "met" (virtually) through our respective jobs about 4 or 5 years ago. Through Facebook, blogs, and other various social media, we have been able to stay in the know about each other's lives. She's charming, smart, and very very lucky. So lucky, that today she actually IS living her dream, and celebrating the launch of a very special project.

Please- take a minute to drop by and visit Michelle's lovely new space- The Late Bloomer Revolution. I don't think you'll regret it. I can't stop thinking about what I would be doing right now if I truly was living my dream. Not in my personal life, per se (because that's pretty freaking fantastic), but more in my professional life. If you had the courage to do what she has done, what would you be doing right now?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Four Pounds!

I've lost 4 pounds since I started putting forth real effort at the beginning of January, and I can easily say it's been the hardest 4 pounds (ever) to lose. I remember a time long ago where all I had to do was eat a few salads and spend a little bit more time at the gym, and the weight would come flying off. Not so much these days.

I finally accepted the fact that is was going to take hard work, and time. And if I was going to be in it for the long haul, I needed to make some changes that I could sustain over that time. No cutting out an entire category of food. No crazy workouts that I didn't enjoy. I just needed to create (and continue) some better habits. I'm not even counting calories! I'm just making smart choices about 85% of the time, and I'm starting to see some results.

Training for a half marathon has certainly kept me honest when it comes to fitting in my runs each week. Right now I'm running 2-3 times during the week, and then a long run on Saturday mornings. I'm also taking a kettle bell class at work twice a week, and I think that is what is really  making the difference. I've gained a lot of muscle back, and it's starting to burn up some of the fat I've been storing.

Meal planning has also played an important role- not just for planning "healthy" meals, but also for planning some splurges. I've been baking a ton, so I've had to be real thoughtful about picking easy dinners for the nights that I spend hours decorating cookies. I don't want to cook for 1-2 hours first, and then get started decorating. So we'll pick something easy like crockpot chicken verde, or throw chicken/sweet potatoes/broccoli in the oven. I've been slacking a bit on lunches, but make up for it by getting a good salad in the cafe at work. (Yes- I'm beyond lucky to have access to both a gym AND cafe at the office.)

Even better than the loss of 4 pounds is the fact that I can fit into my smaller size jeans. They are still a tad snug, but probably look better than the saggy butt "big girl" jeans that I continue to wear while I lose just a few more. I don't cringe when I look in the mirror, because I can start to see a hint of ab muscles in my stomach, and my quads are coming back with a vengeance. More than anything else, it feels good to feel strong again. It's a journey, for sure. And not one without a few indulgences, like the dip fest we enjoyed at our neighbor's house during the Super Bowl last night. But I feel good about the steps I'm taking to getting fit again.

My guidelines for getting fit:

1- Be active 5 days a week (mixing up weight training and cardio)
2- Take the time to meal plan, and stock fridge with good food
3- Drink water, drink water, drink water! (I've mostly cut out alcohol M-F)
4- Don't beat yourself up when you indulge in something- it's all about balance

With that, I'm going to share a salad dressing that I made this weekend that is beyond delicious. I used it to jazz up what would otherwise be a low calorie spinach salad. (The fat and protein from the oil and nuts will help prevent you from starving an hour after you eat.) It's from a new cookbook "Eat Your Vegetables". I love this cookbook for many reasons, including the fact that it's geared towards the single cook (a category that doesn't get enough attention). But the meal portions are perfect for two, and easy to double as well.

Walnut Oregano Vinaigrette
(makes 6 servings)

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar (you might want to start with half, and add more to taste)
1 tsp honey
2 T chopped fresh oregano
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and cooled

Add all ingredients to a blender, and mix until walnuts are chopped. You may need to add a teaspoon or two of water if it seems thick. Season with salt and pepper. This can be refrigerated in a jar for 1-2 weeks.

The Holland House: Lunch in a Box

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