Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Food Coma

There has been too much food talk on this blog lately. How about some Bella love instead?

I made Bella a new bed using two standard size pillows as an insert. It took me about five hours to make even though it was a simple project. I'm not that great at sewing. There's also a detachable pillow (not pictured). Bella actually knows how to use pillows. Proof of this at the end of this post. 

The cover is removable because it's basically a giant envelope back pillow case. I used some sturdy Ikea fabric purchased many months ago. Removable covers are absolutely essential since Bella has a tendency to throw up her meals right on her bed. 

Bella likes her new bed, but she likes ours better. This is proven by the fact that she tries to sneak up at least three times a night. She knows that we are too drowsy at 0400 to kick her off. 

Her father is a sucker for that cute face of hers. He doesn't mind sharing his pillow, either. 

P.S. I didn't follow a tutorial for this project, but these may be helpful if you would like to make your own cheap dog bed using pillows: Pinch of Zest's tutorial for a DIY Dog Bed and Seakettle's tutorial for the Easiest Envelope Pillow. 

Rising Stars Tasting Gala

When The Hubby and I were at Franklin BBQ, I picked up a little postcard advertising a tasting gala held by StarChefs featuring the Austin-San Antonio area's "brightest culinary talent." It was open to the public and as soon as we saw that not only Aaron Franklin but Paul Qui from "Top Chef: Texas" was also going to be there, we knew it was something we were willing to splurge on. 

We have been trying to live in the moment and enjoy our lives a little more, even if it means I'll have to work a few more full day shifts at work to make up for it. When would we ever have the chance to do something like this again?

After work on a Tuesday evening we drove down to Austin and walked into the beautiful Driskill Hotel. We then proceeded to eat gourmet food until we were so full that we could eat no more. Each dish was also expertly paired with wine. However, that was wasted on us since I cannot handle my alcohol and The Hubby had to drive back home that evening. 

1) Heartbrand Beef Wagyu Flank Steak, Fermented Red Pepper Sauce, Mint, Fried Orzo, Soft Poached Egg on a Bed of Bacon, Sea Salt, Fava Beans, Togarashi, and Allan Benton Ham Broth 
2) Pan-roasted Sea Scallop, Jicama-Mint Salad, Coconut Cream, Cocoa Nib, and Chocolate Mint
3) Peanut Butter Semifreddo, Miso-Apple Sorbet, Peanut Brittle, Micro Wasabi, Rehydrated Raisins, and Golden Raisin Puree

4) Smoked Local Cabrito Ribs, Polenta, and Natural Jus
5)  Tacos Arrabicos: Seared Cervena Venison, Pickled Cucumber, Chipotle Harissa, Fennel Pollen Yogurt, and Bacon Fat Tortilla
6) Cauliflower Gratin, Currants, Capers, Almonds, Garlic Cream, Parmesan, and Balsamic Reduction

7) Herb-crusted Australian Lamb Lollipop with Spicy Apple Kimchee
8) Grapefruit Sorbet, Campari Pop Rocks, and Angostura Bitters Ice Cream
9) Reuben Sandwich with Organic Australian Brisket

Paul actually handed us our soups while we were in line and we were a little star-struck. All I could babble was a quick thank you and I'm pretty sure I accidentally scratched his hand while grabbing my bowl from him. The Hubby thinks I need baby mittens because I scratch him all the time. He really is as nice as "Top Chef" portrays him to be.

10) Cured Niragi, Beet Ceviche, Laura Chenel Goat Cheese, and Citrus Vinaigrette
11) Sunchoke-Dashi Soup, Uni Botarga, Baby Carrots, and Zucchini Blossoms

My absolute favorite dish of the night was this sandwich from Noble Pig. We'll definitely have to make another trip to Austin for it! What was slightly revolting was the amount of dirty plates and utensils people left on the cocktail tables when there were plenty of trash cans around. By the end of the night, there were no clean tables to eat on. 

12) Sweet Italian Sausage Sandwich, Roasted Red Onions, Roasted Tomatoes, Provolone, Basil Pesto Aioli, and JalapeƱo Slaw

You can find better pictures of the dishes here. The lighting was terrible so all of my shots are a little blurry.

Overall, we really enjoyed most of the plates and had a wonderful experience. Many of the items were so delicious that we would shout to each other, "Are you kidding me?! What is this?!"Our only major disappointment was that Aaron Franklin never showed up so we will have to wait some more time to taste his barbecue again. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

On Why We Can No Longer Eat Just Any BBQ

The Hubby and I would be pretty stupid if we didn't take advantage of the great barbecue in the area. Bon Appetit Magazine named Franklin BBQ in Austin as the best in the nation. I read somewhere that they cook up 500 lbs. of meat daily and always sell out. People line up for hours for said BBQ. There's no way meat can be so tasty, is there?

We made the one hour drive to Franklin on a rainy Friday morning, thinking that we might be lucky with short lines. Surely, no one else would be crazy enough to wait in the rain on a workday. We were mistaken. The Hubby and I arrived at 1000, an hour before opening, and found ourselves waiting with at least thirty other hungry parties before us.

At about 1030, an employee went through the line with her clipboard to mark down how many pounds of meat the customers were planning on ordering. This was done to gauge when they were going to sell out of BBQ so that the could start sending people home. We made the cut and rejoiced.

We finally made it to Franklin himself at about 1130. He took our order and quickly cut up our gigantic order while making friendly conversation with us. Franklin threw us a sample of his brisket and as soon as it touched our lips we knew the one hour drive and one and a half hour wait was well worth it.

The Hubby ordered one pound of lean brisket, one pound of fatty brisket, two sausage links and two pounds of ribs for the two of us. I told him he was insane, but I definitely didn't complain when for the next two days he served me some delicious brisket omelets for breakfast. 

I've mentioned before how much we love Rudy's BBQ. However, now that we've tasted Franklin's, we will never be able to enjoy Rudy's ever again. Such a shame!

If any of our family members decide to visit us again, we are definitely making a trip to Austin for the best barbecue in the nation.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tootie Ta

If you can listen through this entire song then you're pretty amazing.
Now do it a dozen times and that's basically what my day was like today.
But with lots of screaming.
And two Advils. 
Elementary school P.E. is no joke, folks.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Armed and Dangerous

The Hubby didn't feel safe in the home without some sort of weapon.
That's what the Army does to you.
A knife wasn't enough.
The giant wooden stick I grabbed from the closet was definitely not enough.
So he bought a gun.
I'm scared of guns. 
When we lived in Georgia we had a roommate who left guns on the coffee table.
I do not like guns.

Fast forward to this past weekend.
The Hubby took me to a shooting range.
He showed me exactly what I had to do.
I fired my first bullet. 
I screamed.
I threw the gun back on the table.
I tried again.
And it was awesome.

A friend told me that she thought the video would be of me freaking out.
The Hubby thought I would freak out, too.
But, no. 
I rocked it. 
For my first time, anyway.

Can we please go again?

A Quick Thank You

I believe in making others feel appreciated and I do so by simply saying it, through hand written cards, or  by giving little gifts. The Hubby was being chauffeured by a coworker every time I had work when we were a one car household. I felt terrible for inconveniencing someone this way so I asked The Hubby to bring his friend some cookies. Of course, I'm not the type of person to just throw some cookies in a Ziploc bag and call it a day.

I whipped up some simple chocolate chip cookies and fit them in an empty powdered lemonade mix container. I covered up the container with some card stock. I then stamped another piece of paper with the words "thank you." Next, I trimmed the edges with my Martha Stewart edge punch from our wedding and then attached it with coordinating tape. 

I knew I kept those containers around for a good reason!

My go-to cookie recipes:

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

On Repeat: Free

The Hubby and I were on the way home yesterday from Austin (on a school night!!) and heard this song on the radio. I Shazam-ed it immediately.


I promise to post more this week. I may or may not have a video of me shooting a gun.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mutual Reaction

Sometimes we catch Bella watching the television for long periods of time. The Hubby and Bella were watching MTV Cribs: Priciest Pads and were mutually disgusted when they heard just how much Richard Branson's private island was worth. Or perhaps Bella was just upset that she doesn't have a private island of her own.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Love for the First Lady

I'm loving the First Lady's Let's Move Initiative. I'm especially loving the way she is publicizing it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Making Room

Bella couldn't find extra space on the couch for herself so she made some on my stomach. 
This 60+ lb. dog thinks she's a lap dog.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Bella. In a Boat!

After the farmers market last Saturday, we decided to take Bella canoeing at Zilker Park. I've been wanting to go with The Hubby after the fabulous time I had with my sister when we went last March. Zilker Park Boat Rentals rents out boats and canoes for $10 an hour and is also very dog friendly.

The Hubby and I were really concerned about how well Bella would do on a boat, especially with her distaste for water, despite being a labrador retriever. She also doesn't have the best track record when it comes to ducks in the water. At first, The Hubby carried her onto the boat and she immediately hopped out. We tried again, but first I had to get in the boat myself so that I could hold her in place.

Within the first five minutes, Bella attempted to jump ship and leave her crew behind. She had her two front paws in the water before I had the chance to turn around and grab onto her. The boat rocked precariously until we finally got her settled down and sitting. The Hubby ended up doing all of the rowing while I had my hand on Bella's collar the entire twenty-five minutes of our boat ride.

At one point, a strong wind blew us to the shoreline and a giant tree branch would have gouged out my eyes had I not pulled a Matrix move. My screaming, "What the hell?!" startled Bella and she stood up to sniff me, which rocked the boat once again.

I'm realizing now that I should have recorded video of some of our boat ride, but I was too preoccupied with not tumbling into the dirty and cold water.

The three of us all had nice baths and showers when we returned home. No more boat rides for you, baby girl. We promise to leave you at home next time.

Dog Approved

I'm loving these dog/car commercials. The Hubby loves the Subaru commercials so much that we are thinking about test driving one and calling it our Bellamobile.

On Repeat: You Make My Dreams Come True

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Overheard in the Office

The Hubby came home extremely late on Monday evening from work. After a 14-hour work day, he was finally allowed to leave the office. I went to bring him lunch the next day and I heard one of his buddies saying the following to him:

Buddy: Hey, man. Let me run to the ATM and grab some cash to pay you back from going out to the club last night. 
The Hubby: Oh, shut up. Who put you up to this?

It's a good thing The Hubby and I have a trusting relationship. I can see a joke like that turning into a disaster with some other couples. Besides, if he had gone to a bar he would have returned smelling like cigarettes like I did.

Saturday Mornings

We love the Downtown Austin Farmers Market. In the middle of the city is a green park with vendors set up to sell fresh produce and tasty food items, all focusing on sustainable food. We adore the Farmers Market so much that we have made the hour trip two Saturday mornings in a row. 

This past Saturday, we brought Bella along. We decided to take her for a walk by the lake beforehand in hopes of releasing some extra energy so that we could eat peacefully. Although it was a tad chilly, it was a beautiful day for a stroll. The three of us stumbled upon an off-leash zone by the water where we were surrounded by dozens of happy pups. It made us wish we lived in Austin.

Instead of buying kale or fresh honey, we ate lots of yummy food.

1. The Gardener's Feast's organic and lard free pork pastor tamale. So delicious that I had it both times. ($2.50)
2. Blackberry almond shortbread bars from Cake and Spoon, our favorite vendor. ($3.50)
3. Happy Vegan Baker's oatmeal "sammiches" for The Hubby. ($3?)
4. Wood fire oven cooked Godfather pizza by Bola Pizza with smoked mozzarella, fennel sausage, caramelized onions and tomato sauce ($12)
5. The most amazing apple walnut cake by Cake and Spoon. As I was buckling up in the car, I heard The Hubby chortling. I turned over and saw him nibbling at the cake with his mouth with one hand holding the cake and the other holding his cup of coffee. The cake is so good that you don't want to wait for a fork. ($6, worth every penny)
6. Dai Due's biscuit, breakfast sausage and gravy. Smelled great, but we weren't huge fans. ($7)
7. Another hit from Cake and Spoon--chocolate hazelnut tart. ($5)
8. Vendors' tents at Republic Square Park.

I especially love the multiple Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and Compost) centers they have around the park. Bella couldn't care less though. She just wanted a taste of some gravy.