Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Easy Pear Crisp - New Fall Treats

I'm about to blow your mind and burst the "pumpkin-everything" bubble right about now.  Is anyone else sick of pumpkin?  I love me some pumpkin desserts, but aren't we ready for something new? 

Fall does not equal pumpkin everything.  Have you considered...PEARS?!  Like, pears with deliciousness filled in, and then baked?  Thus, making a new fall treat that takes only minutes to prepare and a few more to finalize.

You're on board, right?

Here we go!

I found this guest post on the Whipperberry blog I came across one day.  Mike had randomly bought two pears shortly before this, so I decided to surprise him with a gourmet dessert at home one night.


2 ripe pears
3 tbsp. oats
3 tbsp. honey - I used half honey/half agave
3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter
¼ tsp cinnamon - If you know me, you know I always add extra!


1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. Cut pears in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the core.
3. Place foil in small baking dish and brush with butter/oil. Place the pears cut side down in the dish and bake for 15 minutes to soften.
4. While the pears are baking, combine oatmeal, honey, butter, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
5. Remove warm pears from oven and turn over.  Divide the mix into the four hollows of the pears.
6. Place the pears back in the oven and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until the crumble is browned and the pear cuts easily with a fork.
7. Top with your choice of whipping cream, vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt.  We opted for a bit of almond milk to add some juiciness to our treat. 

This little treat is so quick and easy!  And my personal doesn't make a lot of dirty dishes.  We each had a whole pear for dessert and it wasn't horribly sweet or too filling.  One nice thing is that you can easily scale up this dessert for many people, and it still won't take long or create a big mess.  You can also add a few things to your mix like nuts, berries, chia or flax seeds, etc. 

I hope you enjoy this new fall treat!  Move over pumpkin... Pear treats, coming through!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Easy Fall Pumpkins - No Gooey Guts!

I'm sick of carving pumpkins.  It's super fun, and we usually do it.  But I get all itchy and it's a mess and it's frustrating even when you use a stencil.  OVER IT.  We visited a pumpkin patch at a neat vintage place called Revival Texas two weekends ago.  We didn't find any pumpkins that really tickled our fancies, and we had a feeling they were ridiculously priced.  I did find I am particularly fond of the flat, red ones we've been seeing.  So we opted for the grocery store buy.  Mike came home with three little guys a few days later. 
After a couple days of them sitting in the car, they made their way inside.  And yesterday, I finally got them decked out and sitting on our front stoop.  You can also see the old box/shelf I rehabbed with some sanding, screws, and paint a few months ago.  Welcome to the front of the house, little box!
For my first pumpkin, I experimented with my first use of washi tape.  Hello Dollar Spot @ Target!  I'm telling you, hit up their fall dollar section!  I put six strips around the pumpkin, and then wrapped the stem with some thicker jute cord.  I think she looks pretty great!  And it took me less than two minutes. 
I also scored some glitter in the dollar section.  I decided I needed a sparkly pumpkin.  I got a thick paintbrush and my Modpodge for this pumpkin.  I first painted the top section and then quickly sprinkled with gold glitter through the shaker top of the container.  Then I slightly tilted the pumpkin and slowly rolled it while painting a second layer to sprinkle with silver glitter.  It doesn't look amazing, but Mike really liked it, and it will sparkle a bit when our light is on. 

The last one was the red flat one, which I wanted to leave alone because I liked it so much.  So there is our little front door vignette.  I'm trying to find a few things in the house that I wouldn't mind putting outside to fill the compartments.  It looks a little bit empty right now. 

Quick and easy pumpkins, with little mess!  Kids could easily help with these projects, as long as they don't have a taste for glitter.   Hah! 

Read about our very disappointing first Halloween in a house here.  I hope this year is more fulfilling!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review of: The Last American Man {Eustace Conway}

I have mentioned in the past about how much I like Elizabeth Gilbert's writing.  She wrote Eat, Pray, Love, for example.  I really enjoy her outlook on life and her sense of adventure.  I find she writes with her heart and I love to read about her experiences from that perspective. 

I also love the show Mountain Men on History.  I have had a major crush on Eustace for quite a while now. 

Um...How the heck do those two intersect? 

When reading her books, three so far, I've noticed in her credits that she wrote a book called The Last American Man, which happens to be written about Eustace.  Weird, right?  I had to have it.  So my hubby surprised me with the book after realizing I wasn't going to let up about it. 

I read through the book pretty quickly, fascinated by her own past and HER fascination with Eustace.  She tells biographical tales about Eustace growing up, involving conversations with his family, and time spent with Eustace over the years.  Their relationship of phone calls and letter writing over many years is quite interesting.

Eustace has always struggled with his relationships.  It started with his father, and eventually affected his relationships with women.  He is a passionate man in all aspects of his life, who finds it hard to have someone on the same level as him.  Someone who will see the need to build an entire dwelling in one day just because he feels it is necessary, oh and without really talking.  Everything he does is done quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.  There is no time for experiencing things, only accomplishing things. 

I don't know that Eustace is someone that can share his life.  When he was a teen, he threw himself in to learning primitive methods of living.  He lived in a teepee for many years.  He traveled abroad with no plans other than "where is the nearest village" to learn more about life.  He really is a one-of-a-kind character.  I find him to be very captivating, but I know if I were ever to meet him, my shiny bubble around him would be burst in an instant. 

There are lots of people out there, some that have even worked for him, that say he is a fraud.  That he doesn't live as primitively as is portrayed, and that he succumbs to the modern world like everyone else.  Well, DUH.  He lives in America.  As much as one tries, it is hard to really live "off the grid", especially when you have some amount of fame due to setting records, teaching many classes and having done speaking tours, and being on TV. 

No matter what anyone says, I'm going to keep Eustace in my shiny bubble. 

If you want to hear more about his childhood, his intense relationships with women, his ride across the country on horseback, how he procured his land, Turtle Island Preserve, and a bit more of the real Eustace, I definitely recommend reading this book.  Note that it was written in 2003, and I'm sure many things have changed in his life since then.  Being on TV, for instance.

If you don't have an interest in nature, people's relationships, or enjoy biographies, you can probably skip this one. 

Welp, there's a little something different for you for today.

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Texas State Fair Vacation

A few weekends ago, Mike, Lola and I ventured a bit north to Dallas to take in the Texas State Fair.  Everyone who happened to hear that we were going asked "Why?".  Apparently it's not that big of a deal around here...  But it is always ranked one of the best in the nation, usually within the Top 5.  Minnesota is ranked high as well, so we thought we better visit and see what the big deal was. 

We planned this over a month ago without knowing that the rival UT/OU game was happening the same weekend.  ON the fairgrounds.  Lovely!  Apparently, it is one of the worst weekends of traffic between Austin and Dallas and clogs up Dallas as a whole for the weekend. With that news, we were a bit discouraged, but decided to trudge through with good attitudes and take it all in. 

We took off on Friday around 4ish and took our time getting there.  We had a few hours that night to get cozy in our AirBnB room in a house that was over 100 years old.  We got the master bedroom which had a teensy-but-functional bathroom and a sunroom as well.  We were greeted by an overweight Chihuahua and freshly made cookies (the hosts used to own a restaurant). 

Although we didn't sleep the greatest Friday night, we got up early and headed to the fair!  We wanted to enjoy the morning before the football game ended and all of those attendees flooded the fairgrounds.  We easily took a little shuttle from our car to the gate, paid the $17 entry fee, and got our coupons for buying food and drinks.  Mike used the men's room quickly before we got started, and when he came back, said "You better come over here".  

It was the GOAT BARN!  What an excellent first stop, right?  Although we were starving already, we just had to explore their pens and make a few friends. 

Now THAT'S a good husband:  wife's glee > food.  After a quick breakfast biscuit, I was mesmerized at the kiddie barn area with bunnies, guinea pigs, and chicks and ducklings.  I am such a five-year-old when it comes to animals.  Eventually, Mike went all adult on me and said we should move on.  Shortly after that, we devoured the most delicious black forest ham sandwich.  It sounds sooo simple, but believe me, it was amazing! 

Even though it was before noon, we couldn't pass up one of the year's specialties when we found it.  Deep Fried Sweet Texas = peach, pecan, and buttermilk pie, deep fried, and served with Blue Bell ice cream.  YUM!  Mike isn't even a huge sweets fan and he loved it.  So crispy and warm and delicious!

From there, we wandered buildings and couldn't quite figure out what we were missing.  Looking at the map, we found we had almost covered the entire fair and hadn't yet been blown away.  After the Longhorns lost, we were only blown away by the amount of people leaving the stadium, quickly clogging up walkways and crowding the Fletcher's Corny Dog stands.  {Apparently, these are famous.  I wasn't too impressed, but Mike insisted it was the best he's had.}  My point being that the fair wasn't as fantastic as it seemed to be portrayed. 

Since we arrived there early, we only had to kill the last of our tickets with fried cheesecake and the funnel cake ale beer before we headed out.  That left our evening open (unexpected), so we relaxed at home a bit before heading a half mile away to the Bishop Arts District.  We got our name on the list at Eno's Pizza and wandered the cute shops in the area until we received a text message for our table {GENIUS!!}.  The inside is adorable with moody lighting, and we were tucked back in a corner at a cute two person table.  I never get sick of dating my husband. 

We started with amazing salads and shared a pizza with the thinnest crust ever, yummy!  I also tried their craft tangerine-blackberry vodka with club soda and a shot of syrup.  I would definitely recommend this joint for a date!

At home, we streamed a bit of the ACL Festival and snuggled in for a much better night of sleep than the first one.  I think all the walking and food tuckered us out!  I'll take it. 

Sunday morning, we enjoyed coffee in our sunroom, showers in the half-sized shower, and headed out to a coffee joint we found online.  I would definitely recommend our destination, Opening Bell Coffee, for a breakfast date or to enjoy their open mic nights.  We got there at a funky time, around 10:30, so the place was pretty much dead.  We got a plethora of things:  a smoothie, Ethiopian coffee, breakfast burrito, bagel, and the most ridiculously amazing quiche we've ever had.  It was about $18 and everything was divine! 

After that little perk, we waited in line for 30 minutes to get tickets for The Sixth Floor Museum.  This is the JFK museum that resides in the same building he was shot from.  It was a lot of reading and listening (you get free audio guides), but it was really neat to be in the space.  It was something different than we normally do, which is what we were going for. 

After that, we were hungry again and decided to catch lunch before we headed back to pick up Lola and head out of town.  We decided on another place near our house in the Bishop Arts District called 303 Grill.  We just made the brunch menu (it goes until 3:00) and indulged on biscuits and gravy and corned beef hash.  They were both fantastic.  I would recommend their brunch.  The food was great and they were serving huge drinks for cheap!  A hurricane glass of mimosa was only $2.95!  Had I not been sugared out from the fair, I definitely would have gone for their pancakes or French toast.  Weaknesses...

After lunch, we loaded up our little bunny rabbit and set off toward home.  After Waco, traffic got a little crazy with construction, so we ventured off the interstate and back-roaded through some smaller towns.  It was a fun little adventure that involved seeing lots of donkeys and miniature donkeys, LOVE!  Mark my words, I will have one.

We were happy to be home and Lola was happy to run that evening.  For some reason, that little adventure really drained us, and I think we'll be sticking close to home for a while now.  Although the fair was a bit of a let down (MN is definitely better!), we had great attitudes for the whole weekend (even through traffic) and it led so us having a great time enjoying being with each other.

THAT is my takeaway.  No matter what you're doing, if you're doing it with someone you love, ENJOY IT!!  I honestly still feel like I'm honeymooning with my husband.  I absolutely love doing things with him and making memories.  Yes, some nights at home are all the same, but it's part of the package.  I just LOVE being happy and married to the best guy!

Meeting Big Tex!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Things That Suck About Living in Austin, Texas

When you first move somewhere, everything is new and exciting.  Everything is shiny.  Everything is BETTER.  If you've ever traveled to, or lived in Europe, you will basically have that feeling about everything when you return to the U.S.  But we're not talking about that right now...we're talking about Texas.  Austin, Texas.  The "Live Music Capital of the World". 

We moved here almost eight months ago now.  Things are definitely still exciting.  One nice (and sometimes overwhelming thing) about Austin is that there is SO MUCH to do.  There is music everywhere.  Farmer's and flea markets almost daily (which I love).  The restaurant and food truck scene is huge.  It is warm.  There is tons of green space with lots of trails for hiking and biking.  There are a few other major cities within three hours.  There are outlet malls and In-N-Out Burger. 

Everything to keep you happy, right?

I love it here, and it's definitely still exciting, but it's only fair to share the not-so-shiny things as well. 

So, here we go...  The things that suck about living in Austin.
  • TRAFFIC.  First and foremost.  Austin is in the top ten in the nation for the worst traffic.  Top five, actually, right up there with LA and New York.  THAT IS RIDICULOUS.  It's basically rush hour all the time, the stoplights are excessively long, and you have to add about 10-15 minutes to what Google Maps tells you for anywhere you go.  And this is just on a normal day, when there is not HUGE events like SXSW, Formula 1 Racing, or ACL Festival going on.  It sucks.  Pretty much all the time.
  • School Zones.  Dreaded devils.  They have school zones EVERYWHERE here.  They are 20 miles per hour and usually are right before a stoplight, which backs up traffic  Not to mention some of them start at like 7:00 am!  Pretty sure that's unnecessary...  And some of the schools are tiny and there are clearly no kids walking there.  If you can't teach them to use the crosswalks, then you should probably be escorting them to school. 
  • There are no professional sports teams.  Since Texas has so many metro areas, the pro teams reside in other cities, which means you really have to make a mini-vacay out of it to go see some professional basketball, football, etc. 
  • There are a ton of people wanting to do the same fun things as you.  Since there are so many people moving here (anywhere from 60-110 per day), Austin is "shiny" for most people who are out and about.  You can find some obscure little event to go to, and end up waiting in line for an hour to hit the doors. 
  • The craft beer scene is sub-par.  Coming from Minneapolis, where the taproom scene is completely blowing up (for a few years now), the few breweries here who do have an open taproom have funky hours, and annoying rules for how they can sell their beer.  We still indulge, but it's not the same feel as easily traveling around Northeast Minneapolis and hitting up five taprooms along the way. 
  • It's hot, a lot.  We have been lucky with a super mild summer since we moved here.  Yes, it was very nice coming in February to 70s and lots of sunshine.  But right now, I'm ready for 70s once again.  When it is so hot that you sweat from breathing, you get cooped up inside with the AC blasting.  Which leads to ridiculous bills, and drying skin and hair.  Ick.
  • Burn Bans.  Since it is hot as heck most of the time, and it pretty much never rains, there is almost always a burn ban.  The rules are different everywhere, but sometimes you can't even use the grills in public parks.  And there's surely no bonfires the size that I'm used to.  I miss my bonfires. 
  • Fall isn't the same.  Fall is my favorite season.  And I'm getting really jealous of everyone's pretty tree pictures while wearing scarves and boots.  It's been in the low 90s for the past few days.  The leaves on the trees just turn brown and crunchy.  And the crisp smell of fall that I love is currently laden with humidity.  Enjoy your fall for me, friends!
  • Everyone has a dog, or three.  The dog culture here is huge.  Everyone has a dog.  You can bring them in to a lot of bars and restaurants and events.  I love animals!  The problem with everyone having a dog is that it means that stupid people have dogs, too.  Stupid people who don't train or control their dogs.  Who let them bark at four in the morning.  Who let them jump on little kids at the park.  I am a huge animal lover and love that I can get my puppy fix anywhere, but when I have to listen to the idiot doxie next door bark when I turn on the bathroom light, I'm ready to sacrifice that thing to the weiner-dog-gods. 
  • Creepy Crawly Critters.  Winter is good for one thing, killing bugs!  There are so many freaking bugs here.  And they have scorpions and snakes and cockroaches.  No one should have to deal with that.  EW. 
  • Austin is too cool.  Austin is quickly becoming one of those places that is "too cool for itself".  I love the variety of fun things to do here, but people, don't take yourselves so seriously.  Let's all just have a good time!
  • ALLERGIES.  I have never had allergies in my life.  Mike has never been bothered either.  After less than a year here, we both have allergies.  Austin is in sort of a "bowl" and it is known as a haven for all-things-bad-allergies.  It is very common to never have experience allergies before, and suffer from severe allergies here.  Mike was recently tested, and the nurse said she felt sorry for him.  He's pretty much allergic to everything in the air and on the ground here.  LOVELY.  I almost never wear contacts anymore because my eyes are so itchy.  Yuck!
Austin is a great place to live.  There is so much to do and the people are freakishly nice.  I don't know that we would fit in any other metro in Texas.  I love that we can grab amazing tacos at pretty much any time and that you always have a cute place to grab coffee and a pastry.  We are having a great time here!  I just had to give a real look at what life is like in Austin.  If you have questions about Austin, feel free to ask!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Our Dirty Little WINE Secret

Remember back in college when you had that one friend who insisted on drinking boxed wine?  And more often than not, they didn't even drink it out of a glass, but rather, drank it straight from the spout.  Which usually led to a few shirts or shoes being stained by a dark red wine.  Those were the days, right? 

Not really. 

Most people have an aversion toward boxed wine because of the aforementioned story. 

BUT, I'm here to tell you a dirty little secret...


How many times do you open a bottle of wine, have a glass or two, recork/reseal the bottle, stick it in the fridge, and forget about it?  Or do so twice...and still don't finish the bottle.  And then you end up dumping dollar signs down the drain.  Unless you're drinking Two Buck Chuck, then it's more like dimes down the drain.  BUT STILL!  How depressing is it that you're dumping alcohol AND money down the drain?!

Nobody wants that.

After our move, Mike got sick of it and started researching boxed wines.  Generally, a box contains four bottles of wine, which is three liters.  We have been spending under $30 per box.  And you can drink it for up to four weeks.  That's a MONTH OF WINE, people.  With none of it going to waste.  It is also more portable and travel worthy, as lots of outdoor events/parks/lakes do not allow glass.  And speaking of glass, the boxed wine packaging is much more environmentally friendly.

Are you seeing downside yet?  We haven't found one. 

We can grab any size glass of wine we like, at any time.  Mike can measure perfect amounts for cooking, and not have to worry about the rest of the bottle going to waste.  Plus, it makes me feel pretty cool to have "wine on tap" at my own house.  Pretty fancy! 

If you're still not convinced, REST ASSURED that we have thoroughly enjoyed the taste of the four boxes we have bought so far.  I can't remember the exact variety of each brand that we have bought, but we would recommend Black Box, Big House, and Bota Box

Or do a quick Google Search of the "best boxed wines". 

Many brands also offer a smaller box, which would be equivalent to three to four GLASSES of wine, rather than bottles.  Again, that would be perfect for a BYOB event, events where glass is not allowed, or just a simple way to keep track of how many glasses you consume!

Friends, I'm telling you.  Boxed wine is the way to go.  We have been extremely pleased with the taste and even more pleased with the amount of money we have saved. 

Take the plunge and let me know what you think!!!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Fall Couples Photos - Minnesota Photography

Since moving to Austin, most of our pictures contain us from the chest up - with different backgrounds.  Mike gets a little annoyed sometimes...but I love to document what we're up to.  I take a lot of pictures.  I love having pictures of us and being able to look back on how we've changed.  I've always been pretty photogenic, and although Mike is a super-blinker, he's gotten used to being dragged in front of my changing lenses over the years.

During our visit to Minnesota, we carved out a quick hour for a photo shoot.  I wanted some great couples photos of us, because we haven't had any since our wedding.  I was never crazy about our engagement pictures, so I wanted some of us just having a good time.  Since our engagement pictures were in the city, so we opted to do these pictures out in the country {where we're finding that our hearts are being pulled}.

I was lucky enough to book Jessica as our photographer on short notice.  She is the owner of Jaylee Design and Photo.  She was nice enough to take an hour with us on a Sunday and put together a great shoot.  She was SO EASY to work with and made the time go quickly.  Mike didn't grumble too much, and we were so excited to see our photos when we got back to Austin.

Jessica worked super quickly on editing our photos and we were so pleased with the results.  She made us look dang good!  Her prices were extremely accessible, and her attitude made the shoot fabulous.  Unlike many photographers, she edits a lot of your photos and provides you with a release for all of your photos as well!

I would definitely recommend using Jaylee Design and Photo for your next desired shoot.  I can tell she would be great with kids and definitely made us feel at ease.  I can't wait to use her for our next notable event :)

Here are some of our photos!

Forgive the squinty eyes...since our schedule was so crammed, we had to do our shoot with the sun higher than is preferred.  We still love them!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How to Be a Great Houseguest

Isn't it awesome when you travel somewhere and get to save a nice hundred bucks or more by staying with family or friends?  It's always nice to sleep in a comfy bed, have some space to roam, and of course, catch up with your hosts during your visit.  Plus, you don't have to breathe that stuffy hotel air or listen to the elevator ding.  Unless their place has an that case, stay friends with them, because that is awesome

But, if you've ever had anyone stay with you, you know that having people in your space, using your things can become frustrating pretty quickly.  I have to disclose that I am an extremely anal person and really like things in their rightful place, thus having people touch my things can be a teeth-grinding experience.  I love having people stay with us, but sometimes I am appalled by people's bad manners. 

Therefore, I wanted to write up a few little tips - so that you get invited back again, or will be granted another stay.  Unless I'm at my parent's house (sorry, Mom), I try to be on my best behavior.  Pretend that you are staying in your fancy aunt's house.  Use your manners.  Make your bed, bus your dishes, take a shorter shower. 

These tips apply for one night stays as well as vacation visits.

Before You Arrive:
  • Make sure your host knows of anything you will need while you're there.  For instance, if I travel carry-on only, I often need to get some sort of  hair product when I arrive, or borrow toothpaste.  Make sure they know about any extra trips they will have to make to get supplies.
  • Plan a time for arrival.  Depending on the time of day you arrive, your host might have to adjust their schedule to pick you up, let you in, etc.  They will want to know what they can accomplish in their day before you arrive. 
  • Make your food/diet preferences known.  Being in Austin, we like a lot of barbecue, tacos, and fresh meat.  If you're a vegetarian, we'll need to adjust our meals and restaurant stops!
  • If you're on a touristy visit, let your hosts know one special thing you'd like to check out.  Not everyone has the same interests, and it will make it a little bit easier to start planning outings.
During Your Stay:
  • Keep your things contained.  If you are lucky enough to have a room to yourself, keep your belongings corralled in that space.  Try not to leave your personal items around the house.
  • Offer to help.  Whether it be clearing the table or taking out the trash.  Asking to help is always appreciated, even if it is not taken advantage of.  You can always offer to make dinner or pay for a dinner out as well.
  • Make your bed.  Even if you never make your bed at home, make your bed in the mornings for the duration of your stay.
  • CUPS!  This is a personal pet peeve, but I have to include it.  Please do not use six cups every day during your stay.  One can only own and wash so many drinking vessels in one day. 
  • Control your noise level.  One of more of the people staying or living in the house may be on a different schedule than you are.  Be courteous of your voice late at night and early in the morning.
  • Curb your vices.  If you smoke, chew, or drink excessively and the hosts do not, be aware of where and how often you are participating.  No one likes a houseguest that is going outside to smoke every 30 minutes.
  • Put down the toilet seat.  If you don't, start.  Be a real man.
  • Watch your feet.  Some people have different rules about shoes in the house.  Make sure you ask.  And for the love of Pete, DO NOT PUT YOUR FEET ON THE COFFEE TABLE!
  • Be clean.  Even if you are a total slob at home.  No one wants to clean up after someone else unless they are married to them or wiped their bum at some point.  Don't spill, use a napkin, leave your dirty undies tucked away, and don't leave your toothpaste scum on the mirror. 
  • Say Thank You.  Be sure to express your thanks to your host.  Some suggest bringing a hostess gift.  Lots of smiles and hugs suffice for me!
I hope this gives you a little insight into both sides of hosting and being a houseguest.  Some of the things listed above are personal pet peeves and some of them can apply to everyone.  Take these in to account on your next visit.  Always be extra warm toward your host, you want to be invited back!