Monday, March 31, 2014

Our Little Family

Hank and I never had the chance to get engagement pictures taken last year before our wedding, so when Emily from Emily and M Photography approached us about taking some pictures for her portfolio, we jumped at the chance. She is new to Austin and working on building her business. After seeing the beautiful pictures she took, I can highly recommend her to anyone in the Austin and surrounding area.

We met her at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in our neighborhood, and she quickly put us at ease. Since our very first date was over coffee, we thought this would be a great spot to take some fun pictures. We were both a little nervous, and totally awkward at first, but she really made us feel so comfortable once we got started. 

The Holland House: Emily and M Photography

The Holland House: Emily and M Photography

The Holland House: Emily and M Photography

The Holland House: Emily and M Photography

After the coffee shop, we drove around the corner to our house for a quick change of clothes. We also grabbed our 3 dogs and headed out to the greenbelt behind our house. At the time we had no idea that Marley was not feeling well and that we'd be saying goodbye shortly after (though we can now see in the pictures how much she had aged recently). Having these pictures with her is now beyond special to us. Emily was able to capture each of the dog's personalties and seeing their faces cracks me up! Of course the shoot was not without drama. Brees managed to break loose from us and went traipsing through the woods for a bit, scaring me half to death. But luckily we had a bag of smelly treats with and were able to get her to come back pretty easily. 

Choosing the ones that we are going to have put on canvas is going to be a tough task.

The Holland House: Emily and M Photography

The Holland House: Emily and M Photography

The Holland House: Emily and M Photography

The Holland House: Emily and M Photography

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Pink Heart Cookies and Petit Fours: A Very Girly Baby Shower

I was contacted by an old high school friend about making treats for a very "girly" baby shower she was hosting. She wanted pink, hearts and dainty treats, and I couldn't have been more excited to work with her. That is.....until she asked for petit fours. I've tried making them twice, and have been less than thrilled with both the tedious process, and the results. I even vowed to never make them again. But I just couldn't tell her no.

So I took to Google, determined to find a better way to make them. After lots of browsing, I happened upon the site for the Woodland Bakery Blog, and her tutorial for poured fondant icing. Not only did the recipe pique my interest, but so did her method of actually pouring the fondant with a piping bag, instead of dipping or spooning it over the cakes. I've not had much luck getting an even coat on the petit fours, but this method seemed to give more control over the placement of icing. Genuis!! Not only was it so much easier this way, but it was also less messy. I love how they turned out, and  have officially added petit fours to my price list.

Sweet Elise: Petit Fours

For the heart cookie favors, I used the Sweetambs tutorial for wet on wet roses, and the result was a  beautiful, almost hand-painted looking cookie. These were wrapped in cellophane bags and tied with ribbon, and I think they made for a really special take home treat.

Sweet Elise: Heart Cookie Favors

As luck would have it, Hank and I had our pictures taken by a new photographer in Austin that same weekend, and I sent her home with a few leftover treats as a thank you. She took these beautiful pictures at home, and I just love them! If you're in the Austin area, she is a wonderful photographer to use. Thank you Emily and M!

Sweet Elise: Heart Cookies and Petit Fours

Sweet Elise: Petit Fours

Friday, March 21, 2014

Happy 1st Birthday, Brees!

On March 4th, our amazingly wonderful foster-fail dog Brees turned 1 years old (we think). Since she was picked up off the streets at just a few weeks old, it's hard to tell exactly when her birthday is. The shelter picked March 4th, and it sounded good to us.

The Holland House: Birthday Girl Brees

We were traveling back from our Napa trip the day of her birthday, so I had pre-arranged a very special birthday party at her boarding and playcare facility, Mud Puppies. Yes- we are those kind-of dog people. Our animals are our children, and I knew that she would enjoy the special attention. She has brought so much joy to our lives- and it only seemed fair to return the favor on her special day.

It's hard to believe that this:

The Holland House: Puppy Brees

Has turned into this 60-something pound this:

The Holland House: Grown-Up Brees

She is such a goofy, beautiful, loving, playful, and (sometimes) smart girl, and we just adore her to pieces. On our flight home, Mud Puppies started posting pictures from her party, and each one of them cracked us up. They seemed to catch every bit of her personality. And after losing Marley so suddenly, it was so nice to have something to smile about when we returned home. We love you so much Breesy girl, and are thankful that you fell so unexpectedly into our lives.

The Holland House: Cool Brees

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Napa 2014- The Tasting Part

After the marathon portion of the trip was over, it was time to get serious. No less than three hours after the guys had finished running, they were showered, dressed, and ready to start drinking. We headed to the Napa Marriott to catch the party bus reserved for a total of 50 Gazelles. Needless to say, the remainder of the afternoon was a blast!

The Holland House: Napa Party Bus
Party Bus!!

Rather than bore you with a play by play of the remaining two days of our trip, I'm going to highlight our favorite eats and drinks instead. Below are the places that we consider to be "must dos" should you be planning a trip to Napa.

The Holland House: Wine Tasting in Napa

Round Pond

One of the girls in our group is family friends with the owners of Round Pond Estate, and she scheduled a really special wine/food pairing for us late Sunday afternoon. This beautiful property is off the beaten path in the Rutherford region of Napa. It sits smack dab in the middle of the valley, and has the prettiest views from their second floor terrace. Their standout wines include an easy to drink Sauvignon Blanc (hello hot Texas summer), and several delicious cabs. We shipped home several bottles, along with some of their own infused olive oils that we had a chance to sample at our tasting. We did not get a chance to tour their gardens and orchards, which is all the more reason to go back. If you do anything in Napa, it should include a tasting on their terrace in the late afternoon. It was heaven.

The Holland House: Round Pond
Looking out the front window at Round Pond.

The Holland House: Round Pond
View from the Round Pond terrace.


My mom helped arrange a tasting at this small vineyard. One of our goals for the trip was to visit places where we couldn't necessarily be able to find the wine back home- and this fit perfectly. The Biale Family has been growing Zinfandel on their small property since 1937, and they do red wine really well. Our tasting was so casual, and led by a knowledgeable (and very pretty) Marie who filled us in on all kinds of interesting "behind the scenes" information. We sat on their back porch for about 2 hours, looking out at their vines and mustard, tasting wine and chatting with friends. Perfect way to start a Monday, in my opinion. We also shared a few good laughs over how one of our friends misread the below sign. You'll have to check out their site for the story of the Black Chicken.

The Holland House: Biale Vineyards

The Holland House: Biale Vineyards

The Holland House: Mustard

Gott's Roadside

So much wine must be tempered with food, and a burger and fries from Gott's Roadside was the perfect "in-between tastings" meal. There are two locations, but the one we went to sat right on  the highway in St. Helena. You order at the counter and eat outside, so weather can definitely play a factor. They use quality ingredients and source locally when possible, and the fries are out of this world! I was stuffed after my meal, but am kicking myself for not trying one of their shakes. This place is an absolute must!

The Holland House: Gott's Roadside Burger
Wisconsin Sourdough Burger (hold the mushrooms)


Our last tasting of the day was at Turnbull, at the recommendation of Marie earlier that day. Since it was a Monday, we were able to get a tasting scheduled in their private room. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Marvin the wine dog, and I knew we were going to have fun. The property was really pretty, and the private room was comfortable and intimate. And Tyler, our wine guy, was adorable. We made our way through the reserve flight, and loved everything that we tasted. It was such a fun experience! At the end, we made our way inside the main building, and the guys pulled out yet another wine for us to taste, a Cab Franc, and at that point Hank and I joined our first wine club. We hardly ever splurge on big things, so we were really excited about it and are looking forward to receiving all of our wine this year.

The Holland House: Turnbull Cellars

The Holland House: Turnbull Tasting
We all had purple teeth after drinking so much 
Azzurro Pizzeria

Our neighbors recommended Azzurro, and lucky for us it was right around the corner from the house we were renting. It definitely has a neighborhood feel to it, and I highly suggest reservations as it's a smaller restaurant. The second you walk in, you smell pizza dough and garlic, and it is awesome! We shared pizza, salads, and wine from a place I wish we had had the chance to visit- Elyse Winery. Great food, and nice ambiance after a long day of tasting.

Overall it was truly an amazing trip. We had such a great time with our friends, and it was perfect timing for us to get away from the house for a bit. It's always nice to come home, but I'm glad we've glad plenty of bottles to help remind us of our trip to Napa.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Napa Valley Marathon Race Report

The 2014 Napa Valley Marathon was my 8th (maybe 9th) marathon to complete, but it also represented a few firsts for me.  This training cycle was the first time I have trained for a marathon WITHOUT a time goal in mind.  My goal was just to finish. I approached this training and race with a very relaxed mindset, and saw it as more of an opportunity to run with friends and take an amazing trip with my wife. Mission accomplished!

The Holland House: Gilbert's Gazelles
Part of my training group from Gilbert's Gazelles

Pre-race (Saturday):
This was the first marathon Amy had the opportunity to be a part of with me.  By all accounts she probably thought I was a nervous, uptight wreck but indeed I was not.  The morning before the race we do an Aussie Carb Load routine. I will spare our readers the details but it entails eating an obscene amount of carbs.  This year I had decided to dial it back.  As a point of comparison, in previous marathons I had consumed 700 grams of carbs before the race.  In Napa, I managed to top my tank at approximately 450 grams of carbs.  Although considerably less, it still left me feeling a little less than ideal.  

The Holland House: Track Workout
Track workout before the Aussie carb load

After the Aussie Carb Load workout and subsequent “Carb Fest”, we decided to drive the race course since none of us had any experience with running this race route.  This was another first for me.  I typically like the surprises along the course (oh look at that beautiful river!) but I felt it may be beneficial to our pace group if at least one of us knew where we were going the next day.  It was a beautiful drive containing slight ups and downs (uh yeah-right) and gentle curves (sure Hank).  After the drive it was time to head back to headquarters, the house we rented, and spend the rest of the day relaxing-and eating more carbs.  On an aside, it was roughly at 2pm that I decided I may never be able to drink water again.  Of course, I immediately went and refilled my glass.

Race Day (Sunday):
What a glorious day to go for a long run!  The weather was perfect (temps in the 40’s and overcast) so I was excited about the possibility of all the PR’s that would be had by my running friends.  Our pace group (which consisted of 5-6 fellow Gazelles) had all trained together very consistently.  So naturally I quickly adopted their goals as my own for their race.  The “team” settled on a goal of 3:18 for the race and we would follow the MARCO method.  This consists of dividing the race into 4 segments and essentially running negative splits.  We had agreed to the following goals: miles 1-2 at a 7:45 pace, miles 3-9 at a 7:37 pace, miles 10-18 at a 7:32 pace and finally closing at a 7:27 pace.  This conversation dominated the loooong bus ride to the start which almost distracted me from the fact that I had to pee, very very badly.  

The Holland House: Napa Valley Marathon Starting Line

The start line was awesome!  The race was small, only 2500 runners, so we were able to just hang out at the start without much restriction.  At 7am, the gun went off and away we went!  Becky, Mike, Craig, Elizabeth and I quickly settled into our plan.  There was not a great deal of crowd support so it was key that we stayed together as long as possible.  Mike was communicating our pace every mile while I directed the team on how to best run the curves so we didn't run a REALLY LONG race.  We caught the attention of several other runners around us who asked if we were an official pace group.  We quickly had a large following of runners.

The landscape was gorgeous and weather was perfect so Becky and I decided to push the pace around mile 10.  I felt we were behind schedule as a result of the not-so-gentle curves.  At a few points, I do believe Becky was cursing me about the hills that I had proclaimed to be “not bad at all”.  I had lied.  We hit the half mark at 1:40 and were right on schedule.  I like to be a little early than late, so we decided to push the pace some more.  At this point we were already running 7:25 pace.   I figured at this rate we would come in around 3:16-3:18 which would accomplish Becky’s goal.  Around mile 16, we had lost most of our pace group but picked up two guys from San Francisco who were running their first marathons.  My hardest miles were ahead, 18 to 26.2.

The Holland House: Napa Valley Marathon
Mile 16

Yep, there it is at mile 18.  It is called doubt (and leg cramps).  At this point my quads were extremely tight but I thought I could just push through the pain for 8 more miles.  I can do anything for 8 miles!  Then the hill at 20 hit me.  It was a long gradual climb but the worst part for my aching quads was the long gradual decline.  At mile 22(ish) I decided to let Becky and my new friends go.  Today was not my day and I just wanted to enjoy the day and finish with a smile.  From mile 23 on, everyone seemed to be passing me like I was standing still.  At one point my entire right leg cramped so badly that my foot was turned in an unnatural direction.  All I could think of was get to the finish because Amy is there and probably is worried about me now since most of my friends have finished. I managed to put on a smile and hobble through the finish line.  My time?  A pretty respectable 3:30 considering there was some stopping and walking.

The Holland House: Gilbert's Gazelles Finishers
Gilbert's Gazelles enjoying some much deserved wine

In conclusion, I would highly recommend this race to anyone considering. The goodie bags were incredible and you cannot beat running down the Silverado Trail.  Although I did not have a PR, it was extremely satisfying to share this entire experience with Amy every step of the way.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Napa 2014- The Marathon Part

On Friday, February 28 we traveled to Napa with 39 runners (and associated plus ones) for the Napa Valley Marathon. Each year our running group, Gilbert's Gazelles, chooses a few destination marathons. For obvious reasons, a good number of people were interested in this particular destination. For all of the months of training leading up to the trip, the excitement continued to build. Hank and friends racked up some serious miles on their feet and developed a great camaraderie among their training group. Meanwhile, I racked up some serious empty bottles in our recycling bin. Onward to Napa!

The Holland House: Napa Valley
View from Domaine Carneros

The weather forecast wasn't great, but the cooler temps and drizzle could have been much worse. After settling into our adorable rented house (that we shared with a few friends), the guys hit the store  for some groceries and we settled in for a good night's sleep.

The Holland House: Napa bungalow

Early Saturday a good majority of the runners got together for a warm-up at the track, followed by the beginning of their Aussie Carb-Loading ritual (basically run like crazy for 3 minutes, and then begin consuming an insane amount of carbs, continuing throughout the day). While the marathoners were doing their thing, I laced up my shoes and went out for a 3 mile run- taking advantage of having a house just 1 mile from downtown Napa. I loved getting a feel for the neighborhood on my feet.

After the track workout, a group of about 20 met at a family-owned restaurant Oventi for breakfast. They continued their carb loading with Fig Newtons, and huge plates of pancakes. The goal is to consume up to 850 grams of carbs (less for smaller girls), and the thought of that just makes my stomach churn. But they plugged through and finished cleaning their plates.

The Holland House: Napa breakfast
How about some Fig Newtons with those pancakes?

After breakfast (and showers), we headed to the expo so the runners could pick up their race swag, and then we drove the course with our friends and housemates Keith and Craig. The race starts in Calistoga, and heads south on the Silverado Trail into Napa. From the car, the hills didn't seem like much. But there were a lot of twists and turns in the road, and plenty of gorgeous scenery.

The Holland House: Napa Race Headquarters
Craig, Hank and Keith showing off their awesome bags.

After a busy morning, the guys were due for a nap, and I was ready to get out and about. Another runner's girlfriend expressed interest in getting some bubbly that afternoon, so she picked me up and we headed over to Domaine Carneros. We got there just in time to catch their 3pm tour, and learned some interesting things while viewing parts of the property. Of course my favorite part involved tasting. They are known for their sparkling wines (the Brut Rosé is my favorite), but I was surprised to learn that they make Pinot Noir as well. I left with a bottle of each!

The Holland House: Domaine Carneros

Once back at the house, I worked on making a Gazelle Family Dinner for a few friends. We had salad, pasta, and baguette slices. A glass of wine for the ladies, and plenty of water for the men. It was a fun, relaxing way to enjoy an early dinner with friends. I loved having a "home base", and am really glad that we used VRBO to rent a house. We will definitely go that route again, and I highly recommend the 3 bed/3bath house that we stayed at.

Fast forward to Sunday morning- RACE DAY!! The guys were up bright and early, making one last check that they had all their stuff. One of their coaches picked the guys up early so they could meet the bus to Calistoga. I tried to go back to sleep, but was way too excited and nervous for them. Plus- I was running the 5K that morning, and had to pick up another wife, Laura, who was running with me.

The Holland House: Hank and Keith on race morning

There were only about 250 people who ran the 5K, and I really enjoyed the smaller environment and super flat course. I was proud to clock my fastest time in 3 years, finishing the race in exactly 28 minutes! After we finished, Laura and I hopped in the car and raced to the 16 mile marker, hoping to see the Gazelles run by. I was kicking myself for signing up for a race, since I have never actually gotten to watch Hank at a marathon. I really didn't want to miss him coming by. But luckily we made it to the trail with a few minutes to spare, and saw the first Gazelle, Eric, running by. We knew he would be first, and were so glad that we hadn't missed our guys. Hank and Becky made their way by a few minutes later, followed by more familiar faces. The rain was starting to come down pretty steadily, and we did our best to cheer them all on. They all looked great, and it was so fun to see so many familiar faces.

The Holland House: Napa Valley Marathon
Not your typical marathon scenery...miles and miles of vineyards!

After waiting around another 15 minutes or so, we knew we had to jog back to the car and get back to the finish line so that we could see them come in. Parking was going to be an issue, and it was still raining, so we tried to hurry. By the time we made it to the finish line, the rain was really coming down and I felt so bad for the runners. But we yelled and cheered and had so much fun watching all of these amazing runners finish the race. Gazelles started arriving, and I finally saw Hank coming down the finishing chute. He looked tired, but was still smiling, and I was so happy to be there watching him finish. I just can't even imagine (nor do I ever want to feel) how a marathon wreaks havoc on your body. I was so, so proud of him!!

The Holland House: Napa Valley Marathon

I met him on the other side of the finish and hung around while the guys changed, drank their recovery drinks, and traded stories from their race. It's such a close group of runners, and I love watching their interactions. They also happen to be highly competitive, and it didn't take long for them to start getting reports of how some of the friends performed in races back in Austin that morning.

The Holland House: Napa Valley Marathon

After getting cleaned up and seeing most of the other Gazelle's finish, it was time to head back to the house to shower and get ready for part 2 or our trip- The Tasting Part!

to be continued....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lunch in a Box: Slow Roasted Tomato and Farro Salad

Coming back from vacation is always difficult, especially when trying to get back to healthy eating habits. I haven't felt super inspired to be in the kitchen lately, but I know it's the only way that we're going to have some good lunches to take to work.

When we were in Napa (I promise that post is coming), I cooked a pasta dinner for friends the night before the marathon. I needed something easy and healthy, and stumbled across this amazing pasta recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod. I was able to roast the tomatoes while taking a little side trip to Domaine Carneros, and the rest of the dish was so incredibly easy to throw together. I started thinking of other ways that I could use the roasted tomatoes at home, and this easy lunch salad was born!

The Holland House: Slow-Roasted Tomato and Farro Salad

Slow-Roasted Tomato and Farro Salad
(makes 4 lunch-sized portions)

2 pints cherry tomatoes (a mix of colors makes for a pretty dish)
1-2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, still in skin
1 cup dry farro
1 1/4 cup water or broth
2-3 basil leaves, chopped
fresh spinach
sea salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 250°

1- Cut tomatoes in half, and toss with olive oil.
2- Spread tomatoes on baking pan lined with foil, add garlic cloves, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3- Roast for 2 1/2-3 hours, until tomatoes start to shrivel just a bit. (This is great to do on a Sunday while you're doing other things around the house.)
4- Meanwhile, cook farro according to package directions (should only take about 12-15 minutes).
5- When tomatoes are cool, peel 1-2 cloves of garlic (depending on taste preference), and add to farro along with tomatoes. Add the chopped basil and mix. Season with salt/pepper if needed.
6- Top a bed of spinach with a quarter of the mixture, sprinkle with parmesan if you wish, and drizzle a little bit of olive oil and vinegar on top.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I remember back in the olden days when one could attend a random SXSW show or movie without needing to have a pass (and wait in line for 3 hours). Those days are gone, as the original week has grown into 2-3. The festival now encompasses music, film, interactive and education. It's great to see Austin grow, and I'm always happy to share my native city with the masses. Just be sure to leave it as you found it, and we can all live peacefully, ok?

Austin is known for many things, music being the obvious (duh)! While not the most cultural of cities, I think we knock it out of the park when it comes to food and outdoor activities. It's hard to go anywhere without seeing someone on a bike or running around the city. We have a ton of pretty and convenient outdoor spaces- not something you see in a lot of cities- and it's so easy to lace up a pair of shoes and hit the pavement (or trails) for a quick run. While SXSW involves a lot of parties and late nights, it would be a shame if you didn't take advantage of seeing our city on foot.

Enter Runtastic. A leader in digital health and fitness, they have just released a new map featuring 5 routes centered around popular downtown hotels. Ranging in distances of 2.3-4 miles, there's a little something for everyone. Having run all of these routes on my own, I'll give you a fair warning that the West Austin/Shoal Creek route is the hilliest (15th street is a killer). If you're in town visiting and want a chance to see our city from a different view, you should check out this app! Be sure to follow them on social media, and feel free to let me know which route is your favorite.

SXSW Runnin' Roundup

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Happiness is the Truth

I was having a dream this morning that we were sitting on a beautiful veranda, sipping on some Zinfandel. And then my alarm went off, and I realized that it was back to reality today. Ugh. We had an amazing trip, and I'll write more about it over the weekend when I have the time.

Until then....I received the nicest email from a blog reader earlier today, expressing his condolences for the loss of our sweet Marley. He also shared a really fun video that he made a few months ago, and thought it might bring a little "happy" to us. Funny enough, I was listening to the song on the radio on my way to work this morning, and remember the line "Clap along if you feel that happiness is the truth". You can't listen to that song without bopping your head a little, and smiling. It's a happy song, and a great reminder to know and recognize what happiness is to you. We have lots to be happy about, and we're doing our best to remember that as we continue to mourn our recent loss.

Take a minute to watch his creative video, and take a few minutes after that to think about what you have to be happy about. Whether it's big or small, I guarantee it will leave you feeling better than you did the few minutes before. Thank you Dan for sharing, and sending such kind words! (PS- love the longhorn sweatshirt!)

Site Design By Designer Blogs