Southeast Road Trip, Part 1: Horsepens 40

David and I decided practically last minute to take a road trip to the southeast. We were super excited because neither of us had been there and we had heard of the many amazing places to rock climb. Although our trip was short, we were able to climb a few days in one of the best places in the SE, Horsepens 40, just outside of Steele, Alabama (about an hour from Birmingham). Our friend Erwin was in town visiting family as well, and he was able to sneak out and join us the first day for an afternoon on the beautiful boulders.

Day 1:

The temperature was in the high 30s. Burr!

Getting ready to crush! Ha ha ha

The rock is slopey sandstone. Sticky. Yummy.

Erwin warming up

This is a lot harder than it looks! I should probably lay off the donuts.

Two tiny holds to another tiny hold

My turn

David tops out!

Day 2 (my birthday!):

Starting the day off with a good birthday breakfast!

The rock is SO weird looking.

Finding my own beta on Growing Stone V2

David cruises up the problem after a few tries. I’m so jelly.

One of the coolest formations we bumped into!

A view on top of Chandler Mountain

Christmas 2009

So I’ve been really bad about taking photos this holiday season – not that I’m not inspired, but I just wanted to relax and not worry about lugging around equipment, getting the right angle, capturing every single moment. But here are a few photos I did take from our trip to Houston to visit my family.

Mom and Dad’s house

Guinness cupcakes…again!

my newest baby nephew, Adam Mateo!

Adam and the gals

Playing in Mena’s princess tent! This thing is awesome!

Adam checks out the new photo mobile I gave Minnette

There are few things in life I love more than drooly babies!

Houston Art Car Parade

After spending Thanksgiving dinner in Austin, we drove down to Houston to spend time with my family. Little did I know, my brother Alan had to work on Saturday. But lucky us, we got to see some of his work…he had some 3D animations projected onto the walls of the George R. Brown Convention Center! It was during Houston’s Glowarama, the illuminated art car parade. (I probably have the most talented brother on the planet. Check out the kind of crazy stuff he gets to create on a regular basis).

The annual art car parade tried something new this year and did it at night. All of the crazy cars were lit up – some with rope lights, christmas lights, and even…fire(!) How cool is that? We also got to walk around Discovery Green Park, which I had never known existed. Who knew it used to be a concrete wasteland? I am impressed that Houston has dedicated the area to such an awesome park/community space. More urban green space!!

hundreds of Big Mouth Billy Bass, all synced up to sing in unison (!!!)

ice rink

Aww, my parents and my niece and nephew. I love this!

Guinness Cupcakes with Baileys Irish Cream Frosting!

I’ve been wanting to try making Guinness cupcakes after I stumbled upon one of my now favorite cooking/food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. I have to admit, they were so much fun to make with my mom, and they came out so delicious. Don’t ask me how many sticks of butter we put in there! (I skipped the ganache filling, but I can imagine it’s amazing) See recipe below.

Taste tester approved!

Chocolate Whiskey and Beer Cupcakes (Smitten Kitchen)

While the Guinness in the cake gets mostly baked out, the Baileys is fresh and potent, so if you’re making this for people who don’t drink — ahem, nobody I know, but I hear such people exist — you’ll probably want to swap it with milk.

The Baileys frosting recipe makes a smallish amount of frosting — enough to just cover the cupcakes. Because they were so rich and this frosting so sweet, I felt it only needed a little. Double it if you want more of a towering effect.

Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Ganache Filling (Updated to double it, based on many commenters suggestions — thanks!)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons Irish whiskey (optional)

Baileys Frosting (see Recipe Notes)
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)

Special equipment: 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer and a piping bag (though a plastic bag with the corner snipped off will also work)

Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.

Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.

Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.

Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.

[This is a fantastic trick I picked up while working on the cupcakes article for Martha Stewart Living; the test kitchen chefs had found that when they added the sugar slowly, quick buttercream frostings got less grainy, and tended to require less sugar to thicken them up.]

When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.

Ice and decorate the cupcakes. [I used a star tip and made little “poofs” everywhere and sprinkled it with various colors of sanding sugar to keep it looking festive for New Years. I bet shaved dark and white chocolates would look gorgeous as well.]

Do ahead: You can bake the cupcakes a week or two in advance and store them, well wrapped, in the freezer. You can also fill them before you freeze them. They also keep filled — or filled and frosted — in the fridge for a day. (Longer, they will start to get stale.)

Thanksgiving

We spent Thanksgiving in Austin with our very good friends Alison and Erwin (who, by the way, recently got ENGAGED!) Here are a few pics to document our exhausting time in the kitchen. Totally worth it! We are so thankful to have such wonderful friends who like to EAT! Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

The beginnings of my roasted butternut squash soup

Googling “stuffin’ muffin recipe”

David thinks this part is the most fun

Chris and Greg’s riced potatoes

Erwin’s green bean casserole

My final plating of the soup

Erwin’s perfectly moist turkey. SO GOOD!

Way too excited about chowing down

The aftermath part one

The aftermath part two

Time to work off those calories!

Our Wedding Album…finally!

Well, it’s taken FOUR LONG YEARS, but I finally got around to making our wedding album. I’m so happy it’s finished and I love flipping through it. It’s a nice, heavy, quality book. It brings back so many memories, and I’m happy to know I have something to show my future children and grandchildren. “See kids, grandma and grandpa weren’t always this grouchy and senile!”

Albuquerque

David and I spent four beautiful days in Albuquerque visiting David’s aunt and uncle, and mom and dad (they came down from Wisconsin). It was a family reunion of sorts, complete with an early Thanksgiving feast! Fall colors were in full effect all over the city with bright yellow cottonwood trees lining the streets against the crisp deep blue skies. We drove through the Cochiti pueblo, hiked up Tent Rock National Monument, went to a winery, ate green chile EVERYTHING, and spent some quality time with family. I’m looking forward to going back next October to catch the Albuquerque International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta!

Wine tasting at Casa Rodena. We got a bottle of Clarion and Viognier.

Mom and Dad Schulze. Aren’t they cute?

Ketel One martinis and garlic stuffed olives

Slot Canyon

David carves up Mr. Turkey
My contribution! Butternut squash bisque
Cardamon sweet potatoes
Kale and italian sausage stuffing
Sunrise over the Sandias Mts (from the back porch!)
A daily occurence in this town…
Flying Star Cafe roof and the gorgeous NM sky
The RIDICULOUS pastry case at Flying Star Cafe. Please bring FSC to Austin!!