Friday, June 29, 2012

Have a Lovely Weekend

Do you have any fun plans this weekend?  I've been inspired by my uber-productiveness from last weekend and I'm thinking I'm going to go on another DIY and cooking binge.  I haven't decided what foods to make yet, but I'm eyeing these dip-dyed designs as my DIY inspiration.  And I finally tracked down all of my supplies to make this awesome lion belt so I think I'm going to try to tackle that too!  I'll let you know how it goes!

(inspiration pictures from here, here, and here)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Subtle Glitter

Ok, it's not super easy to see, but I actually got motivated to do a little nail art during my last home gel manicure!  See the little red glitter heart on my ring finger?  My right hand is sporting a twin as well.  I kind of like that they're not super noticeable because I don't really think out-there nail art is appropriate at work.  But my little glitter hearts put a smile on my face whenever I look at them!  I'm thinking I might try a few other subtle designs coming up soon.  Oddly enough, they're all gold flake based.  Guess I'll need to invest in a new design supply...

(images from here, here, here, and here)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sweet Potato Curry with Quinoa

I continued on my new cooking kick last night and made a slight variation on a recipe I came across on Pinterest for a Sweet Potato Curry with Quinoa.  It turned out with some fantastic flavors...
Sweet Potato, Curry, and Quinoa
  • 1 cup quinoa
  •  1 tsp each onion powder and garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter - can be found in health food stores or Indian food marts)
  • 4 oz beluga lentils (half of an Archer Farms bag from Target)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1 clove garlic
  • fresh ginger (about 1 tsp grated)
  • 1/4 cup curry powder of choice
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
- Scrub potatoes. With skins on, cut into 1″ cubes and lay out on a baking sheet. Toss with a bit of olive oil and salt. Bake at 475′ for 20 minutes.  Best to flip them around 10 minutes so the bottoms don't burn... 
- Combine two cups of the chicken broth and the one cup of quinoa in a medium pot with a little salt and pepper and the onion powder, garlic powder and turmeric and bring to a boil. Cook for 12-15 minutes until water is fully absorbed. Remove from heat.
- Chop red onion and saute in a large saucepan with the ghee until softened. Add minced garlic and grated ginger to the onions and saute for a bit longer. Remove from heat. Add sweet potatoes when they are just beginning to brown and crisp on the edges. Add a cup of stock and the curry powder and a sprinkling of onion powder and garlic powder, stirring to coat. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes ading some salt and pepper to develop flavor. Prepare the lentils (I just got a 90 second microwave bag, so it was really easy) and add half of the bag to the curry mixture.
- Serve over a bed of quinoa with a sprinkling of about 1 Tb of currants over each bowl.  I got 4 servings out of everything.  And it was delicious!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Productive Weekend!

I got quite a bit done this weekend!  I ran errands, cooked yummy foods, made a handful of DIY projects, did a favor for some friends, cleaned the apartment, and even got around to taking all of my bottles/cans/boxes to the recycling center!
On Saturday I vacuumed, put away laundry and did dishes before I headed out to run errands including returning shoes and a bathing suit, buying plants for one of my DIY projects (more on that later), adding chemicals to my friends' pool while they're out of town, and stopping off at my favorite grocery store, Central Market.  I went a little hog wild there and bought a TON of yummy foods, a lemon thyme plant to replace the one I already killed (whoops), a couple of bottles of wine, and (I couldn't resist) some beautiful pink tulips.  That night when I got home I absolutely HAD to make dinner with my new ingredients and I settled on a shallot, shitake mushroom, aspargus, and shrimp risotto which turned out amazing.  Shallots and shitake mushrooms are my new super flavor duo - everything I make with them tastes fantastic!  For desert I had a scoop of this interesting new saffron spice gelato that I had purchased - it's ok.  Better in small doses and with something else to mix up the flavor.  I added strawberries.  I also took the time to roast a big batch of campari tomatoes that I had just bought as well.  Super easy and super delicious - just cut in half, coat in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake in the oven at about 250 for 3 hours.  It concentrates the flavor into pure awesomeness.  I did this while I completed a handful of DIY projects that I'd finally gotten all of the supplies for:
I had linked to this epaulette in my Summer Wishlist post, but at $140 it was a bit beyond what I wanted to spend on a piece of jewelry.  So I made my own.  The original is on the left and mine on the right.  Not spot on, but I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out!
 I had mentioned this cool anchor bracelet a while ago and after toying around with the knotting scheme a bit, I think I got it figured out.  I chose to use large brass end caps instead of the method used in the original post, and I think I wound up using much thicker cord too, but I think they're really beautiful!
These bracelets came off of my favorite blog for DIY inspiration in two separate posts.  I combined them all and made the macrame bracelets, the tube bracelets, and the leather cord tube bracelet.  I love the way they looked stacked!  (the left and center pictures are from Honestly WTF and the picture on the right is my finished product!)
That was it for Saturday.  I accomplished a lot, right?!?  On Sunday I finally organized all of my recyclables and took them to the nearby recycling center.  Then I got a bunch of food stuff ready for my evening DIY event, showered up, and headed out.  B was hosting a Cork Succulent DIY party at her place where our friend V joined us.  We used a dremel tool to drill holes into corks where we planted the miniature succulent plants that I had purchased the day before.  They turned out REALLY cute!  B and V attached magnets to the back of theirs to take to work and pretty-fy their cubicles.  I chose to add thumb tacks to mine and stuck them into my wall at home.  Succulents are supposed to be hard to kill, so here's hoping!
In between steps of the cork projects, we ate an absolutely delicious dinner of bread, cheese, and fresh green beans.  I had bought the cheese the day before at Central Market and I picked out some really great options: a Dubliner with Irish Stout, a Garlic and Dill Cheddar, a super oozy Brie, Goat Cheese with Basil (which tasted amazing with my slow roasted tomatoes), and my favorite, St. Antoine Comte.  YUM!  For desert I made a recipe I found on Cup of Jo for an orange vanilla marscapone cream topped with fresh berries and crumbled sweet biscuit.  It was light and delicious and tasted vaguely of creme brule.  And during the entire process we sipped on Grapefruit Habanero "Margaritas"...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Have a Fun Weekend!

Just a few short hours and then I'm free for the weekend!  My big weekend plans include a date, a trip to Central Market to stock up on culinary goodies, a DIY night with girlfriends complete with a cheese and bread dinner (YUM!), and some serious cooking inspired by this week's food blog post!  I'm starting to think I may want to cram a trip to the gym in there too....

What about you?  Any big weekend plans?

(picture from here)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Wish List

Cable Knit Sweater | Blue Shorts | Belted Swimsuit | Silver First Knucke Ring | Tan Sandals

I've developed this weird obsession with body chains lately and I think this epaulette would look really cool with a simple black or white tank top. Last time I did a seasonal wish list this past fall I was similarly focused on a white/cream cable knit sweater, first knuckle rings, and brightly colored bottoms - at least I'm consistent....

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Food Blogs

Lately I haven't been particularly inspired to cook much.  I've become dependent on organic frozen pizzas, salads, and take out sushi for dinner (I love living near Masa....), and organic frozen meals for lunches.  The nice part is I can pick and choose options with a low caloric intake.  The bad part, there are only so many options.  Every so often, though, I'll find a food blog that gives a much needed jolt to my culinary laziness.  I just happened across one such blog today by former chef and current Parisian food afficionado David Lebovitz.  He's not a food critic and he doesn't over-dramatize or raise food to levels of snobbery - he just offers great advice on new, simple recipes.  He also offers great advice on places to eat in France, primarily Paris, which has me absolutely itching to travel there!  And unbeknownst to me, he's actually the source of the INCREDIBLE strawberry frozen yogurt recipe that I've been using for a couple of years now - if only I'd realized how fantastic the rest of his blog was back then!
So I'm going to attempt to make a trip to Central Market this weekend and stock up on some good, fresh products so that I can maybe use my new found inspiration to actually cook food!  While I'm at it, here are a couple of other food blogs I frequent for new ideas:
Cannelle et Vanille is one of my favorites.  I've linked to Aran's recipe's many times, which is also why I've pre-ordered her soon to be released cookbook as well!  She also takes THE most incredible pictures.  I've been dying to sign up for one of her cooking/food photography classes, and I'm sure I will one of these days.  They're just a tad pricey.
Fig & Fauna is one of my newer food blogs that I actually discovered on Cannelle et Vanille and the recipes all use ingredients that are grown right there on the Fig & Fauna farm.  The farm is actually located in Florida, which makes me really upset that I never got around to discovering it before I moved away!!!
Joanna Goddard of one of my favorite blogs Cup of Jo has started a Wednesday post series with recipes of the Best ______ Ever!  It targets basic foods that people want to perfect like macaroni and cheese, roasted chicken, peanut butter cookies, and scrambled eggs and it's pretty genius!
More so than food recipes (though they have some great options too), I tend to find way too many cocktail and mixed drink recipes on Tasting Table.  I need to have a giant cocktail party just so I can test them out - like the Gin Gin Mule.  There are some great articles on this site too, some of which I referenced while in L.A. to scope out some excellent restaurant options!  And lately they've been having an ode to Spanish cuisine with gems like this recipe for hazelnut and almond romesco - yum!
And finally, Smitten Kitchen is overwhelmingly egg-y in terms of most of the recipes, but I've dug through and found a few gems that I'm really excited to try like the Homesick Texan Carnitas and a Bacon, Egg, and Leek Risotto (perfect variation on "breakfast for dinner").

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Getty Center

So I was head over heels in love with the Getty Center, which I visited on Friday during my trip to the L.A. area.  B and I met up with my high school friends T and Br and his absolutely adorable daughter L and headed (through traffic, as is usual in L.A.) up to the Getty Center, which has a small charge for parking but is otherwise free.  So word to the wise: pack your car full of people to get the best bang for your buck!
The weather was absolutely gorgeous, so we spent a majority of our time wandering around outside, gazing up at the beautiful architecture, roaming the garden, admiring the expansive views and just chilling in the grass, letting L run around and play.  Actually, when Br first set her down she plopped down on the grass next to me and mimicked me, laying on her back with her hands behind her head - it was pretty adorable!
We could see the Century City and downtown L.A. skylines pretty clearly (smog was minimal), and the view extended all the way west to the ocean.  It was awesome. 
We didn't get around to all of the art exhibits, but we did view a couple of rooms of art and decor from 1600-1800, some pretty cool sculptures, and my favorite, the Herb Ritts exhibit chronicling the photographer's amazing portfolio.  He truly was a gifted artist.
Look at that crystal clear sky - it really was heavenly weather!  And finally, I leave you with a picture of the old gang.  Don't T and Br make a cute couple? 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cali Recap

Here's my brief summary of my trip to L.A. this past weekend: beach = awesome, food = awesome, seeing friends = awesome, driving through residential neighborhoods and oogling houses = awesome, weather = awesome, traffic = SUCKS!!!  Oh my goodness, that traffic was insane.  B and I started off our trip with a meandering drive through some beach neighborhoods and along the coast and we loved that area.  Less traffic, awesome homes, and of course, the beach!  We stopped in Hermosa Beach at Umami Burger, which was on my list of restaurants I wanted to try - wow.  We both got the signature Umami burger which is loaded up with mushroom and umami flavor and topped with roasted tomato, a parmesan crisp, and umami ketchup.  We added a side of tempura onion rings for a truly awesome dinner!
After dinner we snagged some gelato nearby (we got chocolate hazelnut, pistachio, and lemon poppyseed flavors - yum!) and snacked while we wandered along the path next to the beach (picture above).   Our hotel was in Long Beach, the Hotel Maya which was pretty and well decorated but the sound proofing of the rooms left a lot to be desired.  I kind of wished we'd had a chance to check our their Latin influenced restaurant too.  On Friday we had tea and a little snack at a cute nearby coffee house and then made our way through insane traffic up to the Santa Monica area where we met up with some of my friends from high school for lunch followed by a trip to the Getty Center!
I LOVED the Getty Center!  I'm sure part of it was the company, but the weather, gardens, architecture, and art were just so perfect as well.  I'll go more into our trip to the Getty in my post tomorrow.  It was just a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful afternoon.  B and I headed back over to the Santa Monica area again afterwards for dinner and a stroll on the Santa Monica Pier (after a hurried trip to an AT&T store so I could get a phone charger for my dead cell phone...).  We wound up coming across yet another restaurant on my list near the pier, Blue Plate Oysterette, and decided to eat there for dinner.  Another excellent meal.  Brittany got the fish tacos and I ordered the lobster mac and cheese with a side of sauteed brussel sprouts.  We sat at the bar to avoid the wait for a table and I'd actually recommend it to anyone headed there - the view of the bustling kitchen area was mesmerizing!   After dinner we strolled on the pier and then headed to the airport to pick up J and A.  We then headed back to the beach area for dessert and a quick drink at a local dive bar! 
Saturday was the wedding, which took up most of our time.  We had a quick brunch at the same coffee shop B and I had discovered the day before and then we went back to the hotel to prett-ify.  I was pretty excited to be able fit back into an awesome backless purple dress that I've had for a few years and I added some adorable Kate Spade t-strap pumps to the look, so I was styling!  We had some free time between the ceremony and reception where we snagged another quick snack and then we headed to the Aquarium of the Pacific.  The wedding couple actually had their reception at the aquarium, so walking around the displays was a bonus wedding activity!
I may have had a minor jelly fish obsession...  The wedding was wonderful, we got to meet some lovely new people, saw old coworkers from our shuttle days (I used to work with the groom back in Florida), and naturally did some dancing!
Sunday we slept in, packed up, and then headed north to do the "Hollywood Thing".  I caught a fleeting glimpse of my new interior design obsession, the Avalon Hotel (I MUST go back there sometime!), followed by brunch at Mel's Drive-In, a walk up Hollywood Blvd to see the Dolby Theater (formerly known as the Kodak Theater, i.e. where the Oscars are held), the stars on the sidewalk, and Grauman's Chinese Theater, and finally a trip to the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and Rodeo Drive!
Rodeo Drive had an incredible British car display going on with brand new European sports cars and vintages cars in incredible condition out-the-wazoo.  It was pretty cool to see and it definitely added a new entertainment to an already impressive street.  I also may or may not have been naughty and splurged in the Fendi store....  I'm in love.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

L.A. Bound!

I'm headed out to L.A. this weekend with B for a friend's wedding!  I've got a lot of fun stuff planned like meeting up with high school friends for a trip to the Getty Center, renting some bikes and going for a ride on the beach, hitting up the Hollywood landmarks, and (hopefully) eating some really delicious food!  So no post tomorrow, but some fantastic pictures to follow on Monday!

Have a great weekend!

(image from here)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Awesome Evening Plans

REALLY looking forward to this evening!  As B and I will both be wearing open toed shoes to a wedding this weekend, we have decided to get a pedicure together after work today.  I cannot wait to get out of work and into a massage chair!!!  And since the nail salon just happens to be next to our favorite sushi restaurant, well.....

(images from here and here

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Venus Transit

Last week a rare sight was caught on film by NASA, the transit of Venus across the face of the sun.  This occurrence is rare in that it happens in pairs (separated by 8 years) that are separated from each other by over 100 years.  This last happened in 2004 and will not happen again until 2117!  The imagery is pretty incredible, my favorite shots being the ones that show the highly active sunspots and solar flares on the surface of the sun.  Enjoy!!

(image from NASA)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Elvis Lives!

I drove home from the grocery store on Saturday to see this beaut in my apartment complex's parking lot - Elvis lives!!! (and was angrily pacing back and forth while talking on a cell phone)  I'm really curious as to whether the guy actually had that big of a gut or if he did, in fact, stuff a beach ball into his polyester suit...
In other news, I finally tried the quail eggs yesterday!  I had THE most incredible homemade brunch of a fresh roll torn open, mashed full of avocado and half topped with slightly overcooked poached quail eggs and half scrambled quail eggs.  It was really, really good!  And the best part, it's been over 24 hours and I haven't felt any ill effects yet!  My body usually takes 24-36 hours to react, so I'm not totally in the clear yet.  But based on the information I read on this website, I'm pretty optimistic that I have my chicken yolk substitute!  Next up, I want to try quail egg creme brulee, lemon curd, and this.  I still plan on minimizing my egg intake as it seems to be working for me pretty well overall. but it's really nice to (hopefully!) have an alternative for the recipes that absolutely cannot be made without yolks...

Friday, June 8, 2012

On to The Weekend!

Anyone have any fun plans this weekend?  I'm babysitting for some friends tonight so they can have a date night (their son is so adorable, I never mind...), and tomorrow I'm going to a cook out/baby shower for some other friends.  So it's a baby filled weekend!  Aside from those plans, my schedule is pretty wide open though.  Who knows what interesting options will pop up!

(image from here)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Have a Seat

After I bought the dresser for my guest room two months ago, I swore I was done buying furniture for a while.  I don't have room for anymore.  But there was one issue I hadn't thought of: my dining room chair and tables are kind of a mess.  I only have 3 chairs because one has been broken ever since I got the dining set from a friend of the family.  Additionally, one of the other chairs has a detached seat that slides off of the chair whenever someone tries to sit down.  The table has seen better days as well with chips along the edges and water stains all over the top...  I've toyed around with the idea of refinishing them, but the table is probably a lost cause with the chips and all and the broken chair is pretty far gone at this point.  It kills me to say this, but I should probably look into replacing them.  I've never gotten rid of mid-century modern furniture before, I've only bought and hoarded it so this is a tough concept for me to wrap my mind around.  The table is still functional, so it's not really my priority at the moment.  My main issue is chairs since I only have 2 functional ones.  Not to mention, chairs are freaking expensive!  I've found some moderately priced, stylish options on that I'm considering.  What do you think:
Red Tabouret | Red Camden | Red Cushion Tulip
1. Red chairs.  All of my furniture is pretty neutral and it might be fun to spice up my dining room with a shot of red.  The first chairs are currently my first choice in this category as I like the design and they've designer approved by my favorite, Emily Henderson.  They look a tad flimsy on overstock but a bit more substantial in Emily's pictures, and the smallish size and stack-ability in my small apartment would be appropriate.  The second set is simple, classic lines, sturdier looking, and even a little cheaper.  But they're also a little boring.  The third chair is just kind of a whim.  It's super pricy but awesome.  I probably won't go that route but it's fun to dream...
Retro Armchairs | Silver Tabouret
2. Neutral chairs.  I probably won't go with solid wood replacement chairs as they're crazy expensive and hard to match to the wood stain of the rest of my dining room.  But I've found these two other options instead.  I've been contemplating for a while getting these awesome retro moulded plastic armchairs.  I wouldn't need to get rid of all of my current dining room chairs then, I would keep the two functional ones and just use the armchairs at the ends of the table. I love this idea because then I wouldn't totally have to give up on my current dining set.  And then there are the same Tabouret chairs from above in steel instead of red.  The silver will still complement the wood table but it wouldn't have the visual shock of the red.

With the exception of the fun tulip chairs, none of these options would cost much more than $200 for a functional, stylish dining room update.  So what to do???  Decisions, decisions....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Getting Shredded

So I've found 2 new recipes recently that use various shredded vegetables that have seriously intrigued me.  I've already made the Meyer Lemon Zucchini Bread (it was awesome) and I just discovered a recipe today for a Carrot Marmalade.  I'm picturing it with the purple carrots I get every now and then from Central Market - how awesome would that be?!?  Maybe it'll be a weekend project...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Discovering Houston

I'm working up some new ideas for ways I can further explore Houston.  Here are a few I've come up with!
1. A Houston skyline kayaking tour!  I found a groupon for this today and so I figured I'd give it a try - it looks fun!
2. Cooking classes!  I found two places in the city that look like they have a pretty good schedule lined up.  I'm considering the bread making class at one of them and the Moroccan cooking classes at either one (I've always wanted to learn how to use a tagine!)
3. Explore the live music scene!  This one's a little difficult and I'm not really sure where the "scene" is yet.  I've been doing some exploring online though.  I also found what sounds like a fun karaoke night downtown which I know I could drag some of my friends to.  If you know of any good sources for live music guides to Houston, let me know!

So who else is "in" and wants to do some exploring with me??

Monday, June 4, 2012

Another Fun Weekend in Austin

It was my friend (and former roomie) R's birthday this weekend so I drove out to Austin to celebrate with her, her boyfriend T, and 60 of T's closest friends!  He threw a "Klassy" birthday party for her at his house on Friday including beer pong using plastic champagne saucers, a bouncy gladiator ring, oven smores, and a cake that had so many candles on it, it just looks like a seriously huge flame in pictures...
The next day we had an English breakfast (bacon back, bangers, sauteed mushrooms, roasted tomato, toast fried in bacon fat, and eggs - the toast and tomato were insanely good!), cleaned the house up a bit, chilled, and then headed back out to get dinner at a design-your-own-sushi-roll place.  I had mine made with soy paper, brown rice, salmon, avocado, asparagus, marinated red onion, and masago and it was pretty darn good!  After we headed to a friend's house for what is probably my new favorite card game: Cards Against Humanity.  I was laughing so hard I was crying at some points in the game (warning: it is NOT politically correct...) - it is hysterical and I immediately had to buy a box of them for myself (a little pricy but totally worth it!).  After that we headed to the bar for a bit and then made a semi-early night of it in preparation for Sunday's plans.
Sunday I went on my first party boat!  Since I had to stay sober for my drive back to Houston that evening, I volunteered to drive out to Lake Travis to avoid riding the semi-ghetto party bus - good move.   There was an engine issue when we first tried to push off so we wound up spending an hour and a half partying at the dock before we headed out to a near by island. 
The whole experience was a blast though!  Lots of drinking (not me, everyone else) including flip cup and upside down margaritas, swimming, rock climbing, grilling, eating, chilling on the upper deck, and chatting with the other 139 people on the boat...  After a whole day spent outdoors with the sun and the swimming, followed by a 3 hour drive home, I was completely and totally exhausted.  Waking up today was not easy.  But overall, I had a fantastic weekend!