Sunday, September 30, 2012

And That's a Very Good Thing

I tried out a new recipe the other night and just have to share the results.  I present to you:  dark chocolate avocado mousse, created by the very ingenious Julie of Peanut Butter Fingers.

Feast your eyes on what happened when I combined 3 simple ingredients in my food processor:

Come a little closer...

Just a little bit closer...

Judging by the name of the recipe, you probably guessed the "secret" ingredient - avocado.  The other 2 ingredients are honey and cocoa powder.  That's it!  Magical.  Truly magical.  I could not believe how light and fluffy it was - just like you would expect of mousse!  I even used an avocado which I had frozen, and it still turned out this light and fluffy.  I ate half of the recipe one night and stuck the other half in the fridge for later - I wasn't sure how it would keep with the avocado in it, but it tasted just as good the next night!

So chocolate mousse is good.  You know what else is good?  Yoga.  Awhile back I bought a Groupon for a 10-class pass to a studio called Anytime Nirvana Yoga.  

Yesterday morning I finally redeemed my Groupon and went to a Power Yoga Basics class.  I was a little nervous at first because I was one of only two students in the entire class, but that actually turned out to be amazing; it was practically like a private lesson.  I've only ever taken yoga at fitness centers and gyms before,  so I'm used to having mirrors lining the walls.  It was kind of nice to focus on how my body felt in a pose rather than how it looked in a pose.  And it was really nice that the teacher could help me to adjust and get deeper into the poses.  Great start to the weekend!  I even feel a little sore this morning, especially in my shoulders and upper back - lots of low planks/ chaturanga dandasana.

This past week I also officially joined the gym associated with my school.  They had a "guest week" for non-members to try out the gym and the classes for free, and I went to about 5 group exercise classes that week (Caribbean cardio, an abs class, a spin class, and a couple of Zumba classes - so fun!) and absolutely loved them.  Even though my semester is really busy, I feel SO much better when I take time to exercise, and I absolutely love group exercise classes.  I can't wait to try out even more!

Some more good things:  these sunsets that I've seen from my window recently.   

And one last good thing: my very first CSA share!

I got kale, zucchini, a red bell pepper, beets, an onion, broccoli, a hot pepper, 2 tomatoes, carrots, an acorn squash, and 2 apples.  So good!  I made "cheesy" kale chips with the kale and red bell pepper, and I made a stir fry with the zucchini, broccoli, hot pepper, and one of the tomatoes.  Everything was really tasty!  I ordered another share which I get to pick up on Tuesday - can't wait!

So those are my good things recently.  Hope you've got some very good things of your own going on!

Song of the day:

"Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers.  Basically, I just love their entire self-titled album.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

DIY Personalized Coasters

Hello friends.  Well, this semester is crazy-busy and I don't see it getting calmer anytime soon, so my posts will be sporadic.  I still want to share fun things as I can, though, so I'm taking pictures and keeping notes for the rare moments when I can squeeze in a post!

In August, I went to visit my best friend right after she moved into a new (gorgeous!) apartment in DC.  I wanted to bring her a little housewarming gift, so I turned to my oft-admired and rarely-used Pinterest boards.  I decided to try making some custom coasters for her.  The link to the original website doesn't work anymore, but I was able to gather enough information from the picture and caption to get started.

Materials needed:  4 x 4 plain tiles from a home improvement store (I got mine at Lowe's super cheap, like $0.15 or something), pictures/ scrapbook paper/ whatever you want to use to decorate, a permanent marker, a straight edge (i.e. a ruler), a utility knife, Mod Podge, a paint brush, clear spray paint, scrap paper.

First, gather your supplies and lay out the scrap paper to protect your work surface.

I wanted to color the edges of the tiles to make them look more polished, and I initially tried painting them.  The paint wasn't going on well, so I switched to a permanent marker which worked much better.  Bonus - no drying time!  It really wore down the marker, though, so use an old one or mourn the loss of the nice, crisp tip of the marker.  (Or maybe that's just me... I have a strong attachment to Sharpies.)

I used a black marker to stick with my black and white theme, but you could color coordinate your edges with your pictures/ designs.

I previously chose some digital pictures that I wanted to use to decorate the coasters, made them black and white on my computer, cropped them so that they were square and slightly smaller than 4 x 4 inches, and printed them out on resume-type paper so that they were a little sturdier than regular office paper, but not so thick that they would be raised up on top of the coasters.

Then I used a ruler and utility knife to cut them out - you want your edges to be as straight and clean as possible.

I printed out a few extra pictures so that I could see what looked best on the tiles.

After you've chosen and cut out your pictures/ scrapbook paper, use a paint brush and Mod Podge to adhere the pictures to the tiles.  My ink bled a little bit when I did this, so I kept a rag nearby to wipe off any discoloration.

After the Mod Podge dries, you can put on a coat of clear spray paint.  This is important:  go outside!!!  I'm speaking from experience here... it's not pleasant to spray this in the house, and you might feel like you're going to die from the fumes for the rest of the night.  Oh, and your family/ roommates/ pets will really not appreciate it.  (My dad: "You care about everyone's environment except for mine!!"  Woops.)  Yeah, I know, who uses spray paint inside?  But it was clear...  clear = harmless, right?  Not quite.  Definitely a blonde moment.  Don't be like me!

After the spray paint has dried, stick four protectors on the bottom of each tile.

You could use felt protectors, or little plastic ones like I chose.  Or you could even use a hot glue gun and make little dots (but I tend to burn myself with hot glue guns so I didn't attempt that method).

And there you have it - personalized, homemade coasters.  They're not very expensive to make, and I think they make great housewarming gifts, or even gifts for birthdays and other holidays.  And it was really fun to choose pictures specifically for my best friend!

I wrapped them up with a pretty bow,

and added a container of homemade red velvet macaroons to go with them.

If any of you read The Fitnessista, you know that Gina has a famous and secret macaroon recipe.  She recently shared her red velvet variety, and I was so excited to try them out for myself!  My grandma let me borrow her old-school dehydrator - doesn't it look like a space ship?

They smelled gooooood.


And they're the perfect little sweet treat to go with a cup of tea!

By the way, my favorite tea right now is Lady Grey - like Earl Grey, but more refined :)  It's decaffeinated, and I think it has a lighter, smoother flavor than Earl Grey.

Even though I'm not usually a big fan of coconut, I did enjoy these a lot.

And they got good reviews from my best friend, a neighbor, and my grandma - so I think they were a success!

Okay, that's all for now - hopefully I'll be back soon with some more fun updates.

Song of the day:

"Blown Away" by Carrie Underwood.  Loving this song right now.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I Wanna Be a Cowgirl Baby

So.  It's been awhile.  The summer got away from me, and the next thing I knew, school was in full swing.  But I want to share a few highlights anyways.

One of my favorite things from this summer was a family vacation in Montana.  It was absolutely amazing, and I kind of (really) want to move there now.  I knew I'd like it there, but I had no idea how much I would love it.  So without further ado, here are some pictures from my trip.

Although the Bozeman airport was small, it was really nice and had a lodge-y feel to it.  This guy greeted us at baggage claim!

And this view greeted us in the parking lot.  I could get used to that.

Welcome to Bozeman!

Is this not the cutest little dog you've ever seen?  He was just waiting patiently on that little ledge until his owner came out of the store.

That's Lone Peak in the distance.

See the "M" on the side of the mountain?

Driving anywhere was a sightseeing trip.

Lone Mountain Ranch.

Learning to fly fish (dry run).

Pretty horses!

Outdoor music.

Bella's a fan.

Okay, she just came for the belly rubs.

View on our morning walk.

Ousel Falls.  And a failed family portrait - typical.

First wildlife spotted in Yellowstone National Park - an elk's bum.

Hot springs!

Second wildlife spotting in Yellowstone - bison.

A beautiful paint pot.

The colors were incredible.

Mystic Falls, Yellowstone.

Old Faithful!  Checked off the bucket list.

It draws quite a crowd.

And it didn't disappoint!

Yellowstone Lake.  I had no idea that this existed - pretty nice surprise!

Lake Yellowstone Hotel.

A bison herd!

The top of Yellowstone Falls.

Rainbow in the Falls.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  I also had no idea that this existed - absolutely breathtaking.

Mud pot - ewww.

Trail ride!  It was so much fun to go horseback riding again - I probably hadn't been on a horse in 10 years or so.

View from the trail.

I want to go back!!

Chuckwagon dinner after the trail ride.

Alongside the Gallatin River.

 Another view that I miss:  the one from the bathroom!  How nice is that??

Oh, and Bella says hi.  She just wants to be where the people are.

So now I'm trying to figure out how I can practice law in Montana :)

Back to the grind!

PS For any Bachelor/ Bachelorette fans out there, I saw Arie (from the most recent Bachelorette season with Emily) at the Colorado airport on the way back.

Arie Luyendyk
I was too shy to say anything to him, but now I wish I had just sucked it up and asked for a picture.  Ohhh welllll.

Song of the day:

"Man on Fire" by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros.  This is from their latest album, Here.  I'm still not sure what I think about the album in its entirety - it might need to grow on me - but I do like this song.