Thursday, January 23, 2014

52 weeks of baking: a summary

A month late, but whatever. Let's talk about that time I baked something weekly for an entire year!

The first week of January last year I saw a couple bloggers starting "a year of cakes" or "a treat a day". I'm a lover of sweet things and of challenges, so I came up with "52 weeks of baking". I wanted to be cool too. So I did it. Baked something once a week for a whole year. And it wasn't that hard. I love baking and was doing it a lot anyway as it was, this just took it to the next level. There were some close calls when things were especially busy, some OMG I HAVE TO BAKE SOMETHING RIGHT NOW THE WEEK'S ALMOST OVERRRR, but I made it. I didn't repeat a recipe once, although there were some doubles, like multiple chocolate cakes and quite a few chocolate chip cookie variations, but never the same recipe twice. It was FUN. And yummy. I ended up making some truly wonderful things and am a significantly better baker this January than I was last January. I mean, I'd hope so, right?

So to toot my own horn, because it's oh so satisfying to see it in list form, here are the 52 things I baked:

1. Banana bread
2. Betty Crocker fudge brownies
3. Mini-morsel shortbread squares
4. Everyday chocolate cake
5. Lime and blackberry cake
6. Yellow cake
7. Oatmeal cream pies
8. Zucchini carrot cake
9. Pumpkin cupcakes
10. Honey chocolate chip cookies
11. Coconut shortbread
12. Chocolate cake
13. Strawberry cream cheese cobbler
14. Coconut bread
15. Chocolate zucchini cake
16. Banana chocolate chip cupcakes
17. Simple white cake
18. Chocolate chip cookies
19. Grapefruit yogurt cake
20. Maple cream pie
21. Apple crumble
22. Snickerdoodle cookies
23. Peach hand pies
24. Quick breads
25. Molasses cookies
26. Chocolate caramel brownies
27. Fourth of July cake
28. Peach galette
29. Lemon cheesecake
30. Rosemary chocolate cake
31. Chocolate cake #2
32. Lemon cake with black tea icing
33. Chocolate chip pretzels
34. Coconut chocolate chip cookies
35. Salted caramel brownies
36. Flourless chocolate cake
37. Donuts
38. Lemon cupcakes
39. Salted caramel dark chocolate chip cookies
40. Pumpkin bread
41. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
42. Pumpkin coffee cake
43. Pumpkin swirl brownies
44. Lemon gingerbread cupcakes
45. Apple slab pie
46. Snickerdoodle cookies #2
47. Cream cheese pound cake
48. Black bottom oatmeal pie
49. Spice cake
50. Chocolate lava cake
51. Gingerbread men
52. Double chocolate torte

They are here, just in reverse order, newest first. There were some minor fails thrown in there, but nothing inedible. For the most part it was all yummy. We were stocked up on dessert for a year! And now after dinner we're kind of like, awww, there's no dessert. Although I have baked chocolate chip cookies. And Brendon made banana bread. So the baking continues, just not as structured. Or frequent.


The most successful recipes in my opinion (in chronological order, not by preference, and pictured in the same order above) were the oatmeal cream pies, zucchini carrot cake, peach hand pies, rosemary chocolate cake, lemon cupcakes, pumpkin coffee cake, apple slab pie, and chocolate lava cake. Brendon's favorite were the lemon cupcakes, and they were without a doubt the best cupcakes I've ever made. The rosemary chocolate cake miiiiiight be my favorite, just because it was so different. And delicious.

It was really fun experience. I loved the challenge and the accountability. I also loved feeding all our friends. Thank you for helping eat all the baked goodies folks! I've got to give a special shout out to the future pharmacists though, you guys ate so much and sent Brendon home with the sweetest compliments. Thank you! And thanks to everyone who suggested recipes! And everyone who followed along with this nonsense throughout the year!

Thanks for tagging along. It was a good year of baking. And I'm not diabetic, so that's a bonus. 

K&K in Austin!

Excuse the quiet here on the blog this month, it's been a busy one! And clearly I am no good at documenting it. Where the hell has January gone? It's like... the end. The first month of the new year is already over? WHAT?

2014 graced us with our first sickness of the year. And I mean SICK. Stomach virus, hugging the toilet and puking your life away style. I got it first, then Kristy up in Dallas (who was here for the weekend, more on this later. Sorry you always get sick when you visit!), then Brendon. It was crazy. I haven't had a stomach virus since I was a freshman in college and boy does it suck! I hate puking. I know no one likes it, but jeeze you guys, I hate hate hate it. Along with the nausea came a fever and body aches, so awesome. Luckily the worst seems to be over and now I'm just achy and exhausted beyond reason. But I'll take it over feeling pukey any day. Mind if I say puke again? It's a fun word.

ANYWAY, what this post is really about, is Kristy and Kennedy coming to visit! They were here over the weekend and it was very awesome. I can't say enough how lame it is to live hours away from your best friend, but luckily every time we get together it's like no time has passed and we just pick up where we left off.

The weather was absolutely wonderful while they were here, so we took advantage on Sunday and spent as much time outside as possible. We flew tried to fly a kite at Zilker, walked around downtown, and then walked around the Drag and did a little shopping. Cutest thing ever? Kennedy thought the Frost Bank Building looked like the ice castle from Frozen. I mean, seriously? ADORABLE. And it kind of does! I wonder if they thought of the ice thing when designing it. It is FROST Bank after all. It will now forever be known as the ice castle. Anyway, I made the mistake of telling her we could go inside and check it out. She was SUPER stoked and wanted to see if Anna and Elsa were home. It was a Sunday and that bank was definitely closed. There were tears. I am the worst.

There was NO wind whatsoever when we went to fly the kite. Kristy did an excellent job of keeping it in the air by running, but that sucker would not stay up there on it's own. Kennedy did some kite flying on the ground. She drug that kite for a good 100 yards. But she had fun, and that's what matters! Also, this is her "smile for the camera" face:

We also went to Juice Land (my first time, HOW HAVE I NEVER BEEN?) for smoothies and Walton's for lunch. Oh dear lord, Walton's has this spinach salad, y'all. It's life changing. I'm still thinking about it. Kennedy had a chocolate muffin, clearly:

It was a fabulous weekend with my favorite Dallas ladies! Contrary to the illness we gave you, Austin loves you and wants you to visit whenever. Again, so sorry about the illness. That part sucked, I know. Let's all feel better riiiiight... NOW.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Taos 2014

As what can only be the most impulsive thing we've done in years, a week or so ago we went on a ski trip! We took 6 days off together the week before school started for Brendon; our vacation started on Tuesday and on Saturday we decided to go skiing. We booked everything in this awesome package deal and then just went!

The drive was about 12 hours. We left at 3am, and got to Taos around 2pm, yay for gaining an hour! The drive was stupid pretty, once you left Texas. Texas, you are too big! Taos is kind of situated in a circle of mountains, so we had to go through one set before getting to the ones we were aiming for. Heaven! But unfortunately, I am a huge wiener and suffered from a bit of altitude sickness the first day we were there. Gross. Going from basically sea level to 8,000 feet was too much! But I chugged water like crazy and was just fine the next day to hit them slopes!

As you know, I have an unhealthy obsession with the mountains. And Taos is my favorite. Taos is where we skiied as a family growing up, and taking Brendon there to share something I love so much was really, really, wonderful. I hadn't been in eight years and not much had changed (except you're allowed to snowboard there now!). Luckily, skiing is just like riding a bike and although my body hurt after way more than it did when I was a teen, I still had my skiing "skills" and skiied down that mountain like a champ right off the bat. Also, I didn't break anything! The last time I went (when I was seventeen...) I hit a patch of ice at the very bottom of the mountain right by the ski lifts (so everyone could see) and flew threw the air, possibly did a flip, and broke my arm. Hella embarassing, especially for a super cool teenager who thought she was the best skiier EVER. There was none of that this time. I sat down a little while trying to ski and look up at Brendon at the same time, but other than that, nothing touched the ground except my skis. Thank the snow gods.

This was the first time Brendon had ever skiied (!!) and he did SO WELL. Brendon is one of those people who is obnoxiously good at everything, so of course he picked up skiing like it was nothing. He took only two hours of ski school and then skiied the mountain with me the rest of the day. The second day I snuck him on a blue, and the third day we skiied almost all blues. I WAS SO PROUD! I could go on and on about this. He was so awesome. And I am so glad because it would have been a lot more boring for me if he hadn't been. ;)

The first two days the weather was AHHHH-mazing. Very warm for the mountain, sunny and clear and just generally beautiful. The bad news was there wasn't much snow which meant ice, ice, ice, ice! If you are a skiier you know what I mean. No powder. That terrible crunching sound. Luckily we still had a blast and Brendon couldn't tell the difference since he hadn't been before.

The last day we skiied, we had WEATHER. It snowed off and on most of the day. The fun thing about being in the mountains is you're up there with the clouds, so it would be cloudy and dark and snowy then all of a sudden, boom, the sun! And then it was incredibly windy. Like so windy it would stop you while you were skiing down a hill. The good thing about the weather was, yay snow! Which meant fresh powder! But the bad thing was it also brought insane winds, which basically picked up all the powder and threw it in the air. So still icy, if not more so. It was tough to see at some points, white out style! It was pretty rough skiing, but it was challenging and fun and we skiied the hell out of the mountain anyway. We got the most skiing in that day and it was awesome. We skiied and skiied and skiied, even though at some points I thought my hands were getting frost bite and we'd have to amputate. It was so fun, y'all. GAAAAH, SO FUN.

Powder! And snow! And blue skies! Before the wind insanity.

Also, things I love about skiing? Ski lodges! And the food there! Goodness it was all very good! Taos was so veggie friendly! We were a little nervous about finding yummy things we could eat, but it was so easy and it was all so good!

I cannot get enough of that hair. Or that boy. My favorite thing to see coming down the mountain.

Leaving was emotional for me, as leaving mountains always is. I feel so at home there! My heart is so happy up in the mountains. Leaving was hard, hard, hard! But we will be back. It was such an incredibly wonderful trip and I'm so glad I was able to share something that makes me so happy with Brendon. I think it made him happy too, so bonus!

And here are the shots that were taken by the "professionals" that we paid an arm and a leg for. The first was taken while it was sunny, the second on the last day during a snow storm! Also, those blue ski pants? Totally a boys extra large. I outgrew my pants from high school (hips happened) so had to track down a new pair. And apparently ski pants are hard to find in Austin. But if you shop in the childrens' section it's a teensie bit easier. And they matched my 10 year+ old jacket perfectly. I looked like a blueberry. And a child. Violet Beauregarde. But you'll never lose me on the mountain!

Can we go back? Please? I want to vacay for life. How do I do that? Thank you Taos for another wonderful ski trip. I love you. For realsies.

If you are interested, we stayed at the Columbine Inn and ate at the Station Cafe 3 one 6Tim's Stray Dog CantinaEske's Brew PubAmizette Inn and Restaurantthe Bavarian, and Rhoda's Restaurant. Our lodge was wonderful and all the food was delicious. Seriously. Way to go Taos! For throwing this trip together last minute, it sure did go smoothly. Skiing was something I didn't think we'd get to do for a few more years, so making this happen was like the best surprise trip ever. Last minute trips are the now my favorite thing. MORE PLEASE.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Hello 2014!

An instagram photo from New Year's Eve because that's all I got. We weren't that grumpy, we're just modeling.

Happy Belated New Year, y'all! I hope you brought in the New Year well, doing whatever it was your heart desired to be doing on New Years. It was a challenge and an achievement, but we (I) stayed up all the way until midnight! Kind of. We went out to dinner at the sweetest and yummiest little Italian place, Enoteca Vespasio. (I highly recommend it, it was majorly delicious and I'm not even crazy about Italian food.) After stuffing our faces we came home, watched a movie, and then tried very hard to stay awake until midnight. We dozed off on the couch around 11:50 and were awoke right at midnight by the most insane amount of fireworks. We live all up in the concrete jungle, where fireworks are illegal, and people all around us were blowing stuff up. Including folks a building over from us. We threw on our slippers and watched some fireworks, then came back in, had a little bubbly toast, and went promptly to sleep. It was a perfect New Years Eve.

But really, how insane is it that it is 2014? We're rewatching the OC (more on this later) and it started in 2003. That's now over ten years ago. How is that possible?? I remember watching that when it came out! Insanity.

But unbelievability aside, I am very ready for 2014 and whatever it's got planned for us. 2013 was great and I think 2014 will be too. Brendon will finish his third year of school and his last year of classes. He will start his fourth year which consists of rounds of rotations, which will be who knows where. There's an excellent possibility they will be in another city (Temple) and I am not quite mentally prepared for that, but I'm getting there. I am tough. I can hold it down here in Austin. Maybe.

There's nothing exciting on the horizon for me honestly, but I have some little personal plans. I think they're called "resolutions". Heard of them? I don't usually make them, but this year I'm feeling proactive. Here they are:

Run more. Seriously. I love running and need to do it more often. Running only when you're signed up for a race (like literally, just running the race) is unacceptable and is not going to make me any better of a runner. Being tired can only be an excuse for so long. Yes, I'm tired. I'm always going to be tired. Fact of life. Running is always worth it after, I just need to get out and do it! I think these long legs may have been made to run, my laziness is just preventing them from living the dream.

Sew better. I can sew. Decently. I can make a dress in a few hours. A cute one. But I want to make quality garments, and that means departing from the patterns and instructions more. Splurging a wee bit on better fabric. Taking the extra steps to make whatever I'm making something I'd be proud to show off, inside and out (LINING!).

Stop being lazy. I bust my ass at work, but when I come home, I loathe doing anything. All I want to do is sit on the couch, for real (see first resolution). I am whiny and seemingly incapable of doing anything for myself. Just so so so lazy. And poor Brendon has to deal with my sloppy ass; my shoes everywhere, my clothes everywhere, fabric everywhere, and dear god my desk... I'm just a big ol' mess. Clean it up, girlfriend.

Be nicer. To everyone of course, but also one person in particular. Mr. Hogan. He gets the worst of me. Always and forever, sorry B, you married into it. He sees the crappiest Marie and I hate it. I'm the grumpiest with him, the feistiest, and the meanest. He of all people in my life does not deserve that. He deserves the best of me all the time. And all the time is impossible, but I want to give him the best of me more often. I'll try to take the worst out on the house plants.

Simple but there they are. I'm not going all out and doing anything life altering here, but these are just little things I want to focus on right now. Putting them down for all the internet to judge may or may not help me keep them, but it sure can't hurt!

So welcome to my life, 2014. I am looking forward to you and hope that you bring fun things! No cars dying this year, okay?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Farewell 2013

I'm a little behind on blogging my year in review, because life. LIFE.

So 2013, huh? Lets call it the Year of Working My Butt Off. Never have I ever worked as hard as I did this year. My promotion at the end of 2012 to big boss meant a whole lot more work. Rewarding and fun, but girl... those hours! And because I am masochistic, I added a (very) part time second job to the mix, which has been 200% worth it. I love love love it and I get to sew on fancy fabric and machines and learn all sorts of things. So in 2013 I worked and worked and worked. And worked. And Brendon did too. He has been splitting his time between two jobs for the majority of the year as well as taking on a teaching assistant position and oh yeah, kicking serious ass in pharmacy school. It was a really good year for both of us. And because we worked our tails off, we paid off a good chunk of debt and although we're still living that broke college kid lifestyle, it's a tad more comfortable. And we're a tad bit more able to have some fun in our free time. So cheers to hard work paying off!

Speaking of financial fun, in Feburary, my sweet beloved Xterra's engine blew up on I35 (during rush hour) which was terrible and traumatic. Repairing her would have cost more than she was worth, so as much as it still hurts today to even think about, we sold her. The whole thing was unexpected and unfortunate and definitely no bueno all around. But the Bruce Wayne entered our family, and she has been such a blessing. Praise the car gods for good gas mileage. And as hard as it was letting go of the Xterra, I love having a new car. Materialistic as it may be, it is just lovely. I mean, it has AC, y'all! This was our first BIG purchase as a couple and it was exciting and scary and expensive but I think we did good. 

Now how about something nice that happened in February? We took a weekend trip to Fredericksburg and it was perfectly wonderful and a welcomed escape from work and school. It was romantic and fun and we needed it badly. Then Brendon and I both turned 25 in February and March respectively, and didn't notice a change from 24. Our gray hairs are becoming more numerous and our knees hurt, but that's about it.

I stopped eating meat gradually oh a whim in the spring and gave it up completely in the summer, and solved my decade long health problem of insane stomach pain! Talk about life changing. Still in awe, really.

We spent the summer traveling to all the small central Texas towns we could, dubbing the summer of 2013 "small town summer". It was seriously a blast and such an inexpensive way to have fun. I recommend it to everyone. We ended the summer with an AMAZING trip to New Mexico to play around in the mountains, where my heart is happy. One of my favorite vacations, ever. And a tent versus a hotel = cheap cheap cheap (and also BEAUTIFUL)! We are getting good at this traveling on a budget thing. 

Brendon had a relatively easy first month or so of school, it was a nice ease into the chaos that was to ensue. In September I moved stores at work and for a couple weeks did the most insane thing ever, ran two stores at once. Which was seriously, insane, but definitely a learning experience. And with September began the fall of craziness. It got more nuts month by month, but it was kind of fun and boy did time fly. So I am NOT complaining. December was full of holiday goodness as well as a heaping helping of insanity. But we survived! Brendon finished another very successful semester of pharmacy school, putting him half way through his third year and three semesters away from graduating (!!). The last week of the year was pretty wonderful with a combination of work slowing down and Brendon being out of school, plus Christmas, duh. 

It has been an excellent year. Now, here's an obscene amount of photos. Sorry about the frequent occurrence of my face, it's my blog after all.













So hip-hip-hurray for 2013 and all the good times it brought along. For all the challenges it threw our way and how much we learned muddling through them. I'm a happy, although worn out, camper and ready to face the New Year. 2014, bring yoself on.

If you're interested in waltzing down memory lane, here's Farewell 2012 and 2011.