Friday, July 4, 2014

Fourth of July

And I am back with another post today! I hope your Fourth of July has started out beautifully - mine has been very low-key, yet productive. I have a lot to share with you guys in one little blog post, so I'll go ahead and get started with the basics.


Today's workout was a very new-to-me workout. One of my roommates is a huge advocate for Pure Barre, and after looking for a workout that would challenge me in a different way than running or cycling, I came across a newcomer deal that consisted of four classes for only $40. While $10/class may seem like a lot, I didn't want to commit to an entire month of classes just in case I didn't enjoy the workout. I didn't think that would be the case, but it's better to be safe than sorry, right?

Anyway, I absolutely loved the class. It challenged my muscles in a way that I don't challenge them myself, and I was certainly humbled when all of these mom-aged women were showing me up throughout much of the class. I considered myself to have strong legs, but my thighs were absolutely shaking during much of the class.

What I loved about this 55-minute class is that it is a low-impact class that works your entire body. And while I could certainly tell that I was lagging behind some of the regulars a bit, it was very easy to follow, though I had to laugh at myself when we were stretching at the end of class and I watched many of my classmates easily slide into a split. I'm one of the least flexible people on this planet, so I'm really hoping that Pure Barre will help with my flexibility.

I look forward to using my remaining three passes, and I might even purchase more once I've used those up. It was certainly a challenging workout, but I loved it, and the 55 minutes absolutely flew by.


Immediately after the class, I dug into two cuties as I made the short drive over to Town Lake to complete a run/walk loop around the lake. There were so many people in line to rent either a paddleboard or kayak, and the lake was already so full of people doing those activities. There were many families out there taking advantage of this sunny holiday, and I am sure this is one of the few days every member of the family has off of work. Better take advantage of it while you can!

After my walk, I was more than hungry, so I stopped by JuiceLand for a breakfast that was the perfect trifecta - healthy, delicious, and refreshing. I went with a regular Peachy Green, which consists of spinach, kale, apple, and peach. It was the perfect post-workout drink, and it fueled me for the crossing of another item off of my list -

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library

I could not leave Austin without having taken advantage of the fact that there is a presidential library located a hop, skip, and a jump away from campus. It is free for UT students, after all, so I really couldn't pass up that opportunity.

I wouldn't consider myself to be the biggest history buff around - that title would go to my roommate, Jamie Lynn - but the lives of presidents really fascinates me. As weird as this sounds, I love all of the presidential conspiracy theories, and fun presidential facts interest me far more than the things I was supposed to have learned via my history textbooks.

I could go on and on about everything this library has to offer, but I'll just highlight some of my favorites. What really appealed to me was the current exhibit: Sixty From the '60s. It has been on display since March, and will be on display until January. It features "iconic photographs, historic objects and documents, books, clothing, posters, and artwork related to sixty Americans who made an impact on this seminal era and whose work continues to be relevant today." I got to read about LBJ (duh), the Kennedy's, MLK Jr., Harper Lee, Charles Schulz, Bob Dylan, Bill Cosby, and so many more.

I got to reminiscence on my childhood with Dr. Suess books, P.D. Eastman's Go, Dog, Go, Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are, Barbie, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, the Operation board game, and so many more.

Actual dresses worn by Jackie Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson were on display, and I even got to see the inside of LBJ's Oval Office. The visit was absolutely worth my time, and probably the little LBJ tidbit that has stuck the most in my mind is the fact that he was a "close-talker," in that he liked to get very close to people when he was talking to them. I value my personal space, so that would have been a pain, though I highly doubt LBJ and I would have had any sort of conversation, so it doesn't much matter what I think about it, does it?

Overall, my visit to the LBJ library was well worth my time, and I even convinced my roommate Natalie to tag along with me. She is also quite the history buff, so though she had been there before, she said she thoroughly enjoyed it.

Four great Presidents and their First Ladies [Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush]
Layer Cake

I crossed yet another item off of my Summer 2014 To-Do List today - making a layer cake. And this might be the first and last layer cake I make. It's not that it was particularly difficult, but it just took quite a bit of time. It's not like I was doing much of anything else, so I had all the time in the world, but it sure took quite a bit of work. And I even used a box cake mix!

Anyway, today seemed like the perfect day to make a layer cake, because the Fourth of July provides the perfect layer cake theme. It really was very easy to do, in the fact that I simply prepared the batter according to the directions on the box, and then added some Betty Crocker Gel Food Colors to it (red and blue, obviously). But, I'll get a little bit more specific for those of you who might be interested in tackling this project.

I started out with three boxes of Betty Crocker Super Moist White Cake Mix. I only used about 2 3/4 cups of each, so I mixed all of the remaining batter in one pan so that I could bake it into a cake to make cake balls. Said cake balls have not yet been created, but just give it some time.

Anyway, I preheated my oven to 350 degrees, prepared the first box of batter according to the directions on the box, and added almost the entire tube of red color gel. I beat it well, and then put 2 3/4 cups of batter into a greased 9-inch round cake pan. My tip for greasing the pan so that getting the cake out in one piece is easy as pie is to spray the pan down with cooking spray, and then putting one spoonful of flour in the pan. Shake the pan around, and then get rid of any excess flour by pouring it into a sink. Trust me, it works.

I baked it in the oven for 19 minutes, and I repeated for the remaining two layers - substituting blue gel for the red, and adding nothing to the white layer.

Assembling each layer is also pretty easy. I started out with the red layer, and put a layer of Funfetti frosting all over it. I'm the worlds worst froster, so it took quite a bit of frosting for me to completing cover it without any crumbs showing. I placed the white layer on top of the red layer, and proceeded to put frosting all over it. The frosting in between the layers acts as the "glue." Once that layer was completely frosted, I placed the final layer, the blue layer, on top, and opened a whole new can of frosting to finish off the cake.

Easy frosting tip from my mom: Be PATIENT (something I absolutely don't have while baking), and let the frosting sit out before spreading it. It will be so much easier to spread once it's softened out, and it will prevent the crumb situation that I always seem to have.

And I originally planned on topping my cake with red and blue sprinkles, but in talking to Gram on Wednesday night and telling her about my grand Fourth of July cake plans, she suggested topping my cake with blueberries and sliced strawberries. I decided to do just that, and I think it made it look a bit more sophisticated. Because that's what people are concerned with when eating a cake, right?

All in all, a great Fourth of July, and the night's not over yet. Fingers crossed that it doesn't rain so that we can see some fireworks tonight, but I've definitely been hearing a few claps of thunder. But I don't need fireworks to remind me what a privilege it is to live in this country, so regardless of whether I get to see them or not, it's been a great day celebrating America's 238th birthday!

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