This vase full of cherry blossom boughs is making me unreasonably happy. One day they were just sticks and the next day white flowers burst out like little pieces of popcorn. Oh, how I love the spring!
In my family it is tradition to gather together the night before my sister or my birthday to eat the same dinner that our mom ate the night before she had each of us. It was the greatest tradition growing up because you weren't forced to hold in all of your excitement until the day of your birthday. A little got to leak out the night before.
My birthday night food is Arby's and Sunday night we got together to eat my sister's: Swedish meatballs. The night before she was born, you see, my grandparents were in town to care for me. Legend goes that my grandpa pulled together a giant batch of Swedish meatball, dinner was eaten and my mom (who was only a little in labor) was promptly forced to hop in the car and head to the hospital to deliver her own little meatball. My sister was born a mere 18 hours later.
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My contribution to Swedish meatball night was red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Nothing to do with the theme other than the cupcakes were red and the frosting pink in honor of the 27-year old baby girl. Also, they were delicious.
3 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch processed)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups canola oil
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3 ounces red food coloring
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcake papers.
In a medium size bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa and salt.
In a large bowl, blend oil and sugar together. Beat in eggs one by one. At this point, it is a good idea to change into an all-black outfit. Carefully add the red food coloring and vanilla. Add in the flour mixture and the buttermilk, alternating wet and dry ingredients. Mix until combined.
Toss the baking soda into small bowl and top it with vinegar. Add vinegar mixture to the batter and blend for a few seconds.
Fill the cupcake liners 1/2 to 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes (a knife inserted into the middle of one of the cupcakes should come out clean). Allow cupcakes to cool before frosting.
Frosting (makes a double batch)
2 8-oz. packages of cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
6 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Blend cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Blend in sugar and vanilla. Beat until combined.
How to frost the cupcakes
Scoop a small hole in the center of each cupcake (we are about to maximize your frosting intake in the best possible way).
Make a homemade frosting bag by filling a gallon-sized sealable plastic bag with frosting. Seal the bag and then snip a small corner off. Squeezing frosting out of the small corner hole, fill each of the cupcake holes.
Frost cupcakes using the frosting bag, squeezing with steady pressure in a circular motion to create a swirled dollop of frosting. Practice makes perfect--my first cupcakes looked really rough, but by the end of the frosting job, I was ready to open a bakery. (You can find a really good cupcake frosting tutorial here.)
Emerson Fry's new collection is so good. The white tunic, the tuxedo shirt, the LBD. I mean, c'mon. I've had my eye on that polka dot blouse (one of Emerson's classics) FOREVER. How long do you admire something before you can fully justify pulling the trigger and laying your money down? Someone help me with that shopping math equation.
Equal to my love for the clothes is my love for the photo styling. I not only want to wear the clothes and shoes and cocktail rings, I want the lifestyle that goes with them, too. Resolved: I'm drinking all liquids from a classic champagne glass from now on.
P.S. I'm wishing the happiest birthday to my little sister today! I hope your year is gorgeous, just like you!
I've checked two more things off of my life list: getting a spray tan and taking my mom to Hawaii. Clearly my life list is full of things very large and very small. This comes in handy since it is easy to mark a small thing and a big thing off of the list when they go well together. Going to Hawaii? Get a spray tan! Check and check.
Getting a spray tan was on my list because I've always wanted to try it, but have always felt a little intimated. I mean, what if I did it wrong and came out looking like a carrot-colored fool? As it turns out, the experience is lovely. You step into a booth, have your body gently misted with a good smelling magical tanning compound and leave looking like you've just been on a 10-day trip to the beach. I highly recommend it. What I don't recommend is exposing the world to the bottoms of your feet when it's all over with. My soles were straight up carrot-colored fools!
As for the Hawaii part, I guarantee that taking my mom to see it will be one of the most fulfilling things I cross off my list. My mom has always wanted to visit the Pacific islands and through a series of circumstances, her every attempt to go has been foiled. She has wanted to go so badly, for so long, that I felt lucky to be part of her first Hawaiian experience. We made our trip into a celebration of life's happy little moments, our family and spray tans. It was the best.
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I'm having fun working on my life list, but I am judging myself a little for moving so slowly through it. Breathe self, breathe.
If you are keeping track at home, here is my list in progress. And here are a few more tidbits on the topic:
Oh, this sandwich is so simple. Deceptively simple, really. Two slices of good bread, brown and toasty, smeared with a thick layer of mayo. Sweet, lightly Italian spiced tomotoes piled high with creamy swiss cheese. Layers of simple, simple, simple. The sandwich to usher in the spring equinox. A talisman for the new season: simple, delicious, perfect.
Stewed Tomato and Swiss Sandwich
Ingredients: Swiss cheese, a can of stewed tomatoes, mayo and good heavy multi-grain bread. How to: Drain the tomatoes and then layer the ingredients on two pieces of toast. Enjoy!
A few months ago I mentioned some books I wanted to remember to read. Remembering the books that have been recommended to you is only one half of the equation. The other half is finding the time to actually sit down to read. A long plane ride and some time on the beach helped recently, but so did borrowing books on CD from the library to play on my commute.
I've been struggling with the feeling lately that no matter how quickly I consume all of the information around me--the books, the magazines, the blogs, the emails--I just can't keep up. It's frustrating, that feeling of never being caught up, of wishing for more hours in the day. Also, the regret of ever wasting time on something that is not amazing. Oh, first world problems.* My solution is just to try to read it all and read it really fast, all at once.
Here are the books I've read in the last few weeks and the ones that I'm in the middle of:
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wrobleswki
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Bossypants by Tina Fey
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Design Sponge at Home by Grace Bonney
Power Questions by Andrew Sobel & Jerold Panas
Room by Emma Donoghue
Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
People Training for Good Dogs by Melissa Berryman
My favorites on the list are Bossypants and The Night Circus. Room and Shopaholic have definite potential, too.
What are you reading lately? Give me some recommendations to try to remember.
* I just Googled 'first world problems' to make sure I was using that term correctly. Turns out I was. This funny site provides more examples. Living in the first world is hard.
I love these patterns--all are dense, dizzy and perfect. I would could see decorating with them or hanging them in my closet. The one with flecks of yellow above is from the Velveteen Rabbit. Isn't that sweet?
One of my favorite stops when I'm looking around the internet these days is Anthology. It's the home base Anthology magazine (available in web and paper versions). Their next issue's theme is wit and whimsy. Sounds like a good one!
The Anthology blog is a treat--a lovely collection of things for the home, art, food and photographs. These are some of my recent favorites.
WEAR: Brown drop earrings. Once upon a time I owned a pair of bronze drop earrings. They were fantastic. One went missing never to be found again. It was one of the biggest heartbreaks of my life. The sparklers might make things better.
SEE: The Artist. The Oscars have come and gone, but I'm still working my way through all of the movies nominated in the major categories. I saw The Artist a few weeks ago and was suprised by how much I liked it! If you are looking for something to rent, Moneyball is also excellent.
GO: Palm Springs. You know how one day you hear about something random then suddenly you hear about that random thing everywhere? This is Palm Springs for me. I keep hearing about it and I'm taking it as a sign to add it to my travel wishlist.
Just a few things to add to the old to do list.
I hope you have a happy Friday and a great weekend!
Allow me to paint a picture for you. You've worked a long day that feels like a Thursday and it's only Tuesday. You have plans every night this week. All of them involve being away from home, the home that needs some serious attention in the cleaning department. Unexpectedly, your Tuesday plans vanish and just like that you have a night to yourself. What is a girl to do?
I'll tell you what she is to do: she is to go to her fridge, fish out an abandoned sweet potato waiting to be eaten, turn that sweet potato into fries, mix up a mayo dipping sauce, crack open a cold Crispin cider, prop her feet up on the coffee table, que up Bethenny Ever After on the DVR, relax and enjoy.
Wash and peel sweet potatoes. Cut into fry sized strips. Soak the potato pieces in a bowl of water for an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Sprinkle corn starch into a plastic bag. Place potatoes in the bag a few at a time. Shake the bag to coat the potatoes. Set the potatoes on a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle potatoes with olive oil and toss to coat. Arrange the potatoes on the sheet so that they are not touching each other.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they brown slightly on the outside, flipping once or twice.
Mayo Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup mayo
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve with fries and dip with wild abandon!
Thought I'd pull together a few inspirations for the coming weeks. I collected some pictures and only then realized just how mellow they all seemed together. And that actually sounds about right. After letting myself get stressed out and overwhelmed the last couple of weeks, my intention for the next few weeks will be on the opposite. My focus will be on relaxing, nourishing myself, appreciating beautiful things (and then making some of my own), all with an attitude of whimsy and fun.
P.S. Today is my mom's birthday. I'm wishing her the most delightful, beautiful year ever. Love you, Mom.
Things have been pretty quiet around these parts lately. Mostly I've been recuperating from my trip. We had a snow storm this week that kept me home bound (for the day at least). The excuse to hibernate was more than welcome.
This weekend my boyfriend's band it playing a show. Shows always make for a late night. Luckily I have Midnight in Paris from Netflix to watch between naps on the couch the next day.
(Toe nail color this week. It it hot pink. It is awesome.)
(Speaking of my hot pink toe nails, here they are standing on my new West Elm bathmat and next to my new Target shower curtain.)
(During this week's hibernation I had time to make the best hearty breakfast: steel cut oats, toasted almonds, craisons, half & half, brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon.)
(Working and working my way through the J. Crew catalog.)