Friday Faves

photo-116 {cherry trees in bloom}

Happy March Madness Friday! What are you up to this weekend? My plans hinge on the Zags winning tonight (so nervous!!!) and then their game time on Sunday.  We’ve been having amazing weather lately so hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy it tomorrow at least, if it holds up. It feels more like May than March! Some links and pics to get you through the work day – which I hope is ending early so that you can watch the games! TGIF!

photo 2-37 {go zags! blue friday, cherish, joy}

photo-117 {mimosa carafe at my cousin jen’s baby shower last weekend}

photo 3-20 {new favorite mascara}

photo-115 {what do your niece and nephew wear when one needs to grow into her zag gear and one has grown out of all of his? make your own! (now the only issue will be getting them together for a photo shoot)}

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Friday Faves

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{Seahawks Glassybaby: Grass (similar here), Blue Friday, Remembrance, We Are 12, Blue Bird}

Happy Blue Friday, friends! I haven’t updated this blog since Christmas, but there’s nothing like a(nother) Seahawks Superbowl to inspire me to post a Friday Faves!  Do you have big plans for Sunday? As much as I wish I was currently on a plane to Phoenix, staying home for the game means I get to make some fun Seahawks treats (and follow the game a whole lot better).  I’m listing some of my favorite Superbowl recipes and ideas below – if you have any to add I would love to hear them in the comments!

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend. Go Hawks!!

  • Homemade Queso: yum. We had queso in Austin a couple weeks ago and it was served in adorable mini cast iron skillets, so that’s what I’m going to do on Sunday – one for the upstairs TV and one for the downstairs. If you wanted to make your life easier, my friend Kelly makes amazing queso and she does hers in the Crock Pot – brilliant!
  • Three Healthy Dips: I’m most excited about the caramelized onion, but they all look yummy. And will help to balance out the queso, obviously.
  • Homemade Tater Tots: Not gonna lie, I’m probably not actually going to make these – but they’re an adorable idea in theory. And if I somehow end up with five extra hours on my hands tomorrow, maybe I will!
  • Seahawks Rice Krispie Treats: These would also be a pain, but somehow less ridiculous than making your own tater tots.
  • And last but not least, Jello Shots!

photo 1-31{decadent cure for my dry winter skin}

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{my royal icing practice continues: favors for Cooper’s baptism and Baby N’s shower}

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{so sad to say goodbye to the PDX carpet}

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{Coop pulls off my Hawks beanie better than I do}

Friday Faves

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{make your own ice cream sandwich at Hello Robin}

What are you up to this weekend? I’m heading to the coast for my cousin’s bachelorette party – we’re excited for some cooler beach temperatures after another sweltering week. And Baby Nephew Watch 2014 is officially ON – T minus one week to go.  I’m so excited I can hardly stay away from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale bear it. Doctor says he might be early, so next week’s Friday Faves could be all baby pics (don’t say I didn’t warn you)!! My poor sis is more than ready for him to make his debut, but I’m hoping he sits tight until at least Wednesday so that he’s a Leo (not that I particularly care about astrological signs, but I’ve bought him a LOT of lion stuff and I don’t want it to be for naught). 

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend. Links and faves to get you through your Friday morning (and the links even have a theme this week, I’m getting so fancy!):

  • How to grill anything and everything – so many helpful tips! 
  • How to make entertaining look easy – I would add “get yourself ready ahead of time.”  My aunt threw a dinner party this past Christmas and told me she told my uncle beforehand “our goal is to be sitting on the couch with a glass of wine half an hour before the guests arrive.” I’m usually still drying my hair when my guests arrive, but the thirty minute/wine/couch rule is now my goal too.
  • How to be the most popular person at a party – my friend Larisa brought these to a beach weekend a couple months ago and they were amazing! 
  • How to cure a headache – I need this! 
  • How to get really excited about this movie – ok this really isn’t a “how to” – but it does make me VERY excited for October 3rd!!  I hope you’ve all read the book – even if you hated the ending.  And if you haven’t read it yet, you have 2.5 months! 

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{my new summer obsession – stumptown cold brew}

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{love this organic lip/cheek color}

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{peaceful summer evening at the driving range}

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{some pics from my sister’s baby shower last month –  can you tell we were pretty into our alligator theme? invitations and banner from olive + star, alligator brownie toppers from etsy, DIY vases, cookie favors by yours truly, and cordy roy and his mini radio flyer from auntie/hostess Amanda}

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{and of course, my gift to baby p – hopefully he’s a baseball fan!}

How To: Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with frosted sugar cookies over the past few years – I think they are the sweetest, most adorable cookies when they look good, but try as I might, I’ve never been able to perfect those perfectly straight borders and smooth finishes. I’ve spent many a Sunday afternoon frosting pink and red Valentines Day hearts, green St. Patty’s Day shamrocks, pink and blue onesies for baby showers, and countless Christmas designs – and they never seem to turn out quite as well as I’d hoped.  Some of my prior attempts, and cookie inspirations, below:

Top to bottom, left: pink onesies for my friend Heather’s baby shower a couple years ago, cacti and chili peppers for my friend Karrie’s “fiesta” themed baby shower last summer, life preservers for my friend Courteney’s nautical themed baby shower last fall. Top right: the way I want my cookies to look someday – hippos for my friend Lindsay’s baby shower, made by the oh-so-talented Yoona Park; bottom right: when I just gave up and ordered cookies off of Etsy (link here – I would completely recommend this woman) for my friend Amanda’s shower (also nautical themed).  On a related note – I’m starting to think I need to come up with a new baby shower favor idea.  Also, one reason I can never quit social media, no matter how often I’m tempted – I was able to dig up all of these pics, which have long been deleted from my phone.

So, when my friend Kristen told me she had taken a sugar cookie decorating class, of course I begged her to come over and share some (all) of her secrets. Not realizing it would be over ninety degrees this weekend, we made plans to get together for a cookie decorating party/tutorial session on Sunday afternoon.  Kristen picked out two designs she thought would be good basics, and despite the sweltering heat, we got to work.

The most important part of a perfect sugar cookie (I’m going to go ahead and use the word perfect, although mine still have a ways to go, but “perfect” meaning what we’re all aspiring towards) is the consistency of the icing. The first time I used meringue powder (essentially dried egg whites in powdered form, it’s what makes the frosting dry solid), I followed the recipe on the tub, which makes a pretty thick frosting – and then assumed there was something wrong with the way I frosted.  As it turns out, it was the recipe’s fault, not mine – I just needed to add more water.  I used to always ask Yoona (of the perfect hippos, above) what her secret was, and when she told me to thin the frosting with water I assumed she was just trying to hide her actual secrets from me. Turns out she was telling the truth – that’s really all you have to do. 

There’s some debate about whether it’s best to use a thicker frosting to outline your cookies, and then a thinner frosting to flood, or rather to just use a medium-thick consistency for both.  There are a number of tutorials online that can explain the frosting better than I can – I like this one (I also used her cookie recipe) and this one. For the squares, we ended up with a consistency that was thick enough to hold a line when you outlined the shape of the cookie, but thin enough that it would “flood” the outline and spread into a smooth surface once flooded.

To do the pinwheel design, we thinned the frosting even more, so that the colors would bleed into the white and dry as one smooth finish. We outlined with the thicker white so that the circle would hold its shape, and then flooded the circle with the thinned white and immediately piped on the colored circles using thinned red and blue icing and with a size #2 tip on the pastry bag. I should have taken more pictures, but we were just so engrossed in our decorating that I forgot.  As soon as you’ve piped the colors on, use a toothpick to create a pinwheel, spiderweb, or “firework” shape. A better tutorial can be found here.

Kristen found this design online as well; for these, we just waited for the white to dry, and then with a thickened icing (just add more powdered sugar) and a #1 tip we drew the design on (Kristen, ever the perfectionist, used a stencil; I “freehanded” mine so they’re a little less uniform). Although my sprinkles look yellow, they are technically “gold” and were the best that I could find (shouldn’t one be able to find gold sprinkles when it’s fireworks season?!?) – I applied an edible gel with a toothpick (should have used a small paintbrush) once the red and blue frosting were dry, and then sprinkled the gold on top for a little added sparkle.

Thanks to Kristen, I have a whole new level of confidence in my royal icing skills, and thus a newfound enthusiasm for the next baby shower I get to host. I hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July – and if you want to hire Kristen for your next party, let me know – she does amazing cakes and cupcakes too!

How To: Cake Pops

Way back in my early/mid-20s, I used to get really excited about wedding and baby showers. I would spend hours picking out invitations, working on menus, trying to think up creative new themes, etc. These days, when I usually have at least one or two a month (more and more as wedding season amps up), I pretty much have them down to a science – I only get excited to try new things when they’re for people I really love. My friend Molly is one of those people, so when her sister asked me to bring cake pops to her bridal shower last month, I did what any normal person would do: signed up for a cake pop making class.

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I took the class with my friend (and cake/cookie/now cake pop decorating guru) Kristen, and we had SO MUCH FUN. The woman who taught it runs her own little catering company, which she founded after quitting Corporate America one day and enrolling in pastry school (i.e. what I dream about doing every day).  If you’re interested in taking her class in Seattle, or if you want to hire her to make your cake pops for you (turns out they’re actually pretty hard), her info can be found here.

If you want to make your own without the class, hopefully this “tutorial” will help you.  You will need:

1. Cake (any kind you like)
2. Frosting (any kind you like)
3. Ice cream/cookie scoop
4. Cake pop sticks (available at Michaels/Joanne Fabrics, Sur la Table, and often at specialty grocery stores)
5. Good quality, tempered melting chocolate (available at specialty baking shops) – tempered chocolate will dry harder and shinier than untempered chocolate
6. Sprinkles and other cake pop decorations, including colored candy melts if desired
7. Truffle papers or mini cupcake papers, for the “ball down, stick up” version (optional)
8. Styrofoam or floral foam cube, wrapping paper or fabric, and ribbon to make a display stand for the “ball up, stick down” version (optional)

1.  Our teacher had the cakes pre-baked for us, and I believe a 9 x 13 cake makes about 18-24 pops, depending upon a variety of factors such as size of cake balls, amount of frosting you mix in, how much of the crust you cut off, density of the cake, etc. So, make a cake (just a boxed mix to start with is fine, you can always fancy it up later), and get some frosting ready (homemade or Betty Crocker).

2.  “Crumb” the cake – cut off the sides and bottom if you want (not necessary, but then there are no “crispy bits” in your cake balls) and tear the cake into tiny pieces, and then crumbs.  You’ll need to really grind the cake with your fingertips until its all tiny, fine crumbs, so depending on who will be eating your cake pops you may want to wear gloves.

3.  Once the cake is finely crumbed, begin to add frosting slowly – you can always add more frosting, but its usually harder to add more cake. Mix/knead, using your hands, until the cake/frosting mixture is the texture of play dough.

4.  Scoop cake into balls using a golf-ball sized ice cream/cookie scoop. Chill for 20-30 minutes if time allows (not necessary but I think it helps).

5.  Roll the balls between your palms until as perfectly round as possible. Chill again.

6.  Melt chocolate either in the microwave, or in a double boiler over simmering water (be careful not to burn the chocolate). Dip cake pop sticks in melted chocolate, then insert the sticks into chilled balls. If you are making your cake pops “stick up, ball down” – like in the photo at the top – you can insert the stick entirely through the ball. If you are making your pops “ball up, stick down” – like the ones in the picture below, or the ones you see at Starbucks – only insert the stick about 3/4 of the way into the ball. You may need to use your hands to gently reshape the balls a bit at this point. Chill again – the colder the cake balls are, the better they’ll hold up once dipped.

7.  Dip cake ball end in chocolate. It’s important to do this pretty gently, or the cake ball could fall off the stick. Gently shake excess chocolate off the ball, and set down to dry. This is where it’s a lot easier to make the “stick up” version, as its easier to let them dry with the ball down. With the “ball up” version, you’ll need to hold the cake pop horizontally over the bowl of chocolate and spin it so that the chocolate dries evenly and without drips (see photo at the bottom left below for evidence of dried drips).

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You can decorate the pops any way you like – chocolate drizzle, sprinkles, sanding sugar, candy flowers, etc. If you want to do the chocolate drizzle, let the first layer of chocolate dry and then pipe a drizzled layer on using a frosting bag. It can be cute to first dip the balls in white chocolate, and then drizzle with dark, or vice versa.

If you go the “ball up, stick down” route, you can make a display stand out of a styrofoam or floral foam cube. Just cover it with a cute fabric or wrapping paper and measure out holes for the sticks evenly. Molly’s wedding colors are aqua and orange so I incorporated those colors (I’m sure hers are more subdued versions) into both the cake pop decorations and the display stands.  Note:  I made about three dozen pops, and only 16 ended up being “ball up.”   It’s harder than it looks!  (Also I would recommend not starting a project like this later than 10 pm).

Just a couple adorable pics from my coffee date yesterday.  I mean honestly, who doesn’t love a cake pop?

Friday Faves

TGIFF – thank goodness it’s finally Friday! I hope everyone’s April is off to a lovely start. This week started out gorgeous and sunny in Seattle, but the last few days have been pretty grey and blah. In spite of that, I did my best to come up with a few highlights – and I can’t complain too much about the weather, because I’m heading to Hawaii in two weeks! The forecast for Kailua is low 80s and sunny, which makes the current Seattle rain just a teensy bit more bearable. As will the spray tan I’m going to get at lunch today!

I had a really sad day on Monday, for reasons I won’t go into. After work I dragged myself to a spin class, even though I would have much preferred happy hour. During the instructor’s inspirational rant towards the end of class, she yelled out “take whatever it is that ruined your day today and work it out this way, rather than at the bar.” I was feeling so proud of myself for doing just that…until after class when I promptly ordered a drink at dinner. This “cucumber mint agave” cocktail was so delicious though, I didn’t even feel guilty. It’s my new drink for summer: vodka muddled with cucumber and mint and then mixed with lime juice and a little agave nectar. Paired with a good workout and great friends, it was the perfect cure for a bad day.

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My friend Katie and I went on an online shopping spree last summer, when a slow work day happened to coincide with the Kate Spade sale – a dangerous combination. When this bag first arrived in the mail, I was afraid it was a little too bright and didn’t really use it at all. However, I recently rediscovered it in the back of my closet and for some reason this year I feel like the color is perfect – and I’ve gotten so many compliments on it that I know it’s not just me. If you’re in the market for a fun spring handbag, here are a few that I love:

  • Tory Burch Robinson Spectator Double Zip Tote – I love anything from the Robinson line, but I especially love this in the white, and with the laser-cut detailing (here)
  • Kate Spade Grove Court Maise in Maraschino – love the pink and orange combo, and the polka dot lining (here)
  • Rebecca Minkoff “M.A.B” Leather Tote in Sea Green – perfect for a fun summer work bag (here)

I’ve turned 29 my past few birthdays, so all of the sudden I find myself buying more skincare products than I used to. I know this is an issue for most of my friends as well, so whenever I find an amazing new product I have to share. I’m still waiting for my friend Yoona to do another skincare post, but in the meantime, this is my new moisturizer obsession. It’s light and non-greasy, which are my two main criteria for a moisturizer, but it’s also super hydrating, anti-aging, smoothing, calming, etc. Basically a lot of things that my skin needs. And it smells good. If anyone else has a product they want to share, I would love to hear about it in the comments!

One of my favorite parts about having my blog is that people will discuss things with me that they wouldn’t necessarily have discussed before. A friend at work the other day gave me a list of his favorite cookbooks, so of course I immediately went back to my desk and ordered them all. He gave me three suggestions – one is backordered, but the other two arrived this week (in a HEAVY box, they’re both HUGE)and I’m having so much fun starting to go through them. If anyone has any favorite recipes from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking or Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table , I would love to hear them! I have a feeling they’re both going to force me to up my game!

My grandma is famous for a lot of her recipes, but one of the top five family favorites is her lemon poppyseed cake (which – shhhh!!! – is just a slightly doctored up cake mix). I made it on my own for the first time this past weekend, and it was a big hit at my cousin’s baby shower. Even Grandma gave it the thumbs up, although she was quick to add that hers is “lighter.” Also you’ll notice the crack at the bottom of mine from when I flipped it – heartbreaking.

Grandma’s Lemon Poppyseed Cake:

2 boxes lemon cake mix (“lemon supreme” if you can find it, I used plain lemon because I couldn’t)
2 small boxes instant lemon pudding (if you can find it, I used vanilla because I couldn’t find lemon)
Lemon juice (fresh squeezed, or from concentrate, as you’ll need 1-2 cups)
Eggs
Oil
1 large jar poppyseeds
1 cup powdered sugar (approx.), for glaze
4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (or juice of one lemon, approx.), for glaze

Prepare cake mix according to package directions, only substitute lemon juice for the water. You can do just one cake mix (and one box of pudding, and one small or half one large jar poppyseeds), but for a tall cake you should use two and double the recipe.

Spray a bundt cake pan with “pam for baking” (or butter and flour the pan) and cook according to package directions (if you use two boxes of cake mix it will take anywhere from 15-30 minutes longer to bake).

To make the glaze, whisk the powdered sugar and 4 teaspoons lemon juice together until smooth (mine turned out a little too thin, which is why you can barely tell it’s even on there – too much lemon juice!).

Allow cake to cool for 20-30 minutes, then invert pan onto platter and drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake. Serve with fresh berries.

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I hope everyone has fun weekend plans, sunshine or not! I’ll be rooting for Wichita State tomorrow (I can’t believe I just said that!). xoxo