Thursday, July 29, 2010

Austin Cupcakeries

While in Austin this past weekend I made sure to try out a few cupcakereies in the area. I found Delish Cupcakes online and decided that their online reviews were the best and headed straight there. I purchased a red velvet, lemon zest, ginger carrot, and cookies and cream. Christine purchased enough to share with some of our friends who were still in Austin. We all tried our cupcakes after a nice P.F. Chang's lunch and were somewhat underwhelmed. The carrot cake was pretty good, but not excellent. The red velvet was definitely dry. The cookies and cream had delicious icing but the cake crumbled beneath it, it was so dry. The lemon zest was a great cupcake but not as good as other lemons I've tasted. Over all rating: C. Here is a pic of my cupcakes:

The next place was recommended by our waiter at PF Chang's called Sugarmama's so we headed there after lunch. The place was soooo small that they really didn't have much room to display many flavors and what they had out was mostly what I had already bought at Delish. I ended up getting a Mud Pie cupcake which is described by the bakery as: "Chocolate cake covered in whipped coffee buttercream frosting, crushed chocolate cream sandwich cookies, whipped cream, and a drizzle of dark chocolate syrup." I was too full to eat anymore on Sunday but I tried it right after lunch on Monday and I must say it was really good. Like all chocolate cakes I've tried from bakeries, a little dry, but the beastly icing carried the slack for sure. Overall rating: B (higher marks would be given for more variety). Here's my cupcake:

Anyone have some suggestions for when i make a return trip?


Well, Christine and I have been living in Texas for 3 years now and have never been to Austin, the state capitol! Craziness, I know. We remedied that situation this past weekend with a new Braunfels tubing and Austin 6th street weekend. Christine, Brian, and I drove straight to tubing on Saturday morning and met up with the rest of the crew that had stayed in Austin the night before. sorry, no pics, the camera isn't waterproof :(

After a totally relaxing and entertaining 2.5 hour float down the Guadalupe River with minimal injuries to our group, we all drove to Austin. We stayed at the Hilton on 4th/5th street giving us easy walking access to the city. After everyone was rested and cleaned up we headed to dinner and then 6th street! A few pics from the night:

The next morning Christine and I got up for 9:30am mass (yes, it was rough-city) and walked to church. The Austin Cathedral was completely gorgeous, and I'm really glad I was able to inhale some coffee and make it. After mass we walked around Austin a bit, visited the capitol building and did some general sightseeing. And, of course I had to try out a few cupcakeries while I was there (more on them in a later post). Here are our pics from wandering the city:

I can't wait to visit again!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Randi's 22nd Birthday

For our friend Randi's birthday we went for Mexican in the city. After an unpleasant situation at Cyclone Anaya's in Midtown (I had already boycotted this location for their terribly horrible service, however their Washington area location is the best Mexican ever!) we ended up going to El Patio. We were quite the crowd at 20 peeps and I think everyone had a great time. Here are some photos from dinner/ the following bar crawl through Midtown:

Happy Birthday, Randi!

Girlie Stuffed Elephant

Remember the stuffed elephant I made for baby Vaughn? Well I liked it so much that I decided to make another for my friend Mike when his baby Hannah was born. This was another 'we're going to wait to find out the sex of our baby' situation so I had to wait until she was born to make her gift. Here is a pic of the girlie version of my tags and textured stuffed elephant:

Hope she enjoys it!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Crazy Cupcake Duo

I haven't been doing much baking lately, probably because it's so hot I hate turning on the oven and making it hotter than hot. But, since it was my awesome friend Randi's bday this weekend I decided to pull out all the stops and try two new cupcakes. The first was a Chocolate peanut butter concoction with a Resse's cup at the bottom. I plopped the Reese's cup in the foil liner, poured in the chocolate cupcake batter and baked as usual. It was topped with delicious peanut butter buttercream icing and some cocoa for show (I'm being inspired by Cupcake Wars to get a little fancier with the presentation haha). The second cupcake was a chocolate cake with caramel injected after baking and topped with a cream cheese, chocolate espresso icing and finished with espresso sugar crystals. Here are some pics of the duo:

The overall consensus was that the peanut butter ones were awesome and the other ones were pretty good, but most preferred the peanut butter. I don't really have recipes for either one since I just made them up but the cakes were from Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe. The Peanut Butter Buttercream was made with about 1/2c peanut butter and a stick of butter and 1/4c of shortening. Then powdered sugar to whatever consistency you like. The Espresso icing was 1 brick of cream cheese, 1/2 stick of butter, 1t espresso ground, and 1/3c of cocoa. Once again, add powdered sugar to desired consistency. I used my Pampered Chef Icing gun to inject the caramel (I couldn't find dulche de leche so I just used caramel ice cream topping).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Zuni Fetishes

So, before my parents met me in Sedona, AZ, they flew in to Albuquerque, NM and drove to Santa Fe, NM to spend the night. While they were in Santa Fe my Mom became enthused about Zuni Fetishes. They are basically carvings made from stone depicting different animals. Here's the official word from Wikipedia:

"Traditionally, Zuni fetishes are small carvings made from various materials by the Zuni Indians. These carvings serve a ceremonial purpose for their creators and depict animals and icons integral to their culture. As a form of contemporary Native American art, they are sold with non-religious intentions to collectors worldwide.

According to the Second Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology as submitted by Frank Hamilton Cushing in 1881, and posthumously published as Zuni Fetishes in 1966, the Zuni world is made up of six regions or directions. At the center of each region is a great mountain peak that is a very sacred place. Yellow mountain to the north, blue mountain to the west, red mountain to the south, white mountain to the east, the multi-colored mountain above, and the black mountain below (Cushing, 1994:17).

Each direction is represented by a "Prey God", or guardian animal, and are listed by Cushing as follows: north - the yellow mountain lion, west – the black bear (represented by the color blue), south – the red badger, east – the white wolf, the sky or upper – the multi-colored eagle, and the underground or lower – the black mole. Each prey god is the "guardian and master" of their region with the yellow mountain lion being the elder brother of all animals and the master and guardian of all regions."

Basically, the way I understand it, the Zuni used to see a rock that somewhat resembled an animal and make a few enhancements to the rock to bring out the shape of the animal. They would then wear it in a pouch around their neck when they, say, went hunting (depending on what animal it was). If the hunt was successful, they would have the fetish blessed by their spiritual leader and a medicine pack (a bundle of other stones) would be added to the fetish as an honorary offering. So, my mom found a store that was selling some of these fetishes and got hooked. She then brought me in on the whole concept and I was also effectively hooked. So now the Wolfe family has a new obsession. I managed to compile a collection of 13, ridiculous, while I was in Arizona. Clearly we've lost our minds, but it's kinda fun and I should have all sorts of good luck in the coming year haha. Here's my current collection:

End of the Trip

On Thursday Dad, Jesse, and I went on a second hike in a different part of Sedona. A park ranger directed us towards a 'moderate' trail with great views. Seeing as I live pretty much at sea level in Houston, the elevation plus more rigorous hiking was a fun duo during this hike. Needless to say, I was happy to take water breaks and catch my breath. The views were pretty amazing though and we saw lots of interesting flora and fauna on this hike. I wasn't able to capture any of the critters we saw (jack rabbit, lizards, chipmunks, etc) but I did get some pictures of the more interesting plants:
View from a water break stop

Fields of cacti

Possibly a yucca plant bloom

Purple cactus

During our shopping escapades we came across a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and I got myself a caramel apple covered in white, milk, and dark chocolate as well as walnuts and pecans. Pretty freakin amazing! Here it is after my first taste:

All in all I had a great, restful vacation in Sedona and I was happy to be able to see my family for a whole week. Thanks again for the trip, fam!

Grand Canyon

Check one Natural Wonder of the World off my list! Tuesday (the 6th, Happy Birthday Mamma!) was the big Grand Canyon day. We first stopped at Sunset Crater Volcano. It hadn’t erupted since 1064 but the lava rock was still everywhere. The black rock was interesting and so was seeing the vegetation still barely able to thrive in the lava rock, even after nearly 1000 years. Here is the volcano itself and some of the surrounding park:

We then finished the drive to the Grand Canyon South Rim. We traveled from East to West along the rim and made several stops for pictures and to just admire the view. Here are some pictures from our travels:

You can see the Colorado River in this one:

Grandma and I at the desert Watchtower:

More of the Colorado River:

Interesting bush that looked like a succulent:

Jesse admiring the view:

Jesse and I on a tree on the edge of the canyon, if we fell back we would tumble down the ridge:

Cactus in bloom:

View from Lookout Studio:

I want to return and actually hike the Grand Canyon someday, maybe an overnight trip!


On Monday we decided to take some tours of the local wineries. We went to Javalina Leap Vineyards and Winery, Oak Creek Vineyards, and Page Springs Cellars. I would have to say that the quality of the wine increased with each winery we visited (or maybe I was just getting drunk, who knows). My favorite of the day was a Pino Noir from Page Springs Cellars, so delicious. I would have bought a bottle but I was trying to avoid checking a bag at the airport so I had to veto. I highly recommend this winery if you are in the Sedona area, the guys are very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their wine. Here are a few pics of us with the grapes!

Hiking Bell Rock

On Sunday we decided to hike up and around one of the big mountains, Bell Rock. Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Jesse, and I set out to conquer the hike on Sunday (the 4th, Happy Birthday America!) morning. Here are some pics of us hiking and the views from the climb (only Jesse and I went all the way up):
Jesse leading the way to bell Rock

Me in front of Bell Rock

Grandpa and I about 1/4 of the way up

The view down, there are little red white and blue specs at the bottom that are my parents and Grandpa

Looking out from the top

View along the hike around

Jesse and I hiked to the rock, climbed up it, and then followed another trail around the rock for a solid 2 hour hike. It's sad how enthralled I am by elevation haha.