December 31, 2012

Easy Chocolate Covered Pretzels

I hope y'all had a wonderful Christmas last week and are gearing up for New Year's Eve tonight! We had a wonderful time with family and friends, and we even had a white (day after) Christmas. I've had a white Valentines and a white Easter so I was excited to have an almost white Christmas in Tennessee. While we were visiting Lars's parents he came across some chocolate covered pretzels that he just couldn't get enough of so I decided to make some of our own when we got home. It is amazing how delicious these are when you look at how little effort they take!

I made two different types - some are covered in Andes mint chips and the others are simply white chocolate. I found the Andes mint chips in the grocery store with the regular chocolate chips and decided to give them a try, and I have to say, I was not disappointed.  I only used half of a one pound bag of pretzels, and it made enough that the two of us will be eating on them for days.

Chocolate Covered Pretzels

1/2 of a one pound bag of your favorite pretzels (brand and shape)
1/2 cup Andes mint chips (or regular chocolate chips)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
smidge of shortening
1. Arrange pretzels on wax paper-lined baking sheets
2. Melt Andes mint chips in microwave on 50% power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring between each interval.
3. Drizzle chocolate on pretzels with spoon.
4. Melt white chocolate chips in microwave (the same way as the Andes mint chips) with a smidge of shortening.
5. Drizzle white chocolate on remaining pretzels with spoon.*
6. Allow chocolate to harden before storing in airtight container. (If they make it long enough to be put in a container!) Enjoy!

*I had a bit of trouble with drizzling my white chocolate with a spoon. Instead I put the melted chocolate in a plastic baggie, snipped off the corner, and "piped" the white chocolate on the pretzels. Also, if you want to use the whole bag of pretzels just double the amount of Andes mint chips and white chocolate chips that you melt.

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I hope you and your family have a wonderful and safe Christmas! We're headed to Tennessee to see family, and I'll be back on the 31st so make sure to come by and visit!

December 24, 2012

An Elf-Inspired Outfit

One of my favorite Christmas movies is Elf, and I love this Elf-inspired outfit that gets you in the holiday spirit!
Elf Inspired

December 21, 2012

Christmas Luxe

I love the thought of getting all dressed up for Christmas parties or even just a family gathering. I imagine that the outfit below would be the perfect low-key (but definitely luxurious) Christmas brunch hostess outfit. Simple, but elegant.

Christmas Luxe

December 20, 2012

Southwestern Egg Rolls

One of my favorite things to get at Chili's are their southwestern egg rolls, and I have finally found a recipe that tastes like those but are baked and don't have 3000mg of sodium in them! :)  I ran across the recipe on Pinterest and decided to give it a go. Typically what I attempt to make from Pinterest never turns out as planned, but these were great and super easy to make. Although my presentation is a bit lacking, you can still tell they look (and are!) delicious.

Southwestern Egg Rolls with Avocado Ranch
Makes ~20 rolls
Recipe adapted from here  

1 15 oz can corn, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz canned black beans, rinsed well and drained
1 10 oz block frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 green onions, chopped small
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
1 4 oz can diced green chiles (mild or hot depending on your preferences)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 garlic powder
1 package egg roll wrappers

1/2 cup ranch dressing (homemade or favorite store bought variety)
1/2 medium avocado
1 Tbsp cilantro, minced
1 tsp lime zest
1. Preheat oven to 400º. Line baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
2. Thaw spinach per package directions and drain or squeeze dry with paper towels.
3. Combine all ingredients (corn down to salt) in a large mixing bowl. Stir well.
4. Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop mixture onto egg roll wrappers.
5. Wrap according to package directions.
6. Place in pan and brush tops of egg rolls with olive oil.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes carefully turning once.
8. Make avocado ranch while the egg rolls are baking.
      -Combine the four ingredients in a mini food processor or a blender. Blend. Place in serving dish.
9. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes.
10. Cut in half if desired, serve with avocado ranch, and enjoy!

** A couple notes: I was making these for just Lars and I so I cooked only half of them for dinner and lunch the next day. I froze the rest on a wax paper-lined baking sheet then transferred them into a freezer bag for a quick dinner or lunch later on. It works beautifully. If you don't have chili powder just use extra cayenne pepper or substitute in some smoked paprika. Additionally, if you are planning on serving all of the egg rolls at once, say at a party, double (if not triple) the ranch recipe. People love dips - it's always better to have more than not enough. Enjoy!

December 19, 2012

Easy DIY Christmas Ornaments

It was a tradition in my family growing up that each year the four of us would get a coordinating (or sometimes matching) set of ornaments to add to our tree. It's still fun to look at what we have and reminisce about where we got them, or in the case of childhood ornaments, when we made them. When Lars and I got married I wanted to start the same tradition in our family of two. We even have ornaments for the Christmases when we were dating, except for that one year in college where I didn't have room for a tree so I just drew one on a whiteboard...  :)

This year though, I couldn't find any ornaments that I really loved, plus we had forgotten to pick some up on our San Francisco trip this summer. (Trips are great places to pick up ornaments.) I couldn't stand the thought of having a year without its own ornaments so I decided to make some. My first attempt flopped, or maybe I should just say that it needs a bit of practice. Instead, I went by JoAnn today where they had all Christmas stuff 70% off and bought clear ornaments. I had purchased a tub of sequins there last week so I decided just to stuff sequins in the clear ornaments and hope for the best. What do you think?

They look quite good in the tree with the lights bouncing off of the sequins, and surprisingly enough, Lars likes them too! After writing "2012" on the bottoms of each I hung them in the tree (with paperclips - we're all out of typical ornament hangers). I love that for years to come I'll be able to look at my sequined ornaments and remember our 2012 Christmas together.

December 18, 2012

Emerald - The Pantone Color of 2013

I have to say, when Pantone declared emerald as the color of 2013 I was a little relieved. Simply because last year's color, tangerine, is not a color I can readily wear. Emerald, however, I can work with. What do you think? Is it a color for you?

Pantone 2013 - Emerald

December 17, 2012

Loft Bedrooms

As an avid reader there is something that always draws me to cozy bedrooms. Bedrooms that invite you to snuggle up with a blanket, a cup of tea, and a good book.

                                               Contemporary Bedroom design by Burlington Architect Birdseye Design

                                   Traditional Bedroom design by Boston Interior Designer Schranghamer Design Group

The top one is definitely my favorite!

December 16, 2012

Not Your Grandma's Prefab Home

Have y'all been seeing the prefab homes that have been popping up on design sites lately? They are definitely not what they used to be, and they definitely don't conjure up images of trailer parks anymore. Check out some of the amazing designs of these homes and offices and their unbelievable interiors. Yes - they really all are prefab homes!

                                                                                      Modern Exterior design

                                        Contemporary Exterior design by Other Metro Architect Stillwater Dwellings

                                      Modern Exterior design by Vancouver Architect PLACE, hl johnston architect ltd

                                        Modern Kitchen design by Vancouver Architect PLACE, hl johnston architect ltd

                                               Modern Kitchen design by New York Architect Resolution: 4 Architecture

                                                      Modern Garage And Shed design by Austin Design-build Sett Studio

                                                   Contemporary Prefab Studios design by Other Metro Decorated Shed

December 9, 2012

Rent the Runway

If you haven't heard of Rent the Runway, and you love (but usually can't afford) designer dresses you're in for a treat. I hadn't taken the time to check out Rent the Runway, but I recently received a coupon in my Birchbox. Um... how have I not taken advantage of this site before?! You can rent designer dresses and accessories for a fraction of their retail value, look fabulous at your event, and return the dress a few days later! My brother-in-law is getting married in January, and now all I have to do is choose which dress I'll rent and wear! My top two choices:

December 5, 2012

An Outdoor Christmas Party

Depending on where you live the words "outdoor" and "Christmas" don't always go hand in hand. I'm in Austin though, and today, 20 days from Christmas, it's supposed to be 75º so an outdoor Christmas party is right up my alley. I think this beautiful rustic Christmas table setting would make a family or friends get together feel Christmasy even if it doesn't feel like Christmas outside.

                               Traditional Dining Room design by Kansas City Media And Blogs Michelle Edwards

                                 Traditional Dining Room design by Kansas City Media And Blogs Michelle Edwards

                                Traditional Dining Room design by Kansas City Media And Blogs Michelle Edwards

                                Traditional Dining Room design by Kansas City Media And Blogs Michelle Edwards

                                    Traditional Dining Room design by Kansas City Media And Blogs Michelle Edwards

December 3, 2012

A Charlie Brown Tree

We don't have a good corner in this year's apartment for a large Christmas tree like I love so we opted instead to go for a Charlie Brown tree. Yes it's sitting on a TV tray, and yes, I did insist on still covering said TV tray with the tree skirt. :)  It wouldn't be a proper Christmas tree without it! Since there's no room around the tree, we're putting all of the presents at the base (aka: on the floor). It works, and it's surprisingly cheery. Lars even said that despite the fact that it was 82º today, it still felt like Christmas in our house. :)

November 29, 2012

Les Misérables

I don't know about you, but I am so looking forward to seeing Les Misérables when it comes to theaters next month. I have never read the book, seen the play or any other film adaptation of it, but like most people I have heard numerous songs from the play. The artistry of the film is amazing - the actors are singing their songs as it is being filmed. Typically, actors record their tracks in a studio and then lip sync to the songs as they act out their scenes months later. Watch this behind the scenes trailer and see for yourself - it's incredible.

November 19, 2012

Becoming a Nontraditional Medical Student - Part Three

To continue on from parts one and two, we had decided to go ahead and jump into applying to medical school, and I wanted to apply in the cycle for 2013 fall admissions. (Since I already had a biology degree I didn't have to take any pre-req courses which sped up my application process.) Applying for 2013 admissions meant I had to take the MCAT soon. And by soon I mean that I didn't have time to study for a year or so before the test - I had exactly four months. I had four months to reteach myself material that I had taken somewhere between four and seven years before that. Four months to learn the physics that I didn't learn while Milton was my professor.

Studying for the MCAT became my job, real estate became a part time gig, and fun, well, fun was mostly out of the picture. I'm a self-starter plus we didn't have the money to take a Kaplan class so I bought this book and started reading. Any book you buy will have good reviews and bad reviews, you'll learn from it and you'll find typos. I don't think I've ever come across a perfect study guide, but the Barron's book worked for me. If you have the cash to burn, I would totally recommend taking a class if for nothing else than teacher feedback and people interaction. I just became an MCAT recluse.  :)  I also bought every test the AAMC had available for me to use as practice.

Test day arrived, and I knew that I had done the best I could with the time I had. Could I have used an extra month to study? No doubt, but I didn't have that luxury. The test flew by - some parts I felt ok about, other parts I am still dumbfounded I was asked about. I finished up a bit earlier than expected because I had been seated early so I called Lars to come pick me up and started crying because I just knew I had failed and that I needed to reschedule another test. Needless to say, the next month was torture waiting for my scores, but I didn't fail (at least according to my own standards).

After my scores came back I began submitting my applications, and the real waiting began. Waiting to get interviews and then waiting to hear back after the interviews. Lars says this process is like being at Six Flags - a ton of waiting punctuated by small bursts of activity. So that leads us to where I am today - waiting, and I will remain waiting for the foreseeable future.

Stay tuned for some extra nontrad insights coming up next week after Thanksgiving!

Peplum and Prints

Don't you just love the purple peplum top and print of this skirt?!

November 16, 2012

Becoming a Nontraditional Medical Student - Part Two

To continue from part one, I was chugging along in real estate and doing pretty well when I began to feel, well, strange. I'm a "do everything to your best ability" kind of girl, yet I didn't want to put in the effort to get and maintain clients, and quite frankly, I didn't feel like doing anything at all. All I knew was that there was something wrong and I didn't feel like myself. Looking back on it, I should have gone and talked to someone. You live and you learn I guess.

As strange as it sounds, it look me a long time to figure out it was real estate that was the issue. I really like helping people buy and sell houses - it's fun, but I realized that I didn't feel the least but fulfilled by my job. I didn't feel as if I was truly making a difference in people's lives. Once I had put my finger on the cause of my emotional turmoil, the soul searching began. I think most of us never really sit down and think "what do I want out of this life?". I believe that each minute we're given is a gift, and if you have the ability to find and do what you really love then you have been blessed more than most.

It was emotionally wrenching to work through what I thought my life would be like and attempt to find where I wanted my life to go. I'd always had this vision of exactly how things would go in my life, when I would hit certain milestones, etc. For me personally, I think letting go of that vision was the most difficult of all. Once I did though, it was as if this giant burden had been lifted from my shoulders, and I was actually excited (if somewhat scared) about diving in to a future of unknowns.

After exploring other options and talking to Lars and my mom until I was blue in the face, I realized that I would love to be a physician, maybe even get into academic medicine and teach future physicians as well. Lars and I talked about this new idea for a while and decided to jump in full force and only then did it really hit me - holy crap, I have to take the MCAT... (to be continued)

November 14, 2012

A Batman-esque Garage

So Lars has this dream of having a garage just like the cave from Batman, and I think I've found something that might just fit the bill. (Although he's still going to have to find a way to work in a waterfall that hides the garage but doesn't gets his cars wet.)  :)

If you follow the jump you'll see that the car actually lowers into a wine cellar, and that the man who owns the garage even has a full bathroom fit with a urinal! The garage is outlandish for sure, but with cars like that who wouldn't want a fancy garage to match?

November 13, 2012

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Buttercream

I have this favorite cupcake shop here in Austin, and their November flavor of the month cupcake is one I look forward to all year. The one I ate Saturday night inspired me to try my hand at making sweet potato cupcakes for a girls dinner on Monday. I couldn't find a recipe that sounded good (or one that wasn't pumpkin) so I made one up and got the icing recipe from Martha Stewart here. The cupcakes are super easy to make, but this was my first time making buttercream and I had a bit of trouble. Although it turned out to be absolutely delicious, it looked like curdled vomit somewhere in the middle. Appetizing, I know.  :)  If you don't want such a heavy icing or don't have time to make it, a brown sugar glaze would be wonderful on these lightly sweetened cupcakes. Also, the cupcakes are great with no icing. Try eating one warm with just a smidge of butter - it's delicious! I've included some tips and tricks at the bottom of each recipe to help clear up any confusion you may run into. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Cupcakes
Makes 10-12 Cupcakes

1/2 cup mashed sweet potato*
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350º and place cupcake liners in muffin pan.
2. Combine all dry ingredients. (Flour, spices, baking soda and powder, and salt)
3. Combine butter and sugar with electric mixer.
4. Mix in sweet potato and vanilla.
5. Beat in eggs one at a time.
6. Mix dry ingredients into the potato mixture until combined.
7. Spoon mixture into liners until each is approximately 3/4 full.
8. Bake 20 minutes or until tops are brown and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
9. Cool completely before icing.

*I purchased a rather large sweet potato, peeled it, poked it with a fork, and cooked it on 3/4 power in the microwave for 10 minutes, turning it over after the first 5. The potato I bought yielded about 1.5 - 2 cups mashed. Also, it was piping hot and I didn't want to mess up the butter and eggs so I pulled out the 1/2 cup I needed and refrigerated it for a bit. In hindsight I would have bought a smaller potato and not wasted my time peeling it. Either way works though.

Brown Sugar Buttercream
Makes Approx. 2 Cups

2 egg whites
1/2 brown sugar, packed
pinch of salt, omit if using salted butter
3/4 cup butter (1.5 sticks), softened

1. Whisk eggs, sugar, and salt together in a heatproof bowl and set bowl on top of a simmering pot of water.*
2. Whisk continually until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.
3. Transfer mixture into a cool mixing bowl, and beat on medium-high until cool and fluffy, about 15 minutes.**
4. Begin to mix on high and beat until stiff peaks form. †
5. Reduce speed and add butter a few tablespoons at a time until it is incorporated. ‡
6. If needed, beat on medium-high until it actually looks like icing.

*Google "Double Broiler" if you've never seen this done.
**My mixture never got fluffy, just frothy.
† This step took the longest for me, but it did finally get there after 15-20 minutes.
‡ This is where my mixture started to look like, well, it looked nothing like icing. I decided to turn up the mixer speed, and it finally got to the point where it actually looked (and tasted!) like buttercream.

November 12, 2012

Becoming a Nontraditional Medical Student - Part One

Setting up my classroom, August 2009

I feel as if there are not many resources out there for nontraditional medical students, and when I did find one I didn't feel that it was very helpful to me. Being on this journey, pursuing entrance into medical school, is so much a part of my life right now that not writing about it would seem to be a huge oversight. I am by no means an expert on this topic. The way I figure it though, if I can help one person or ease one person's fears about switching gears then that's something. If you have absolutely no interest in the journey of a nontraditional med school hopeful then feel free to come back tomorrow and skip all future med school posts. I'm going to start at the very beginning and break this up into a few posts so it's not so overwhelming.

I went to college to be a high school biology teacher. It's what I always had wanted to be - I had science teachers that I loved who inspired me, and I wanted to do the same for future science students. I graduated college in 2008 with a bachelor of science degree in biology and my Texas teacher's certification in hand. I was hired by a Houston area school district and taught there for a year until Lars received a job offer and we moved to Austin. As I looked for a job in town I quickly realized that I wasn't going to find a job because Texas schools at that time were firing, not hiring, teachers. I needed to find something to do, and quick.

Going to graduate school seemed appealing, but I didn't know what field of biology I wanted to study. If you have no real direction and are tight on cash, just picking something and going back to school is not usually the best option. So I completely veered off the science track and got my real estate license. I love houses and home design so why not? It was relatively easy and inexpensive to get into, and I was excited about helping people through such a monumental time in their lives as they bought or sold a home.

It turns out, I'm great at selling houses, but about a year into my business I began to feel the rumblings of wanting something more... (to be continued)

November 9, 2012

Wearing Watermelon

I have always loved the combination of green and pink, and ever since I was little any ensemble that combined the two was always deemed a "watermelon" outfit. Decades later I still love to wear watermelon, and I think the outfit below would be just perfect for a date night out on the town.

Watermelon Wonderful

November 8, 2012

Salmon and Veggie Croquettes

Growing up I loved when we would have salmon croquettes for dinner, except because my family is so fancy we call them salmon patties.  :)  Either way, they're delicious. I tried a number of recipes until I finally just made one up, and we love it. Typically I serve these as the main dish with a salad, however, you can easily make them smaller and have them as a side.

Salmon and Veggie Croquettes
Serving Size: 2
Makes 4 croquettes

5 oz canned salmon (skinless and boneless if desired)
1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg whites)
15 saltine crackers, crushed
1 carrot, grated
1 shallot, diced
canola oil, for frying

1. Heat oil over medium high heat.
2. Mix first five ingredients together.
3. Form into four patties, squeezing extra liquid out if necessary.
4. Place each patty into the heated oil and fry 3-4 minutes on each side.
5. Serve immediately and enjoy!

November 6, 2012

Mustard and Boots

I'm itching to change up my wardrobe, and I think this mustard jacket and these cognac boots would be fabulous (and budget friendly!) additions to my closet.

Mustard and Boots

October 31, 2012

A Winter's Light Table

Things have been a bit crazy around here with interviewing for medical school, and I've finally come to a bit of time where I can take a breather. My brother-in-law got engaged a while back, and my MIL has enlisted my help with the rehearsal dinner. Little does she know that I would love to take it completely over and go a bit crazy with it - I'm having to refrain from going into full on boss-mode. I claim that I was born bossy, so it's really not my fault. : )  We're getting together this weekend to talk about ideas and such, and since they're getting married in January I'm loving (what I call) a winter's light theme. Basically, I'm thinking white and silver and sparkle.

The last picture is more wedding reception than rehearsal dinner, but isn't it breathtaking? Armed with inspiration, we'll see what we come up with this weekend, and I'll do my best not to take over.  : )