Monday, August 29, 2011

Ellie's Surprise Almost Birthday [for Addie's Sake]

Last Friday, my niece Addison invited Ellie and Olivia over to play, go to the pool and keep her company during the hot trek through the art vendors at the Northwest Art & Air Show. Technically, this has been a pre-determined play date since Ellie lives far too far away for Addie's liking, but that is besides the point. Here's how it went down.

The Waters girls arrived late morning and headed straight to the local outdoor pool, for toddler swim, where no big kids are allowed, in order to maximize uninterrupted play time. It was a blast. Addie showed Ellie how to "swim" and Ellie was kind enough not to tell her that her technique is a bit off.

Then, upon return to Addie's house for some mac 'n cheese, all babies took a nap. After waking up, Addison threw Ellie a surprise-almost-birthday party because she won't be able to make it to Ellie's real birthday party in a few weekends.

Yes, Addie is "helping" Ellie open her present.

Then, we ate a delicious Bacon Ranch Cheese Pull Apart before heading to the Art & Air Festival. Despite being 7:00 in the evening, it was quite hot, so we made our way through the artists fairly quickly and got charactertures of the girls. 

Ellie and Olivia were little ballerinas (as shown above) and Addison was a mermaid. Such a fun filled day, which lead to a super good night sleep.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Speechless Sunday

HeyZee on Etsy

I have rides like this, funnel cakes and corn dogs, carnival games and such on my mind. The Oregon State Fair opened on Friday and I'm hoping I get to go for the first time in far too many years.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bacon Ranch Cheese Pull Apart

I saw this concept on pinterest and couldn't help but find an excuse to make it. The pin was originally from Plain Chicken and I peeked at her recipe before just adding what I thought sounded yummiest. This meant adding mozzarella cheese (in addition to cheddar) and real bacon instead of bacon bits.

I bought a loaf of sourdough bread, uncut. After criss-crossing cuts into it, down to the bottom, but not through, I added apporximately:

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup mozarella cheese, shredded
8 pieces of bacon, cooked and broken into pieces
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 T ranch seasoning, mixed with butter, drizzled over entire loaf

Then, put in oven to melt the cheese.

We dipped it into marinara sauce and just couldn't get enough of it! Definite hit at our house.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Because There Are So Many Reasons

It has taken me far too long to get this anniversary gift to my awesome friends, Steve and Michelle, as their 3 year anniversary was at the beginning of the month. But that means, I also couldn't blog about it without Michelle knowing what it was, since she reads my posts most of the time. I did show off my uber simplistic wrap job yesterday. And now, for the gift reveal....

[Anyone have any tips on photographing frames without getting the glare? Those are my kitchen cabinets in the background. Grrr.]

We saw this idea at Crafty Wonderland last winter. Since then, I feel like I've seen it here and there around the blogosphere, as well as here on etsy.

I have kept it in mind to give to her as a gift because we were both in love with it and it really is just so sweet. Not to mention supremely easy to make one of your own. I even printed a few different fonts and colors to allow changing for mood/seasons. In fact, I have plans to make one more, maybe two for a couple different weddings that are coming up.

All you need to do is:

1. Find a frame.
2. Pick your favorite font and type the words as you want them to appear.
3. Print.
4. Hang.
5. Keep a dry erase marker handy.
6. Make family members' days by filling in the endless amounts of reasons you love them.

How great would this be to have near the most used door in your home to greet or send off family members each day?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I Heart Baker's Twine

If you've been reading for very long, you know I will shamelessly promote things I love. I believe my most recent plug was regarding the iPhone app, Instagram. And here I go again...

Go to Pick Your Plum right now if:

     a) you have never been
     b) you love crafts
     c) you love awesome discounts (Groupon-esque)
     d) any combination of a, b and/or c

If you didn't pick up on it already, Pick Your Plum offers a one day deep discount on craft related items. I've been getting their daily deals for a couple weeks now and have already purchased 2 things, one of them being my new love: Baker's Twine.

Photo credit: Pick Your Plum

I used it tonight for the first time to wrap an anniversary gift I made. (Stay tuned for what's inside!)

Photo credit: Purplest Pecalin

I really love the simplicity of it when combined with the brown postal paper. I can't wait to use more of it. I've got a handful of ideas...

[Anyone see the smidgen of irony in this post? ... I'll help ya out. I used Instagram for one the photo above! Told ya I heart it!]

Monday, August 22, 2011

August Book Club: The Help

This past Saturday was our first book club meeting. My friends Michelle and Allison spear-headed pulling together this group of ladies from college, church and the neighborhood. We vary in age and interests which makes me even more excited to be part of this group. The book we all read for our meeting in August was The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

We ate caramel cake made by Michelle, in honor of Minny's famous, best-in-Mississippi, Southern favorite dessert.

We had a great discussion, guided by the questions in the back of the book by the author.  If you have yet to read The Help, I would highly recommend it. It is one of my favorite books and I will be reading it again at some point. The characters are incredible; it is not a bird's eye, gloss-over of civil rights' movement issues, but one which exposes such real-life emotions of both African-Americans and whites in the 1960's.

Allison made cute bookmarks for everyone with a quote I just love. On the flip side are all the dates for our future meetings printed on one side, which will be very helpful.

I went to see the movie with my mom and Grammy. It was awesome to see the characters come alive, but at the same time, almost harder listening and watching people discriminate one another than reading it. Overall, it was a pretty darn good adaptation of the book and the actresses were great. If you don't read the book, at least go see the movie or rent it because it is so relevant and important to think about the issues in the story.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Speechless Sunday


Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Not So Pretty, Too Polka Dotty, Still Tasty Cake

I debated titling this Cake Flop #1, but that might be a little too dramatic, considering some of the catastrophic cake flops you see if you google those words. I feel though, it would also have been realistic in that, starting to number my cake flops almost inevitably means there will be more. I do appreciate when people blog about their blunders in creating, so I figured why not? I did mention in yesterday's post, the Death By Chocolate Cupcakes, I would show the 6 inch cake, so here we go.

Yes, my dots on the top might as well be the equivalent of too much glitter ruining any project. Or you know, the idea of less is more really should have been applied here. Once you start frosting, you can't really "undo" very easily. So what do you do, keep going, knowing it tastes good regardless since it wasn't for any particular special event. I did pull off this triple dot concept on the edges of this cake, it just doesn't quite go over well covering the entire top. Now I know.

On a positive note, I'm pleased with the color of the frosting. I used Wilton's Teal Icing Color. The filling inside that you can't see between the two layers of Death By Chocolate Cake, is chocolate buttercream. The white and turquoise buttercream frosting recipe is as follows:

2 cups solid vegetable shortening
2 lbs. powdered sugar (about 8 cups)
2 T meringue powder
1-2 t clear vanilla (or almond or a mix)
1/2 t salt, dissolved in flavoring
6-8 oz. heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, cream shortening and flavoring until light and fluffy. Add meringue powder to sugar. On low speed, add sugar and cream, alternately in 3 additions. When all ingredients are blended, increase speed to high and beat for 3-4 minutes. It's ready when the consistency is like stiffly beaten whipped cream. Yield: 7 1/2 cups.

This icing is similar to bakery icing and is ideal for icing a cake or for borders. It is probably too thin for any other decorations.

Thanks for laughing along at my silly cake decorating blunder. More to come. I promise.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Death By Chocolate Cupcakes

Sometimes, I just need a little chocolate to make the world not seem so scary. Sometimes, I get the urge to bake. Here's the consequence: massive death by chocolate cupcakes with homemade chocolate buttercream.

A couple months ago, I took a cake decorating class (Wilton's Decorating Basics Course) and our instructor gave us a couple of her own recipes at the end of the course. This is the first one I've tried out and it's not too shabby. In fact, it's quite delicious, but I really didn't expect much less considering the ingredients:

Death By Chocolate Cake
From the Kitchen of Ruth Hamamoto

1 Devil's Food Cake Mix (18.25oz)
1 package instant chocolate pudding mix  -- no size specified, so I used the smaller one, about 3 oz
1 1/2 cups chocolate milk (whole, not low fat)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3 round cake pans (8 or 9 inch). On low speed of mixer, blend cake mix, dry pudding mix, choclate milk, eggs and oil until blended, about 1 minute. On medium-high speed, beat for 2 minutes. Divide batter among pans. Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Turn out on cooking rack and cool completely.

This cake can be baked as a sheet cake, 9x13 inch.

Might I add, this may be the most delicious cake batter I have ever licked off the spatula. I ended up making 5 jumbo cupcakes and a double layer 6 inch round cake, which I will share tomorrow. I made Wilton's Chocolate Buttercream Frosting and topped them with a few sprinkles. Oh, did I mention there is a little vanilla pudding filling in the middle?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Proudly Announcing... incredibly talented and creative friend Michelle's new Etsy shop! I'm so excited for her. She has wanted to get one up for a while now, so I can't help but brag and show off some of her stuff. I have seen everything listed in her shop in person and can vouch for all of her products' high-quality and close attention to detail. She loves to create and it shows in her work.

One of my favorite items is this Little Farmer Quilt. I love, love, love the fabric. It would really be perfect for tummy time or a crib, not to mention a very convenient way to teach animal names and sounds.

Photo credit: Michelle Waters

She also makes these Ultimate Swaddler Baby Blankets, cotton on one side, snuggle flannel on the other. They look so cozy I want to be burrito wrapped in them. (She also has the most precious, snuggle-y model ever.)

Photo credit: Michelle Waters

Did I mention how awesomely creative Michelle is with digital design, particularly involving photos? She has custom birth announcement listings that are modern and showcase your newborn perfectly.

She is open to any custom orders and will be adding more to her shop in the next few weeks. To get to know her a little better and see other stuff she makes, check out her blog, The One With The Cupcakes. She can make you pretty much anything you see on her blog. To get straight to her shop, go here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Speechless Sunday

My grandpa used to say, "You learn somethin' new every day..." Pause. "...if you pay attention." With a wink and a smile. This reminded me of him. And it's true.

I didn't know "Ray LeBond" said it, but I googled him to see who he was...and I think it's supposed to be Ray LeBlond. Even then, I'm not quite sure who he is/was. There was a few quotes of his on but no wikipedia page. Maybe he's not even famous, but the person who made the printable knew him. At any rate, I'll just remember how my Papa Gerald always said it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Best Things In Life...

...Aren't Things, But Food. Right behind my family and friends, of course. But yes, I really do believe in the healing power of chocolate chip cookies and vanilla ice cream. Even more powerful since both are homemade.

I bought a Cuisinart Flavor Duo Frozen Yogurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker for a steal a while ago. Having fond memories as a kid making ice cream with my Grammy, this machine was quite an upgrade for a killer price. Cuisinart has discontinued my duo model, but the singular version can be found here. I would highly recommend it: super easy, quick and nearly no clean up.

Between moving, packing and unpacking, I am just getting around to using it. First, I made super easy and very tasty, lemon sorbet. Tonight, I am enjoying these New York Times Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies with my homemade vanilla ice cream. If you've got a ice cream maker you haven't used in a while, get it out and try this simple recipe for vanilla ice cream:

3/4 cup 2% or whole milk, well chilled
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
1+ teaspoon pure vanilla extract, to taste

Whisk milk and sugar until dissolved (about 1-2 minutes). Stir in heavy cream and vanilla to taste. Put into ice cream maker, as per directions of machine.  Makes about 1 quart.

I can't wait to try simple variations of this recipe, by adding the following during the last 5 minutes of mixing:
  • chocolate chip - 1/4 to 1/3 cup
  • cookies & cream - 1/4 to 1/3 cup crushed cookies
  • any other candy (Snickers, Twix, Reese's) crushed to fill 1/4 to 1/3 cup
  • mint - replace vanilla with peppermint extract + 3 ounces chocolate chunks

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Font Binge Result: Dr. Seuss Quote

Every now and then I font binge and download so many fonts I just can't wait to use. I was playing around with some of my new ones and came up with this simple printable (using clip art from here) with a back to school theme.

I love Dr. Seuss. Plus, although I am not starting school this year, I have been reading for fun a lot more lately and am super excited for my first book club meeting next weekend. A new group of gals and myself will be discussing The Help by Kathryn Stockett and enjoying some caramel cake, of course.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie [New York Times Favorite]

I'm slightly curious what the record for the most number of pins is after one week of having a Pinterest account...I probably really don't want to know. That being said, surprise surprise, I pinned this a few days ago and decided to make them after my dear friend Michelle had me craving homemade cookies when said she was going to bake some for her hubby for their 3 year anniversary. [Happy Anniversary Michelle & Steve! You guys are the best.]

The pin will send you to this blog. I googled to verify that the pinned recipe really was endorsed by NYT as claimed. It is! Here is the article about the baker and the recipe posted exactly a two years ago today. How ironic.

Here's the recipe:

The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie
Adapted by Jacques Torres
Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
sea salt

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

-- The Finer Things in Life --

Needless to say, as with most recipes, I improvised using what I had - which meant, I used all bread flour since I didn't have any cake flour. I also didn't even know "fèves" was a word, let alone edible until checking out the NYT article, so I opted for good ol' fashioned semi-sweet chocolate chips. Still tasted fabulous. Although, these chocolate chip cookies sure do give the NYT recipe a run for its money. Have you ever had a chocolate chip cookie comparison bake? I'm thinking about hosting one - having friends come over, each bringing a batch of the best chocolate chip cookie recipe they have and then doing a little taste test. And of course having recipe cards to hand out for each one.

Finally, as I pondered after completing this pin, what do you do with your pins on Pinterest once they are complete?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Teacher Survival Kit

My incredible friend from college, Kaycie, is starting her second year as a teacher with Teach for America. I love her passion and am so proud of everything she has done at her school. Her kids are some of the luckiest kids in the country. Anyways, last year (for her first year teaching) I made her this teacher survival kit. I filled it with things she may need throughout the year, or have forgotten on any given day.

All you need to make one for your favorite teacher is some type of container and then some school themed embellishments. I added paper to the outside and inside of the case.

Then, I added some ric-rak to the outside of the case as well as across the top with my trusty glue gun.

Finally, the most fun part, picking the items to go inside - a mixture of fun and useful stuff!

I could list out everything I made, but I think the picture above shows it clearly enough. If you have a question about anything, leave a comment and I can clarify or justify! For the final picture below, I must have forgot to take a picture of the inside once I wrote a little note on the green square, inside top of the lid.

Mrs. Metz had her first day of school today, sans kiddos. They'll be there on Wednesday. Happy new school year Kace! I miss you loads. You're the best.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Super Tasty Banana {Chocolate Chip!} Muffins

Yet again, the brown bananas strike our fruit bowl, just like a couple week's ago when I ended up making these incredible Monkey Squares. We don't seem to be eating our bananas quick enough, which is understandable since we have so many fresh raspberries, blueberries and strawberries during theses summer months. Nevertheless, I had to try a new banana bread recipe. I branched out and used a recipe not from my favorite food blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything.

I tried Jamilynn's recipe from I {Heart} Naptime. I did alter it slightly because of the ingredients I had, or actually, didn't have on hand. Here's my slightly altered version, which actually is a smidgen less fattening for you, since I was short a 1/3 cup of sour cream. I added another 1/3 cup mashed bananas to keep the bread moist. The muffins are very tasty!

1 stick butter                              
1/3 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 c sour cream
2 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 c mashed bananas
1 c milk chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped pecans (optional)

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs, vanilla and sour cream. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in separate bowl. Slowly add to sugar mixture. Fold in bananas, nuts, and chocolate chips.  Pour into 2 loaf pans or 2 muffin pans. It makes enough batter to make 10 jumbo muffins, which is what I made. Bake at 325 for 1 hour in a loaf pan or 25 min in a muffin pan. I ended up making almost all off them without chocolate chip, but added a few chips into a couple for my niece.

Check out her recipe for a super yummy sounding topping that I didn't try, only because I really don't need the extra calories right now. Hopefully next time I will indulge!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Window Shopping: Anthropologie

A few weekends ago, I was able to visit my good friends in Portland and we went to Sand in the City. It was lots of fun. We stayed in the Pearl District and so Michelle, Jo, Steph and I went window shopping inside of Anthropologie. All photo credit goes to Michelle, as she was in charge of the camera. Read on and enjoy a little inspiration from Anthro!

Starting off with one of my favorite photos Michelle took, that I think looks like it should be in their catalog or on their website.

This ceramic berry crate was probably my favorite thing I saw there. I just couldn't quite buy one for $14 and not know when/what for I would use it exactly. It's still on my radar. I simply love it.

A close second is this awesome ceramic egg carton. I really want one of these, too. So pretty!

Look closely and you can see the markings for measuring cups, awesomely disguised as old milk containers.

I was quite drawn to this pitcher. It reminds me of my grandmother for some reason. I love the texture and color.

Okay. Has anyone ever bought one of these candles? I thought the blue container was pretty, so I nonchalantly smelled it. And then smelled it again and again and again. I can say it may be the the best smelling candle I've ever sniffed.

The sweet toothed baker inside me couldn't help but love these painted wooden spoons. Plus, I loved how Anthropologie had them displayed: in a real sack of flour, which had spilled about, on the floor.

This is the inside view of what you would see from the window facing the street. Beautiful! I've been brainstorming how to replicate something like this...

And finally, from a cover of a book, an awesome quote. Michelle loved this too. She actually featured it on a post here. It could easily be a printable.

Where is your favorite place to window shop?
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