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!}

Halloween Faves

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{this is technically last year’s pumpkin, but I still love it – carved with a drill!}

Happy Halloween, everyone! This week’s favorites are coming a day early, since I needed a full post to celebrate one of my very favorite holidays. I feel like Halloween snuck up on me this year – I didn’t get around to carving a pumpkin, or putting together a costume, or making any homemade candy (Twix and Reese’s were on my list – maybe next year!). Despite all that, however, I’m still excited to hand out (store-bought) candy and see all the trick-or-treaters tonight. Seattle’s forecast is looking dry, which of course is the best Halloween news – nothing sadder than having to cover up your costume with a raincoat.  I hope everyone has a spook-tacular day, and gets lots of candy tonight!

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{would you believe I copied this from Martha Stewart years ago, way before Pinterest? Still one of my favorite ways to decorate}

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{who doesn’t love a “guess the weight” contest!?!}

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{Halloween crafting – any excuse to use candy corn stickers}

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{once upon a time, I worked at Pottery Barn, and thus have way too much holiday decor. Glassybaby is “pumpkin.”}

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!

Friday Faves

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Somehow it feels like it’s been the longest week ever, even though Monday was a holiday (I worked, but I went into the office in a sweatshirt and yoga pants, so it still felt kind of like a holiday). The past few days of rain and 37 degree temperatures have me SO excited for my trip to Scottsdale tomorrow – despite the fact that I have to leave for the airport at 5 am. I can’t wait to park myself in a chaise lounge and soak up some much needed Vitamin D. But in the meantime, some highlights from the week:

We all know the right jewelry can add interest or personality to an outfit, especially when your wardrobe mainly consists of black, like mine does. I’ve never been much of an accessorizer, but lately I’ve been trying to be better about it. As a general rule, I don’t like to pay full price at J. Crew, but three of these bracelets were on final sale (40% off the already-reduced sale price), and the fourth was on “promotion” – somehow different than “sale,” a J. Crew “promotion” means an item is 25% off, yet still returnable. Woop! I wore these to work the day after I bought them and, even though I had to take them off in order to actually do any work (who can wear a bracelet and type?), I like to think that for the 10 minutes they were actually on my wrist, I looked like a whole new person.

Flywheel is a hip new(ish) spin/barre studio in Seattle, and on top of the great classes and free towels/lockers/hair powder, one of the things I love about it is that so many of my friends work out there. As much as I don’t love getting out of bed early on the weekends, it’s much easier to do so when you’ve made plans to meet your girlfriends for a class and then get breakfast afterwards. I had a fun barre-and-croissant date with my friends Lindsay and Meredith this past Saturday, and Meredith made Lindsay and me homemade hairbands and headbands for the occasion. You know the super cute colorful elastics that don’t tear your hair? I’ve been paying $5 for a pack of three – Mer is so crafty and economical, she orders the elastic online and makes her own (check out her blog here and you’ll see she’s a serious DIY-er). And if you ever want to get really crafty, I stumbled upon this blog when I was google-searching how to buy the elastic to do it myself – if only I owned a “silhouette machine” I would totally do this.

A month or so ago an old trainer of mine posted a blog link on facebook, with the caption that the blog listed a few “small changes” people could make to improve their overall health and fitness. Always looking for self improvement tips, I clicked onto the link and discovered Sarah Adler’s blog Simply Real Health, which I would encourage anyone to read if they’re interested (healthy recipes, etc). The “small” changes, however, seemed pretty big to me – but one was “drink more green tea than coffee.” Seeing as how two of my goals were already “drink green tea” and “spend less money at Starbucks,” I’ve been attempting to do this over the past few weeks. While it hasn’t been easy – old habits die hard, especially when you have a boring job and there’s a Starbucks in your building – this TAZO tea is really helping me stay on track. I think the orange-y flavor (remember the original Starbucks flavor “wild sweet orange” that they don’t have any more?) makes it taste less “green” and bitter. And it has jasmine in it too, yum. Just one cup of this in the morning and I feel like I’m totally sticking to my New Years Resolutions, even if I did eat an entire basket of chips and have two cocktails at Cactus last night.

My friend Courteney is in town from Boston this week, and she brought her adorable two month old baby Charlie with her. Her sister (and also my friend) Kyle is hosting all of Court’s Seattle girlfriends at her house tonight so that we can all see Court and meet Charlie. Kyle pretty much has the whole entertaining thing down these days so she doesn’t need my help at all, but obviously I can’t show up empty handed. As these girls both have better taste in wine than I do, I thought it would be fun to bring a sweet treat instead. I saw these on one of my favorite blogs earlier in the week and decided this would be the perfect excuse to try them. I couldn’t find black sprinkles, so Court is such a colorful person that I decided to use multicolored sprinkles instead. Good friends, a sweet new baby to cuddle, wine, and a sweet and salty treat – perfect Friday night!

I really love both the Sprouted Kitchen blog and cookbook – it’s so much more fun to cook and eat healthy with fun new recipes, rather than just eating green salads with grilled chicken ad nauseam. The following kale “chopped” salad is from the cookbook, and it’s my new go-to for packing lunches on the weekdays. Kale (especially Tuscan kale) is perfect for packing lunches because you can toss the leaves with the dressing, and they don’t wilt – and for anyone who isn’t sold on raw kale yet, the dressing almost serves as a marinade to soften it up and take some of the bitterness away. On weeks when I really have my act together, I’ll buy a couple bunches of kale on Sunday, and then prep it (wash, cut out center rib, chop into bite sized pieces) when I get home. Then each morning before work (or night before, even) I’ll do one tupperware with kale and dressing, and another with the remainder of the salad ingredients (I don’t like them to get soggy in the dressing) and I have a delicious lunch to bring into work. Also worth noting: I am typically a salad-dressing-hater, but this vinaigrette recipe is delicious – I suspect it has something to do with the cheese.

Tuscan Kale Chopped Salad (from the Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook, by Sara Forte)

Serves 4

Parmesan Vinaigrette
1 small shallot, chopped (I roast mine first)
Juice of 1 meyer lemon (or regular lemon if you can’t find meyer)
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad
2 slices rustic whole-grain bread, torn into bite size pieces (I usually omit this)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of sea salt
1 bunch lacinato (Tuscan) kale
1 apple, such as Braeburn, Gala, or Pink Lady (I’ve been using Honeycrisp, yummm)
1 cup cooked chickpeas, chopped
1/2 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup dried cherries, chopped

To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallot, lemon juice, parmesan, and olive oil in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth, then add a pinch of salt and pepper and give one last pulse. Set aside.

Toss the bread with the olive oil and salt. Toast in a toaster oven or in a sauté pan over medium heat until the exterior of the bread is crispy, about 10 minutes.

To assemble the salad, cut the tough stems out of the kale and finally chop the leaves. Put the chopped kale in a large bowl. Core and dice the apple and add to the kale along with the chickpeas, pecans and cherries. Add half of the dressing and toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing if you like. Divide among four salad plates and garnish each serving with crispy croutons immediately before serving.

Happy Friday, everyone! Did I mention I’m off to Scottsdale tomorrow? The forecast isn’t quite what I’d hoped for (high 70s), but at least it’s going to be sunny. Hopefully I’ll have some fun pics and stories to share when I get back! XOXO