Monthly Archives: February 2012

All About Cake

As ironic as it might sound, I’m not the biggest fan of cake. Yes, I work with the stuff all day but there are too many delicious treats that rank a bit higher on my list and are therefore eaten first. That being said, cake pops are adorable and quite good and super fun to make!

Here’s what you need for this treat – keep in mind some of this is optional depending on how you want to decorate and finish your pops: cake and icing (now I’m a bit lazy so I just use box cake mix and icing but please feel free to be ambitious and make your own), white chocolate for dipping, food coloring, sprinkles, lollipop sticks (I got 30 for a couple bucks at Michaels), and a way to package/store/display them.

Our first step here is to follow some directions and bake your cake. When it’s out and cooled off, take a fork (or your hands – it’s gonna get messy eventually, might as well dive in!) and scrape at it to basically turn in into a big pan of crumbs. Pour your demolished cake into a big bowl and add a couple spoonfuls of icing.

Stir this up and add more icing if needed until the consistency is so when you squeeze a bit between your fingers, it stays. Next you just make whatever shapes you want! Of course, balls of cake are the easiest but come on – it was Valentine’s Day so you know I had so make some hearts! I like to use a small ice cream scoop so they’re all the same size. (this is also a trick I use when baking cookies)

Shape all your little pops and place on a baking sheet with parchment so they don’t stick, then slide in your lollipop sticks and throw it all in the freezer for a couple hours. Next melt your white chocolate (or milk or dark if you prefer) either in a double boiler or the microwave on 30 second intervals. All you have to do now is dip your pops!

If you want to decorate with sprinkles, you’ll need to do it before the chocolate hardens and dries. Now there’s the challenge of where to put them to dry. I’ve found that a big cake pan filled with rice and a cooling rack holds them pretty well! Just slide them between the slots and the rice keeps them from falling over. After they’re all dipped and dry, I mix the remaining chocolate with some food coloring and pour it into a little piping bag to decorate the un-sprinkled ones.

All that’s left is to package them up (I also got these little bags at Michaels) and send them out to be eaten!

I think these would be adorable for a baby shower, you could dye the cake inside green for St. Patty’s, and of course, very cute for kids’ birthdays. I know there are a lot of steps and it may seem a bit daunting but they’re so fun when finished and people sure are impressed by these!

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Rose Overload

So I recently discovered my new favorite aftermath of Valentine’s Day. Usually it’s the shopping carts full of chocolates on sale, but that was until we went to the grocery store last night and I saw a sign advertising rose bunches for $2. $2!!!! They were originally $25 so you know I went crazy and bought 5 bunches. What usually would have been $125 worth of flowers ended up costing me $10. Is there a better deal than that?

For those of you that know me, you’ll know my obsession with everything green – gardening, plants in the house and fresh flowers. Obviously I’m thrilled to have these flowers in pretty much every room of the house.

In the kitchen…

the dining room…

the living room…

my bedroom…

and even the bathroom! I’ve been wandering around the house rearranging them all morning, I seriously can’t keep my eyes off them.

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Valentine’s Vacation

Ok, long time no post. And I don’t even have a good excuse…I guess work has been a little crazy – turns out people like sweets on Valentine’s Day, who knew!?

Just a little back story here – Adam’s job involves working from home, but also doing a lot of traveling. While we live in metro Denver, his territory includes all of Colorado, Utah, Wyoming (ugh, no thanks), Idaho, Montana, and most of Nevada. He’s been planning a sales trip to the northern regions for a few months. Now if I’m lucky enough to coordinate my days off from work, I get to tag along on some of his little excursions, which is what happened this week and it sure was a busy couple days. My Sunday started with a brutal 5 am alarm to get to work and ended with a 2 1/2 hour flight up to Spokane and a lovely wait in the rental car line before finding our hotel and seriously collapsing into bed. Monday meant shopping (!) while Adam took some clients out to lunch and then it was time to take a gorgeous drive through the mountains and a sister-date for dinner.

Tuesday turned out to be a little much with breakfast, coffee, lunch-ish, and dinner plans! …oh yeah, wasn’t this supposed to be a business trip? We picked up a few copies of our friends’ book he just had published, I spent some fun hours with Karlie making cake pops (tutorial coming soon!) and trying out some new hairstyles (french fishtails are HARD), and then we made a giant Valentine’s Day Dinner for a bunch of family friends.

More plans for breakfast on Wednesday then we trekked up to my parents’ house to check out the renovations they’ve been working on for the past year. Before we really knew what was happening it was time to drive back over to Spokane and catch our flight home. I love trips back to Missoula, but they are never quite long enough. There’s a long list of favorite restaurants to revisit, shops and boutiques to drool over, and far too many old friends to connect with. I wish it were practical to go home for a week or two every couple months….I think I’ll work on that.

And I just have to post this pretty little latte we had one morning – I’m becoming a bigger and bigger fan of coffee each time I have to set my alarm just a little bit earlier. It seems working in a bakery does have drawbacks….

I’m thinking I should study latte art. How fun!

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To clutch or not to clutch

I’ve always loved the look of clutches, but I’m definitely one of those people that have a hard time with them. I either misplace them, can’t fit in everything I need for the day or simply handicap myself to using only one hand. And yet, here I find myself, tackling the sewing machine again in order to make one. I figure they make a great accessory for date nights and and exciting change to my regular over-the-shoulder bag.

I got a roll of vinyl for half off in the remainders section so I had to adjust my idea to fit 11 inch parameters. A few cuts with my rotary cutter and a ruler and I had a rough two feet rectangle.

Trimmed one end for the flap. The inside of the vinyl isn’t very appealing but I wasn’t too worried, this was mostly a trial run anyways.

Folded over my rectangle, sewed the sides together and added a button and button hole.

And within about 15 minutes I had my very own handmade clutch! I think it needs a stiffer fabric, perhaps leather would hold up better. I also want to try my hand at making my own laptop case – just add a layer of padding sewn inside for cushioning.

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Sewing Adventures

I think I might be getting a little addicted to the sewing machine. We had a huge fight yesterday (how can one bobbin winding misstep cause me so much agony?) but we’re back on track today!

Pillows

Some more Montana pillows and a little motivation as well. We’ll see how much it inspires me in the mornings. Two-toned back and front pillows add excitement too! You can hardly see it from the front, such a fun surprise when reversed.

Pillows White

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Home Sweet Home

After my confession last week about my sewing abilities I decided to bite the bullet and start doing more crafts that involve, you guessed it, the sewing machine. Up to this point, I’ve been hand-sewing the infamous dinosaurs, but when Krista shared her adventures tackling this post on the Letter 4 blog, I had to give it a go. It took a few tries, but I ended up with a lovely lavender and rice filled “polar bear” that I affectionately refer to as Lavender Butt. (I hesitate to label him as a true polar bear because there’s a bit of special sloth in there as well. Hey, it’s a learning process.)

Lavender Butt

Today I wanted to try another simple sewing machine project and I was inspired by this pillow.

However, feeling a little uninspired I couldn’t think of any phrase I wanted to emblazon upon a pillow for all to see. So instead, I settled with a local favorite, a cutout of our home state, Montana.

I started by simply cutting out my rectangles from an older home-made pillow cover. However, if this isn’t available, just measure your pillow and add one inch to each side to account for the seam. (A 12 x 12 inch pillow would require a front square of 13 x 13.) For the back square, add 4 inches to one side to create the envelope. (A 13 x 17 rectangle.) Fold and pin one one end of each piece for the hem.

Here’s my cutout- a simple shape, but I’m definitely going to try letters next time! Time to get sewing.

The decal, sewn pretty far from the edge, to give it a little texture.

Pin the front and back together, inside with the flap folded inside, and sew around the 3 sides. Reverse and fit around your pillow!

You’ll notice my decal ended up on the same side as my flap. This was not intentional, but I do end up liking the look of it. As Katie said, “It’s wearing a little hat!” Or something of the sort. She also suggested how fun it would be to use different colors fro the front and back, so the flap folds over with a different color. Something to try next time!

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Sugar and Spice

We woke up to a blizzard! Just great…but at least I had the day off of work so no need to drive in this nonsense. Now, I’m married to a boy from Wisconsin; which means he is naturally awesome at things like shoveling, and withstanding freezing temperatures, and eating cheese. We spent a  good hour and a half clearing the driveway and sidewalks this morning, then warmed up with a deliciously sweet breakfast of raspberry crepes and chai.

My love of chai goes back years. There’s this amazing coffee shop back where I grew up that got all three of us girls totally hooked on their spiced and vanilla chai. So delicious. A trip home is never quite complete without a few visits to Liquid Planet. After the Mr. and I moved 2600 miles away, we set to sampling pretty much every brand I could get my hands on. Nothing really measured up so as the result of much trial and error, here’s a homemade recipe that we just love! I’m a little embarrassed to admit we drink this almost every morning.

What you need:

  • 5 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer
  • 5 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 2 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 2 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 2 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 2 1/2 tsp nutmeg
Combine these all in a large bowl and then stir to combine.

This is just the mix we happen to love, you can change some of the proportions, and even add some other spices like white pepper, fennel, star anise…whatever you prefer. Also, this makes a LOT, I would recommend halving the recipe and doing some experimenting until you figure out exactly how you like it.

Now grab your handy coffee grinder and blend the mix in small batches until it turns into a powder.

You want to go from this….

to this!

Just a warning, blending all those spices is going to make your kitchen smell fantastic! You might as well heat up some milk and get your tea steeping; I like to use one tea bag per cup of milk, usually a mix of black and green.

Then mix in your chai powder to taste and drink up!

I got these adorable jars at The Container Store a couple months ago and they are perfect for storing our morning fixes. Just craft up some fun little tags and there you have it! Enjoy.

Oh and in case anyone’s wondering, it’s still snowing.

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Meet Phil

I’ve never been great at sewing. The extent of my training was a home economics class in middle school whose end project culminated in a handmade pair of boxer shorts. And yet, here I find myself, trying my hand at making my very own stuffed dinosaurs. Meet Phil (I also have a series of cartoons featuring a dinosaur named Phil, but we’ll leave that for another day).

Materials include fabric (I used a sort of flannel/felt mix), stuffing, thread, and pins and a needle.

Cutting out the body.

Sewing him together.

Adding teeth and eyes.

Sewing on the stomach, and turned inside out.

The body all stuffed and sewed up!

Arms and legs being made.

Time for things to get real.

Meet Phil!

The growing army.

Is it sad for a grown woman to make stuffed dinosaurs for no purpose other than that she loves the t-rex? I hope not, otherwise we’re all in trouble…

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