Tuesday, August 30, 2011

McHottie

Gaby Solis had John the gardener; I have McHusband the Handyman.
















I'm definitely going to have to make sure his to-do list never gets finished.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Recipe Recap: Heath Bar Cupcakes

You read my triathlon post so I figured you deserved a cupcake post.

I made these cupcakes for Sara's belated birthday celebration. She likes toffee and chocolate and caramel (a girl after my own heart) so I knew these cupcakes would go over well.
















That's not just chocolate syrup (no offense, Hershey's - love ya, mean it!) drizzled over the top. That's an honest-to-goodness made-from-scratch ganache.
















And no self-respecting Heath Bar Cupcake would be caught dead without some toffee bits sprinkled on top.
















I used my own frosting recipe instead of the one that came with the cupcakes. I kept the tablespoon of vanilla but used three sticks of butter, a half-cup of shortening, around 6 cups of powdered sugar, plus about half a cup of caramel syrup. The frosting doesn't necessarily taste like caramel, but the syrup takes the flavor of the frosting to another level.





















Some reviews:
  • Kim said she thought they'd be good with a little more salt. I see where she's coming from since salty and sweet go together so well. Plus I think the toffee is a little salty so maybe that gave her the craving for more salt.
  • On that note, Bronte thought that they WERE salty. So I guess whether they were or weren't depends on your sensitivity to salt.
  • Bruce said they were good but he wished for a denser cupcake. Yes, the search for the perfect cupcake consistency continues...
  • Flavor-wise, I really liked the doctored-up boxed mix. If I'm not worried about the density of my cupcake, I think I'll use this recipe from now on.
  • My coworker and someone else in the building said this was the best cupcake yet.
Mmm... I told the McHusband I wasn't going to bake anything this week, but these cupcakes are making me question my resolve...

{Recipe here}

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm a triathlete!

Heather and Kim did a triathlon in June and got hooked on that type of race. They preferred the varied activities over shorter distances to just running the longer distances. They said I should try a triathlon. I was already taking spinning classes on a regular basis and obviously the running portion was right up my alley. The swimming was the most intimidating since I hadn't swum with purpose in years and years. So I swam in Heather's pool a few times to make sure I wouldn't totally embarrass myself - I didn't - then I bit the bullet and signed up for my first triathlon.

It started at 7:00 on Sunday and was in Wake Forest, which is a solid 45-minute drive from Holly Springs. We needed to be there by about 6:00 to get our numbers by 6:30 (the cutoff time) and get our stuff situated in the transition area before they closed it at 6:45. So guess what time I got up? 4:35 in the morning. I'm not sure I've ever stayed UP until 4:30 in the morning let alone gotten up at that time. For someone like me who's not a morning person, I'd say getting up that early was maybe the hardest part of the whole day.
















I'm not sure I've ever captured a sunrise on a camera. And if I never do again, it'll be too soon.
















Of course, we made sure to use the facilities before the race started. Port-a-Potties don't look any better (inside or out) under a sunrise.
















This is the transition area. We set our bikes and stuff - helmets, shoes, towels, Chap Stick, etc. - up in this area, and it's where we were between the swim and bike and then again between the bike and run.
















Even though the event started at 7:00, we didn't start until closer to 7:30 to 7:45. The swim is done in a pool so obviously the 350 participants couldn't all fit in at once. You're supposed to be swimming with people of similar capability, but we saw from the pool deck as well as from the lane while we were swimming, that that wasn't always the case. Heather was in the lane behind me and we got stuck behind slower swimmers with no chance to pass and make up the time. That was the most frustrating part of the day and I see why people prefer open water swims.

Here we are running from the pool to the transition area, where we'll dry off as much as we can, put on our shoes, socks, helmets, and sunglasses and grab our bikes for the next portion of the race.
















As you can see, we're all dressed differently but still appropriately. Kim was in tri-shorts (they go from the pool to the bike to the run) and a sports bra, I was in a bathing suit and needed to pull on shorts in the transition area, and Heather was in a tri-suit, which she completed the remainder of the event in.

Here we all are coming in from the cycling portion. You can't ride across the timing mat (well, you can, but you'll get a time penalty) so I was a little paranoid and stopped a touch short. That's why I'm not exactly riding my bike as I'm finishing.


















Running a 5k (3.1 miles) was the last part of this race. Ordinarily I'd say 3 miles wasn't something I'd be worried about. But after the swim and 10-mile bike ride, I knew the distance was going to be more challenging than usual.

And we're off!

















You know how your grandparents would say that they had to walk uphill both ways in the snow (year-round apparently) to school and back home? After this course, I now believe it was physically possible for that to happen. We all agreed: we don't know how they did it, but somehow this course was uphill the whole way even though it was 1.55 miles out and then we just did that in reverse to get back to the finish line.

Done!





































Heather and Kim weren't far behind.
































A triathlete trio.





















And an equally important trio - our supporters, Bronte, Bruce, and Greg. I especially need to give a shout-out to Bruce for taking all the pictures. Thank you so much!





















Once we were all done, we meandered away from the finish line to check out the snacks and drinks. An Italian restaurant was offering baked ziti and lasagna, neither of which appealed to me. I had some peanut butter bread then had a sample from The Meat House, which hit the spot. We were entertained by a juggler/performer.











We stuck around until the end for the awards because both Heather and I placed, as did my neighbor, Kara.
















































We were all second in our categories. Holly Springs made a pretty good showing out there Sunday morning.
















Okay, my official stats. My swim time was 5:53, but take that with a grain of salt since I was stuck behind people. I could've finished at least a minute quicker without the pokey puppies blocking my way. I finished the 10-mile bike portion in 31:49. Because of the hills during the run, I didn't expect to do as well as I did, but I surprised myself by finishing in 24:21. So with the transition times added in, my total was 1:05:12. I was 7th out of 131 women, and 2nd in my age group (30 to 34).

So, what did I think of my first triathlon? I really enjoyed it. I could do without the 4:30-am wake-up call, that's for sure, but I'm so glad I tried this and do plan to do another one, probably in October. That one starts an hour later and is in Apex/Cary so I definitely won't have to be up as early.

Thank you, Kim and Heather, for inviting me to join you guys and pushing me to do it. It was a great experience and it was awesome sharing it with you.

(If you're interested, you can view all the results here.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Visitor

We had a visitor this past weekend.
















My dad flew into Charlotte on Wednesday and spent a couple days in the Queen City with Bri and Shannon and their families. Then Bri, Nate, and the girls brought my dad to Asheboro where we had dinner at Chili's before the Daddy Exchange.





















These pictures were taken before dinner at Tribeca Tavern. We went there for the burgers and so I could get pizza, a.k.a. fuel for my triathlon the next morning. The McHusband ended up going with the shrimp and grits, a dish he recently (and finally) tried and is now a big fan of. My dad had the Wolfpack Burger and onion rings, and I had the Shrimp Pizza with the shrimp on the side. Considering how varied our meal choices were, we thought it spoke volumes about the restaurant that we were all extremely happy with our dishes. I even said that I liked my pizza so much that I may never get anything different there.

We really enjoyed the time with my dad. He was here almost exactly a year ago so as we sent him off to catch his plane back to Kansas City, I asked, "Same time next year?" These August visits could be habit-forming, and that'd be just fine with me.

More on the triathlon soon...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Last Friday night

Sorry, now you've got Katy Perry (really cute video if you have 5 minutes to spare watching it) in your head. I didn't have THAT kind of Friday night. Mine was spent in the kitchen with my mixer and oven so I was more preoccupied with hot cookie sheets than hot quarterbacks.

By the end of the night, this is what I had:
















From left to right: White Chocolate Fluffernutter Gooey Cake Bars, mint ice cream with mint Oreos, chocolate chip cookies, and whiskey slush.

The WCFGCB's were very good. I didn't love the bite I had the night I made them, but they were much better the next day. The McHusband, of course, loved them. Peanut butter and white chocolate? An irresistible combo for him.
















Next in line is the mint ice cream with mint Oreos.
















I combined two recipes to get mine. I started with this recipe but since I couldn't find the mint syrup, I referred to Allrecipes, my go-to source, for the mint flavoring. This recipe used mint and vanilla extracts, and I read people's comments about using a little less vanilla and a little more mint. The mint was still pretty subtle even with an extra 1/2 teaspoon.

The McHusband was breathing down my neck waiting for the ice cream to come out of the ice cream maker. I barely got it into the bowl and the mint Oreos stirred in before he was dipping his spoon in.
















Let's see, what was next in line? Oh yeah, chocolate chip cookies.

I liked the story behind these - that this recipe was the only good thing the ex-wife brought into the marriage. Also, I've been known to run out of sugar so it's good to have a back-up recipe when you're out of a pantry staple.

See the cookies on the right side and toward the top of the cooling rack?
















That was my first batch. I used my cookie scoop and the cookies didn't flatten at all. They really didn't seem done so I figured the McHusband and I would be eating the half-cooked cookies by ourselves. Talk about a blessing in disguise! But those cookies eventually set up just fine so I was able to share them. However, I still flattened each subsequent batch just a touch, and I got a more classic cookie shape.
















My coworker considers himself a bit of a chocolate chip connoisseur so I made sure to bring him a few to try. His take on them was that they had a really good flavor and he liked that I went with semisweet chocolate chips. (The recipe called for milk chocolate chips, but I prefer semisweet in my chocolate chip cookies.) He said his only critique was that the dough was almost too sweet. I don't know how that could be. I mean, there were ONLY two full packed cups of brown sugar in it.

Lastly, I made that whiskey slush that I've made before. It's always a hit, and I knew a couple neighbors who really liked it were going to be at the party for which I was making the cookies and bars.





















I divided the treats (except the ice cream; the McHusband wasn't sharing) between a plate and a platter - the plate for the smaller gathering at our next-door neighbor's house and the platter for the bigger neighbor party up the street later that night.
















Stack of cookies!





















There's that cute helmet-shaped cookie from my first batch on top. Definitey err on the side of underbaking.
















The WCFGCBs were simple to make and the flavors did come together really well. If you're a cake mix snob - as in, don't like the flavor of them - then this isn't a dessert for you. But if you don't turn your nose up to boxed mixes, this treat should hit the spot. (You know, right there on your hips...)
















That's a lot of sugar in one post. Thank goodness reading about food is calorie-free.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Maxie and me

As I mentioned, we were in Charlotte so I could stay with Maxie while everyone else went to Lauren's wedding. Maxie and I spent from about 2:30 Saturday afternoon to 1:00 that night/Sunday morning all by ourselves. So 12-plus hours of just me and a two-month-old and I lived to write about it AND I'm not swearing off kids. Continuing to put them off for a bit, yes, but not swearing off and not because of her. I thoroughly enjoyed my quality time with her.
















Maxie had a few fussy moments, which my mom warned me about, but I really can't complain. She ate, she slept, she looked around, she smiled, she needed a couple diaper changes, and she went to bed in her pack n play at a decent hour (9ish) and didn't stir until a little after 4:00 Sunday morning. Mom was on duty then, thank goodness.





















She has more hair than Lyla did at her first birthday party.











We did our best to hold down the couch and keep the TV company throughout the day. We watched Charlie St. Cloud with Zac Efron. I guess I'm a dirty old lady because there's just something about him (The dark hair-blue eyes combo maybe?) that makes me crush on him. Look at Maxie, she couldn't tear her eyes away from the screen while he was up there.





















I'll leave you with one video. It starts off cute so don't miss the first few seconds.
video

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The great debate

Wednesdays are Subway Wednesdays and Popcorn Wednesdays for me. I eat lunch out once a week (Um, do I need to spell out where and when?), and then I have my bag of popcorn with some TV that night.

More weeknights used to be popcorn nights, but then I finally did the math right (English major, remember?) and realized that one bag of my light butter popcorn actually had about 210 calories and not the 75 that I thought it did. So now I only have popcorn on Wednesdays because I take a spinning class that night and burn lots of calories, plus I read that the afterburn following a spinning class is pretty high so I might as well have my high-calorie snack when I know my body's doing something with the relatively empty calories.
















I haven't written much about my homemade ice cream on the blog (yet), but I've made a few batches and the flavor last week was Nutella. I used a recipe by Giada and I think it was pretty good. The actual Nutella flavor isn't super strong so it came across as more of a light chocolate ice cream. Even the McHusband thought it was okay for chocolate ice cream.
















So why am I talking about popcorn and ice cream? I normally don't turn down sweets. I think what flows through my veins is a trifecta: chocolate, Coke Zero, and maybe there's a little room left for some actual blood. But I REALLY like my Popcorn Wednesdays.

How much? I chose my bowl of popcorn over the Nutella ice cream. The still-soft-from-the-ice-cream-maker Nutella ice cream.
















No, I didn't choose popcorn first and then the ice cream although that thought certainly entered my mind. I'm one of those "everything in moderation" people and I know better than to totally deprive myself. But there's a difference between that attitude and just giving in to all my cravings on a regular basis. I'm not perfect, but I try to make good decisions 90% of the time.

Because 210 calories of microwave popcorn at 10:30 while watching TV is a good decision, right?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Makin' faces

When we were in Charlotte a couple weekends ago, I got to spend some time with Lyla before she and my mom had to leave for the wedding and my babysitting officially started. Lyla put herself on the stairs behind the baby gate (which at this point only prevents adults who don't know how to work a baby gate off the stairs) and said she was in jail.





















I guess self-imposed jail time isn't any more fun than when someone else sticks you in the clink.
















But you gotta do something to pass the time (and at the same time thwart an aunt's attempts at getting a picture of a smiling niece).






















































Finally, a smile! Not a great picture-taking effort on my part, but the subject makes up for that.