Southeast Road Trip, Part 2: Birmingham and Memphis

So, not only did we get to do a little bit of climbing, we also visited our good friends Kenny and Yoon, and their two beautiful children Aria and Ian. It was so great spending time with them in their home.

Birmingham:

Yum! Korean food.

David makes sure the cupcake batter tastes juuuuuust right….

Aria did an amazing job of filling the cups!

Ian patiently watches them bake

Mmm sugar before bedtime. The best!

Happy 32, woman!

Pillsbury Funfetti can do no wrong.

Still and always will be…a kid.

Memphis:

Memphis BBQ at the famous Rendezvous!

Graceland

Drive by tourists

Stax Museum in the heart of Soulsville, USA

New Years sampler at Boscos

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.)

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!!

Hueco Tanks

David and I, along with 28 other climbers, went to Hueco Tanks State Park for a long weekend to go rock climbing. It was so fun! For those of you who have not been to Hueco Tanks, it is a huge formation of rocks 32 miles outside of El Paso. It is considered by many Native Americans to be a spiritual place, with hundreds of pictographs painted on rocks throughout the park. It just so happens that Hueco Tanks is one of the best bouldering areas in the U.S., some say, the world. With a little over 20 hours of driving for just a 4-day trip, we made the most of it. We climbed on some beautiful rock, spent evenings by the fire chatting with new and old friends, and breathing in the crisp desert air. Road trips like these reset my soul, and continually make me appreciate the natural world around us.

Click here to see all the photos.

Ian Kim’s First Birthday

David and I went up to Dallas to visit the Kim Family for Ian’s luau-themed first birthday. In Korean culture, a baby’s first birthday (called Tol) is an important milestone and includes praying and giving thanks, wearing traditional birthday clothes, sharing food, and preparing a birthday table with fruits and gifts, as well as performing the Toljabee, in which the baby is placed in front of different objects that predict his future. The first object the child grabs is considered most important! (money=wealth, stethoscope=doctor, microphone=entertainer, string=long life) Ian went straight for the Benjamins! LOL. It was a lot of fun and it was great spending time with good friends.

The most amazing cupcakes EVER. Society Bakery.

The most amazing cupcakes EVER. Society Bakery.

David is a cupcake monster. Somehow this is not surprising.

David is a cupcake monster. Somehow this is not surprising.

Travel Prints Sale!


It’s been just over one month since we returned back to the US from our trip around the world. Getting back into the swing of things was not easy, especially in consecutive days of over one hundred degree weather. We have been able to catch up with many of our friends and coworkers. In the process, we have fielded many questions about our favorite places, foods, and experiences. And finally within that time, we edited and posted our best or favorite images.

To say that a picture holds a thousand words may either be an exaggeration or a huge understatement, but we’ve done our best to capture the moments. And while sometimes a photograph is merely a marker of a mundane event, place, person, or thing, we tried mostly to use photography, not only as snapshots, but also as art. Sure, our shots may have detailed stories behind them that the casual viewer many never hear. Therein, lies the beauty, the mystery of travel and the photograph. May it motivate one to meditate on it, to imagine, to create the story behind it, or to dream of being there.

With that in mind, several of our friends have asked what they could do to buy a print of any our travel photos. As a means of support for our experience or as the much needed print to fill that whole on your wall, we appreciate the opportunity to travel and the potential to share it with you. To view our Print gallery, visit here. If you find an image you want to purchase, click the “Buy” button above the image and follow the Shopping Cart dialogs. Beverly will artistically process, matte, and sign all prints before delivering them to you. Larger prints will be on backer board with no matte.

If you’re interested in viewing all of our travel photos, please visit visit here.

Thanks for your support!

Couchsurfers from Belgium

One organization that added another dimension to our travels was an organization called Couchsurfing.org. It’s a worldwide network for making connections between travelers and the local communities they visit. We have met several people along the way who have shown us amazing hospitality and who have given us local insights on food, politics, and culture.

When we returned from our trip, we thought it was our turn and decided to pay it forward by hosting Couchsurfers from Belgium. Nicolas and Wendy, along with their American friend Josh, were taking a classic American road trip from Atlanta to San Fransisco!! They stopped through Austin and got a little taste of Texas, and even left with cowboy hats and boots. 😉

We were joined by a a few friends :)