Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day 3! (30 Day Challenge)

It's busy! I'm back just to share a few things I've found interesting lately...

- Janetha at Meal & Moves spoke at a small event the other day and shared her outline, resources and a small workout she created. I learned a few new things and thought you might too! You can find the post here!

- Found a new awesome blog that makes me happy... don't know why I wasn't following it already! It's called Confessions of a Cookbook Queen - check it out!

- Another blog that I found recently via Pinterest is mainly about easy, IMPRESSIVE hair styles! I love it - it's called The Small Things Blog. She made me really love the current length of my hair by giving me even more ideas!

Ok - that's enough for today... be back again tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 2 (30 Day Challenge)

Good morning! Checking in on day 2...

Workout dabble - I really like the Pinterest workout I posted yesterday - enough to get your heartrate up, but not too much to make you sweaty! Perfect way to start the day... Also on tap for today - Body Pump Class and Boot Camp. Lord help me!

Music dabble - I had a fun little find last night while I was working on my iTunes organization... They have an option that finds all of your duplicate songs for you! I have so many duplicates - now I don't have to rely on myself to find them. It made me happy!

TV dabble - For the first time in a long time, I actually have a LIST of shows I'm recording and actually watching...

- Criminal Minds (I always have at least 10 on the DVR, but I've seen most of them. Definitely watch the current season every week though!)
- Pam Am (love the setting, love the storylines!)
- Parenthood
- Modern Family
- Person of Interest (I love Jim Cavieziel!)
- Revenge (I didn't know this one would be so GOOD! Love it!)
- Biggest Loser (after taking a prolonged break from watching it, it's got me hooked again!)

And that's enough TV for me! Anything I'm missing?

Food Dabble - I'll go ahead and link to my birthday cakes for this year - they were PHENOMENAL! I made two cakes - one for Friday and one for Saturday (I LIKE to make my own cakes - it gives me a chance to bake something new that I've had my eye on for awhile...) I'm sorry there's no pictures - I need to get better at photographing them!

My favorite of the two was the Pumpkin Cake with Butterscotch Filling with Brown Sugar Buttercream. I found the recipe on Annie's Eats.

Pumpkin Cake with Butterscotch Filling and Brown Sugar Icing

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

½ tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. salt

1 ½ cups pumpkin puree

1 cup buttermilk

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:

¾ cup heavy cream

¾ cup sugar

¼ tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 – 1 oz. pieces

¾ cup chopped nuts, such as pecans or walnuts (optional)

For the icing:

2 cups tightly packed brown sugar

1 cup heavy cream

2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 8 – 1 oz. pieces

¼ tsp. cream of tartar


Line the bottoms of 2 round 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the parchment, as well as the sides of the pans. Preheat the oven to 325°. Center a rack in the oven.

To make the cake, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine pumpkin puree and buttermilk and mix until smooth. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase to high speed and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and scraping down the bowl between additions. Add the vanilla extract and beat on high for 30 seconds. With the mixer running on low speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter, until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Immediately divide the batter between the prepared cake pans, spreading evenly. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 10 minutes. Invert onto a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

To make the filling, heat the cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat until hot (do not allow to boil or simmer). Combine sugar and lemon juice in a separate saucepan and stir with a whisk to combine (the sugar will resemble moist sand). Caramelize the sugar for 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a whisk to break up any lumps. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Add the hot cream, one half at a time. Add the butter, one piece at a time, stirring to incorporate completely before adding the next piece. Cool in the refrigerator 45 minutes. Place in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on high speed for 2 minutes, until light (but not fluffy). Add the chopped nuts and stir to incorporate. Set aside.

To make the icing, heat the brown sugar, heavy cream, 2 – 1 oz. pieces of butter, and cream of tartar in a 2-3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, while bringing the mixture to a boil. Allow the mixture to continue boiling while stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Transfer the bubbling hot mixture to a stainless steel bowl and allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding. Place the cooled mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, adding the 6 remaining pieces of butter one at a time, until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat for an additional 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on high for an additional 1 minute until light and fluffy.

To assemble the cake, place one of the pumpkin cake layers on a cake platter or a cardboard cake circle. Spread butterscotch filling evenly on top of cake. Top with remaining layer of cake, pressing down firmly. Frost sides and top of cake with brown sugar icing. Use remaining frosting to pipe decorative accents onto top and bottom edge of the cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

The other cake was a Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Cake - I found the recipe on Food Network.

Salted Caramel Milk Chocolate Cake

18 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
10 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 Chocolate Cake recipe, recipe follows
Sea salt flakes (recommended: Maldon)
Put your chocolates in a big bowl. Put the sugar and 1/2 water in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and bring up to a boil. As soon that happens, stop stirring and let it boil until it turns an amber color, 8 to 10 minutes or so. (If you think that it needs another stir, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, and stir the entire mixture, picking up the pot itself by the handle, being careful not to touch the caramel or else it could crystallize.) Once the mixture reaches that dark amber color, turn the heat down. Stand back from the pot and add the cream very slowly, stirring with a heatproof spatula. (If you are nervous about the steam, wear a kitchen glove to protect your hand.) Continue to stir until all is incorporated. Once the mixture is smooth, stir in the fine salt. Take off the heat and pour the caramel over the bowl of chocolate. Whisk to combine, making sure all the chocolate melts. Pop in the fridge for about 1 hour until completely chilled.

Take the frosting out of the fridge and beat it with a hand mixer just until it becomes spreadable. Add the butter in pieces and mix until it's all combined. Pop back into the refrigerator for another hour.

Place 1 cake layer on a cake platter, flat-side up. (You want the cake flat-side up so when you get into it you'll have nice and even layers.) Evenly spread 2 cups of the frosting over the top. Sprinkle with sea salt flakes, then put the other cake layer on top, flat-side up. Spread the rest of the frosting over the top and on the sides of the cake. Sprinkle the top with more salt flakes.

Chocolate Cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature for 30 minutes
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk (or 1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (9 by 2-inch) nonstick round cake pans. Line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper, and then butter the paper.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together onto parchment paper. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, 4 or 5 minutes. Add your eggs, 1 at a time, mixing until completely incorporated before adding each additional egg. Mix in the chocolate and vanilla, making sure to combine really well. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, in 3 batches, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Make sure to let it mix thoroughly.

Pour half the batter in each pan and spread it evenly with a spatula or butter knife. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 25 minutes. Remove the pans to racks and allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes or so. Loosen the edges of the cake from the pan with a knife, then turn them onto the racks. Remove the paper and let the cakes completely cool. Yield: 2 (9-inch) cake layers

And with that... I'm done for day 2! See ya tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November 1 = 30 Day Challenge Begins!

November is always a good month to get the blog kicked up again...

I'm sticking with the theme of dabbles - it seems I'm good at dabbling in a lot of things!

Cookie Dabble - These are the latest cookies I designed for Brelynn's 1st birthday - the theme was simply a '1st' birthday party in pink and brown, so I made little '1' cookies, iced them in brown and then put them on a pink scalloped square. To add a little pizazz I put brown polka dots on them and then made them into little hearts - they were pretty cute! Happy Birthday Sweet Brelynn!

Music Dabble - Miranda Lambert's new album, Four the Record, came out today! I'm in love... I want to be like her when I grow up!

Workout Dabble - I'm doing the workout I found on Pinterest (MY NEW OBSESSION!) for 30 days straight. It's what I'll start my day with... And will also be hitting the gym at lunch, after work, or even before work if necessary!

More on this to come...

Food Dabble - I'll share the birthday cakes I made for my birthday this year soon (I only had one little piece of each and seriously gave the rest away - YAY!) But for now, I'm giving a basic outline of my eating plan moving forward:

Breakfast: Green Monster
Morning mini: Apple + Turkey lunchmeat + LC Wedge
Lunch: WW Pasta w/ turkey meatsauce or wrap or sandwich on sandwich thin, etc.
Afternoon mini: Greek yogurt w/ fruit, etc.
Dinner: Salad or Lean Protein + Veggies (NO carbs other than veggies)

There will be quite a few more dabbles in the days ahead - Pinterest will be a huge one, friends blogs, posts I've found interesting, music, events, friends... wheeee!

Excited to be back! Now to make this last...

Happy Tuesday!

Friday, July 1, 2011


Long, long, long story short. I have a new member of the family - a beautiful rescue dog named Dylan! I'm so happy to have him join my family and Jolee is already in love with her new 'bubba' too!

I knew as soon as I lost Pancheaux that I would be getting another dog. How depressed Jolee was in the aftermath of the loss expedited the process.

So meet Dylan - and he'd love to meet you in person! (If you're a friend of mine, otherwise, that's just weird.)


On Wednesday night, I met up with some friends at bar in town called Armadillo Palace for a 1/2 birthday celebration (she gets shafted every year by Christmas parties and the like!) and to see Ryan Turner. Upon my arrival I saw a friend that I hadn't seen in a couple months and HOLY CRAPBALLS she looks UNBELIEVABLE! She's lost ~70lbs throughout the past year due by pursuing a healthy lifestyle (running and eating right). Then I walk inside to see the 1/2 birthday girl, and she's been kicking a$$ and taking names TOO (bootcamp, rowing, eating right, etc.).

The first thought that popped into my head was "I want to be a part of THAT wolfpack." Now, why I'm thinking in Hangover references, I can't explain, and to be honest, I cracked up laughing at my thought pattern, but the underlying train of thought is there. I want what they've got. And I know how they got it. HARD WORK. And it's attainable - I just need to DO IT.

Today being July 1st, it's a good time to look back at New Year Resolutions. So far, I haven't been diligent. But there are 6 months left this year - and you can make a HUGE difference in 6 months! So I'm back at it. And I started all of this, on a FRIDAY. Of a HOLIDAY WEEKEND. Am I crazy? Maybe. But there's no time like the present!

There are SO many reasons I want to start a new routine that includes an EARLY morning workout.
- Gets my workout out of the way so I free up my afternoon/evening for the fun stuff, or even an aerobic class or two should I want to do one.
- I get to work earlier, which means I get to leave earlier.
- Traffic. I will be able to avoid all of the traffic on Hwy 6 between my house and Sugar Land (they're installing medians all the way down and taking over the inside lanes as a result. Traffic is a huge cluster now!) AND traffic is better on 59 too - win/win!
- I tend to eat better and drink more fluids if I workout in the morning.
- I'm more focused and diligent throughout the day.

So this morning I scheduled a wake up call from 1/2b-day girl at 4:30 am. And I set my alarm for 4am. And I went to bed at 9pm last night. I actually was excited to get up when the alarm went off. I got everything ready, spent some time reading/journaling (I do this every morning) and then left for the gym. I knocked out a cardio circuit that I made up (30 min HIIT on the elliptical, 5 min on the stairmill (holy schnikees that thing is HARD!) and a 15 min walk on the treadmill and then finished off with 200 abs. One of the trainers actually came up to me while I was on the treadmill to let me know he liked my 'fire' and was excited to see me jump on the stairmill (most people avoid it like the plague for a reason!) - anyways - it's fun to have someone notice your determination!

It was a great first day. Now I need to continue eating right and stay on track with my exercises. Here's the plan for this weekend:

- Saturday: spin class at 8:30; possibly cardio kickboxing at 9:30 (depends on the teacher!)
- Sunday: full body weights at gym, or Jillian Michael's No More Trouble Zones
- Monday: cardio circuit + 200 abs

and I'll be back to update for the week on Monday as well!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pancheaux: A Tribute

Pancheaux, my beautiful boy with the golden eyes, my monkey man, my sweet boy, Panch, Panchito...

You are so loved. You have brought me immeasureable joy. You've brought me to tears I didn't know I had. And you've made me laugh, oh how you've made me laugh...

I remember going to Brazos Valley Animal Shelter on Friday, March 26, 1999 for orientation because I planned on volunteering. I decided after watching the video to just walk around and look at the animals. And then I got to your kennel - you and your 5 brothers and sisters - 3 black, 2 red, and one was red with a black saddle. They were walking all over you and biting your ears, so I reached down and plucked you out and you instantly snuggled in. I was a goner. I went home and was back that afternoon to apply for you. I had to wait 3 days to pick you up, but I went back every day I could just to see you. And on Tuesday, March 30th, I brought you home.

You were SO CUTE!! I named you Pancheaux, after the song Pancho and Lefty, but obviously gave you a cajun kick. The name has suited you just fine...

I remember in those first few months I could carry you around on my hip like a baby. You'd wrap your bottom legs around my waist and just sit on my hip. I must have looked ridiculous, but whatever. I loved it.
I remember moving into the duplex with Courtney and all of a sudden you took on her personality! You were a complete spaz, and because of that I was living with 2 crazies! But I laughed so much. I remember you trying to outsmart me - I put you in the backyard for some reason, forgetting that I had my bedroom window open. The next thing I know, you come walking into the kitchen. I had to laugh, but then went in the bedroom and shut my window and then put you back out. The next thing I heard was a 'THUD!" because you thought you were getting back in again. Not so much...

This is also where you learned to jump fences - and not just any fence, but 6 FOOT FENCES. Finally seeing how you accomplished this made me admire your ingenuity. You were a smart, smart dog. Putting you outside and then having you meet me on the front porch when I opened the door made me laugh, and frustrated me to no end. I don't know many people that had to wire not only the bottom of their fence, but also the top. Points for creativity buddy...

And it was during this time that you started your 'bullfrog jump' - where if someone you wanted to get to was ahead of you, you would literally crouch down and then spring your body straight up in the air. This little 'trick' brought so much laughter to so many, but none more than me. I still wonder what people in the cars driving by must have thought...

Oh, and sorry about the dress up days with Court-Court. I hope you've forgiven me for that by now, even if you haven't forgiven her. Actually, I guess that 'kiss' where you chipped her front tooth in half was probably your version of 'payback'. I'd say that's fair...

Then we transitioned from College Station to Houston together. And the first thing you did when we walked into the new apartment was throw up on the floor. Glad to know you approved of the move! You followed that up by refusing to go to the bathroom outside. To say you weren't thrilled by apartment life is an understatement. It was also at those apartments that you literally leveled me one morning by trying to chase a cat. Another time you wrapped me up in your leash to the point that you took my legs out because you were trying to play with a dog. At least I'll always have that scar to remember you by...

I know you were so happy when we finally moved into a place with a yard. I knew I'd never make you go back. The yard was your domain... until I brought your sister home. Again, you were not thrilled. But you came to love her and protect her. You followed her during all of her escapes making sure she stayed safe - even when y'all escaped for the first time only 3 weeks after I brought her home. You're the only reason I was able to find her. And then you followed her on the succession of escapes that came after, leading me to not only hotwire the fence, but put chicken wire along the bottom and then hotwire THAT. Ingenuis, I tell you...

Your stubborness allowed you to manipulate me into giving you anything you wanted - space on the bed, cheese on your food and my bowl/plate to lick at the end of a meal. I couldn't say no to you. I've never learned...

But I have learned what it's like to be unconditionally loved - because of you. I know what it's like to always have someone happy to have you walk through the door. I'd say I'll miss your hair lying around, the strands that are half-white, half-black so they're sure to show up on anything, but I think you've left enough of that here so I'll be covered for my lifetime. I'll miss your wagging tail THUMPING walls and clearing tables. I'll miss your frito paws. I'll miss you nudging your head under my hand so I'll pet you. I'll miss you staring at me until I finally get up and do whatever you want. I'll miss you jumping up on my back windows to let me know that you mean business - you want back inside. I'll miss you sticking your backside at me because you want that area above your tail scratched. I'll miss you running in your dreams and snoring in your sleep. I'll miss your floppy ears. I'll miss your golden eyes. I'll miss your huge, huge heart...

God speed little man, you truly are the best dog I could have ever asked for and more. Thank you for all you have given me throughout the past 12+ years. I love you more than I know to say...

Be at peace my friend. May you be restored and reunited with all of your furry friends - Shiner, Hank, and make sure you find Sam - he's the one that initially opened my heart and paved the way for you. And Paw Paw's waiting too - he'll know where the treats are!

Now go cross the Rainbow Bridge, and wait for me there, until we meet again...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Emerson's Princess Cookies

So another friend sponsored my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer by purchasing the 'cookie package' that I offered. For her daughter Emerson's 3rd birthday party, I made 36 princess crowns. These were pretty simple and I made them even more special by adding pearls and brushing on luster dust after they had dried to make them sparkle!

Hope you had a wonderful time at your party Emerson! Happy 3rd Birthday!