Monday, October 10, 2011

Finger Licking Good!!

I know that's a slogan for a fast food chicken restaurant, but I think I've got something that really is finger licking good, and good for you!!! Are you bored with boring chicken? Do you wish the chicken you made tasted as good or better than the rotisserie chickens at the store? Have you ever wondered how they got those chickens to taste that good? I don't know for sure, but I think it starts with a huge needle and you're left with an engorged bird high on chemicals, flavorings, and salt. Why settle for all that when you can make one that is amazingly tasty and costs a lot less than the precooked variety?

A few years ago for Thanksgiving I was researching turkey breast recipes and stumbled across one from Guy Fieri. It seemed easy enough, so gave it a shot. The turkey breast turned out fantastic! Now fast forward a year or two to my dinner table where we are eating a store bought rotisserie chicken. The whole time I'm wondering how in the world they got the flavor throughout the entire bird. It actually took me another month or so for it to dawn on me, "if I brine the whole chicken, it should have a similar effect as the one from the store!"

You want to try this recipe............trust me! I've adapted it just slightly, mostly so that it will fit my stock pot, which apparently is tiny in comparison to the pots Guy must have.

Amazing Roasted Chicken (adapted from Guy Fieri's Foolproof Turkey Breast)
Start with the brine:
6 cups of water
1/2 cup salt
1/4 cup very loosely packed brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 tablespoon sage
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
Heat until salt dissolves. Remove from heat and add additional 6 cups water and 4 cups ice. Stir until ice is melted. Rinse a whole chicken and remove all the stuff they stuff inside, you won't need that! Place the chicken into the brine and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.
The molasses will actually give the raw chicken a golden brown color after it has sat in the brine.

Dry Rub is next:
1 tablespoon sage
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
Zest from 1 lemon (don't throw the lemon away, you'll need it in a second)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Mix all of the ingredients together and set aside.

Rinse the chicken under cool water for at least 5 minutes. Drain it and pat it dry with paper towels. Rub the chicken with a little olive oil then smear the rub all over it. Slice the lemon and squeeze it as you place it in the chicken cavity. Cover the chicken and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours. I've actually done this step before work, around 6:30 in the morning, and my husband will do the last step around 4:15 PM.
The dry rub isn't completely dry since you've mixed it with a tablespoon of  oil, but this will allow the herbs to stay atop the bird through the cooking cycle.

Remove the chicken from the fridge and let it rest for about 15 minutes while your oven is heating up to 375. Bake for 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until the temperature reads 170, we leave ours covered with a glass lid while baking. Let it rest in the pan for 10 minutes before cutting.
This is exactly what you want to see, the chicken is so tender it's falling apart without even being touched!

I've served this with homemade potato salad, or as tonight, a homemade vinegar based cole slaw.
I hope you try and enjoy this Amazing Roasted Chicken, it's a perfect meal as the weather starts to cool off.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Life's Plans

On my flight back home from a business trip in Massachusetts I read "The 100 Most Creative People in Business" in Fast Company's June 2011 issue. It really got my brain moving. All these people with the ability to persevere, to use what others might consider failures along the way as moments to get creative and find solutions to keep moving in their desired direction. I love that! It's so inspiring!

I'm a planner and a creative person. In some things I have succeeded because of my planning. Other times I have flopped around unsure of my direction, questioning my plans and my creativity. I have even been set on paths by others who saw something in me that I did not. As an example, obtaining my current role as product designer for Wilsonart would fall into this category. A friend of mine saw the job posting and believed in me and my abilities even when I was doubtful. It turns out that what others saw in me actually came to fruition. Seems my love of design, the design process, and my strong desire to always do my best and strive for a job done excellent is what has made me successful.

I think what I'm trying to say is having a vision, a determination, and a good work ethic can be a magical combination. Just remember to periodically revisit your goals and dare to dream and strive and push yourself to do your best. Remember too, that sometimes planning works, and sometimes you just need to go with the flow. Being flexible could open doors you've never noticed before, for you and your career development. Who knows, you just might find yourself blossoming!
One of the most beautiful Hydrangea I have ever seen. Captured in Mass. on my business trip.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Keep Plugging Away

That's what I tell myself, "Keep plugging away". Is it age, heat, or lack of motivation that keeps me from knocking this small dining room renovation out? I'm gonna say the heat. It's been over 100 degrees here in Central Texas for months now, and it has played a real part in draining my energy. The heat has even killed my hope for a super fun and romantic pumpkin patch in our backyard. Those poor little seedlings never stood a chance. I'm not owning up to the age thing just yet, but I will throw into the mix the fact that I'm employed full-time, I'm married, and we have a five year old.

Even with those excuses, there has been progress made. Woohoo!
*On Memorial Day weekend I got the walls primed.
*The Friday before the 4th of July our ceiling was finally repaired.
*On Friday, August 5th I primed the newly repaired ceiling and the walls again because some areas got new texture.
*On Saturday the 13th and Sunday the 14th I finished painting the ceiling and adding color to the walls!
I ADORE the Reflecting Pool blue by my Apples and Pears green living room! Talk about a shot of inspiring color!
*Today we installed the new light fixture!
It's finally up!!!
All that in addition to summer time colds and a camping vacation. It's all so very exciting, if only I could muster up the energy to do a happy dance.

I'll take this victory, and raise you a couple more "to do items":
*The base boards need to be painted.
*We need to purchase and install crown molding
*We need to rehang the drapes
*I need to compose and hang all the items for my "art wall".

Not a bad list, it just might get done before Christmas!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hiking, Photography, and a Cactus Series

Vacation has been good to me. My family and I went camping. It was blazing hot during the day, but there was water nearby which got us through the worst of it. I even had a chance to slip away early one morning to go on a hike. I love hiking, and I love to have a camera with me.

The morning was perfect! There was a slight breeze, it was still on the cool side, birds were signing, and I was out moving! I have this fantasy that life in Colorado must be exactly like this morning.

I even fantasize about being more athletic because in Colorado everyone is the "outdoorsy" type. I mean, how could you not be with hiking and mountain bike trails everywhere? Right, then I had to come back to reality and remember that people in Colorado have to work too. I wasn't even camping in Colorado, I was in Texas. I think this delusion stems from the time I was in Colorado on business and stopped at a Starbucks which was attached to an REI. It was the most beautiful REI I had ever seen. They had trails leading right to it from somewhere off the property, and a stream! Darn, reality can be cruel.

On this lovely morning hike, in Texas, I did capture some amazing shots, and a cactus series grew from it.....
Iron Cactus

Rising Sun

Western Horizon

Cactus Pop Art

B&W Cactus

Right Frame Cactus Pop Art

Pricklies and Pears

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Coming Out of a Creative Block

Work has been so crazy the last three to four weeks that a big creativity block was slammed down in front of me. Well, that might not be completely true. All of my energy has been filtering my creativity into my work. It's left me exhausted at the end of the day, therefore leaving me with no personal creative time. While I love my job, and love that I am able to use both sides of my brain, I've found that I need to have a personal outlet as well.
Abstracted Hydrangea

Texas Windmill. I sketched it, photographed it, and added a cool filter.
I've done some sketching, which actually stretches my gray matter in a way that is slightly uncomfortable, but I know it's beneficial. I have not been able to spend any time on photography though, and that is one of my favorite activities. I'm finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, and to help inspire me, and hopefully you as well, here are some photos I took in New York City before PCT (personal creative time) came to a screeching halt.
The Chrysler Building snagging a passing cloud.
I love architectural detail! This is in Central Park.
This is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This space was huge, with vault after vault. Amazing!

I love the contrasts in this photo. The bright building next to the dark building. The jazzy yellow cab in the foreground and the tastefully reserved building in the background.

This feels like the 1940's and girls in flapper outfits should be bounding out the door to the club.
The red door catches the eye while the pineapple welcomes you.
I hope you've found some inspiration here. I know I have. I've got the desire to sketch a bit more, and to take more photos. There's something so satisfying about composing a great shot of something most people would just walk by.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Spring Fever in the Summer!?

I've got Spring Fever so bad right now! Spring Fever in the sense that I wish I had a garden to tend right now. In the late winter I decided not to plant veggies in the Spring for two reasons. Reason one, our backyard was going to be dug up by the city to repair a very old sewer line. We had no way of knowing the extent of the digging, and judging by all the little flags the various utilities placed in and around the yard, it could have been really bad. Reason two, a little renovation work on the inside was planned and being very honest with ourselves, we knew we would have plenty to tackle. Judging by the amount of work not complete on the inside, one could say that just handling everyday life is more than enough. With family, my day job, and travel for my day job, I'm plain pooped, and the last thing I want to do is pick up a paint brush. But what I do want to pick up is a shovel. The outdoors are calling to me. The yard is just begging for some beautiful additions like Mountain Laurel, Pride of Barbados, Rosemary, the list just keeps getting longer.

Last Friday my husband and I had a rare date night. We walked around some of the old neighborhoods in the downtown area before picking up our son. I was struck by a few of the yards. They used natives and adapted natives to fill nearly the entire front yard, a really smart thing in this year's drought conditions. I would love to do something similar in our front and backyards, and it brought back to mind the High Line in New York City.

The High Line is a park located on Manhattan's West Side that used to be a working rail for freight cars coming into the Meatpacking District. Between 1851 and 1929 the freight cars were street-level in this very heavily industrial area. The line was elevated 30 feet above the roads for safety around 1930. According to the official web site for the High Line, "So many accidents occur between freight trains and street-level traffic that 10th Avenue [became] known as Death Avenue." The High Line as a freight line stopped train service in the 1980's.


The High Line as a park is an inspiration and gem. The plants that are used were inspired by the plants that seeded themselves up there in the 30 years of disuse. The design is amazing. They have fused history with modern architectural details that still recall the past. Corten steel which naturally rusts and ages to give amazing texture and interest is paired with glass, concrete, and gorgeous plants which are suited for the area. Here are some of the pictures I took when I was in New York for business in May. I would love to see it in every season!
I'm a sucker for Corten. Here it's used as a planter next to a concrete bench.


Corten and glass together. This is one of the access points from the street up to the park.


Isn't it gorgeous?! This picture shows more of the Corten planters and how they layered the landscaping. It also shows the view down to the street. I'm pretty sure there were Wisteria vines "escaping" the High Line and weaving their way down some of the columns to street-level.




Absolutely adore the way they incorporated rails into the landscape design. My friend and co-worker who is actually lucky enough to live near this park said it is amazing to watch the plants completely cover the rails in the summer and then completely expose the rails in the winter.


I love this one so much that it's my desktop wallpaper.
Where many years ago you could have seen a train pass through.


Where it would have gone to pick up freight.


And finally for some perspective, a view from street-level. If you didn't know it was there you would probably keep on walking.


I hope you enjoyed seeing just a glimpse of this fantastic place in New York City, and that it inspires you to use natives for your area too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

Renovation progress is actually being made here at home! On Memorial Day weekend I finally got the dining room primed! I'm having a little celebration in my head right now! Most people probably could have whipped this small task out in a matter of hours, but not me. Ever since my husband and I had our son, the DIY superstars we used to be vacated the premises. Unfortunately, we have to wait until the end of the month to have our ceiling repaired, so we're at a stalemate again. After the ceiling is repaired we'll have to prime it, paint it, and then we can add the color to the walls. To keep me motivated through this lag in progress, I purchased the light fixture that will finally put the old one out of its misery. Although, I will be trying to sell the poor ugly thing on Craigs List! Why not try and make a buck or two off the circa 1975 fixture? It's retro to someone!

Take a look at this beauty!
It's the Ivanhoe Sinclair Industrial Porcelain Pendant from Barn Light Electric! I love it!! It's Rustic Glam and Industrial Chic all rolled into one amazing package. I love the enamel shade with the black rim juxtaposed with the nickel socket. And for a great bonus, it's American made! Barn Light Electric is based out of Florida. Knowing this is not taking a boat trip to me from China makes me proud, and it just makes good environmental sense too. Keeping it local just got a lot prettier!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Color the World - or Just One Room for Now

I know I've mentioned before that I love color. And no, no progress yet on priming my dining room. It's not quite Memorial Day yet! I also love consulting people on color choices for their homes.

Recently, I've been acting as personal designer to my friend and coworker Tammy on her home renovation projects. She'll be posting more of the details later on her blog The Lean Remodeler, but so far I've helped Tammy and her amazing husband choose flooring and paint colors for most of their house. Did I mention her husband was amazing? Good, because he is. No renovation can be completed without someone who is willing to jump in and do the work. Um...yeah, that's right, just like my dining room. Those walls aren't going to paint themselves!

Sean installed all of the new flooring himself. He has done all of the painting himself, although Tammy helped by painting the baseboards. He even painted the ceiling of one of the hallways as I suggested which most people would have second guessed me and opted not to do, and it looks great!!

Now it's time for some more fun. Their spare bedroom is their daughter's playroom and it needs to be painted. Their daughter wants pink or purple (her bedroom is already pink) but Tammy would like to see something a little more flexible and able to span a few years without her daughter burning out on those stereotypical girl colors. I wanted to have some fun with the color choices because it is a sweet little girl's playroom after all. Tammy and I also thought it would be fun if all of you voted on the color palette.

The four color palette choices.
There are four palettes to choose from, pictured above. Each palette has three different colors with one of them assigned as the overall or base color. This is the color that will go on all of the walls first. The other two will be one stripe each on one wall to add fun color and pop to the room, also to try and give Tammy's daughter the pink or purple she wished for. Here's a quick sketch I made for Tammy and Sean to visualize what I intended:

You'll notice the two stripes will be different widths to keep it from being visually boring or predictable. The top stripe will be about chair rail height. You don't want to cut a wall right in half. That's not visually appealing.

Palette A - The blue would be the base color.

Palette B - The blue would be the base color.

Palette C - The purple would be the base color.

Palette D - The yellow would be the base color.
So join in the fun and help us color this playroom by casting your vote in a comment to this post. I can't wait to hear what you think!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Las Vegas and New York City

The last couple of weeks I've been traveling on business with my day job. First Las Vegas, then New York. Two interesting and inspiring cities in two totally different ways. Here are just a few of the photos from these trips.
Outside a wine bar in the Aria Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV

Ceiling treatment and lighting in the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, NV. There is a new sophistication that can be found at the City Center, which is a nice change from the over the top thematic approach Vegas is know for.

Amazingly yummy bread at Eataly in New York City.

A tea and spice vendor in the park in the Flatiron area. Currently there is a food fair going on until June.

This was parked outside the cafe in Bryant Park in New York. It looked so cool and vintage that I had to snap it!

I love this photo! It's a coffee shop that my friend who lives in the Chelsea area frequents. She calls it Mr. Grumpy's. I forgot to ask the real name! :0)
I hope you enjoyed this quick little photo tour of my recent travels. I'll post more in the future, but really wanted to give you a taste of what I've been experiencing lately. Also, keep an eye out for a post in the next day or two where you will be able to vote on a color pallet for a girl's play room. Whenever color is involved, it's sure to be fun!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Flowers!

In order to deflect the fact that I still have not started priming my dining room, I'm posting some of my photography. (I have a new tentative date for priming to start, the 30th of May. Keep your fingers crossed for me!) The flower photos featured on this post have been taken from spring to present. All but one has been treated with a filter.

Antique rose in my neighbor's yard.
Tree in full bloom, taken in March.
The previous photo and this one are trees in the parking lot where I work. Amazing what you can find if you just open your mind and eyes to the creative possibilities that surround you.

A Buttercup in my backyard, taken in April.
A Chokeberry Tree, maybe.
I think this might be an old Knockout Rose
Not sure what kind of flower this is, maybe a rose of some sort, but I think it's lovely.
Thistle standing tall against the threatening weather.
This one feels like it should be framed in old barn wood.
I love this sunflower. It seems to be pointing my gaze upward.
 I know I shouldn't make any promises, I mean look at my poor dining room, but the next few posts should have some fun photography. I'll be traveling for work (my day job) with eyes peeled for inspiration and trends. Till then, have a great week!