Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Desk Inspiration

I am absolutely crazy about this desk makeover from Liz at say YES! to hoboken. I love the clean white top with the wood--reminds me of John and Sherry's mid-century dresser makeover. As I mentioned back in November, I have been planing to refinish my mid-century hand-me-down desk for a while. I've been busy and time has gotten away from me. Now that the hubby and I will likely be moving sometime in the next few months, I figure it'll be best to wait until we're settled into a new place before I tackle refinishing my desk. I was originally planning to paint the entire desk white, but seeing these two-tone pieces lately has been pondering a different look. I'm sure I'll wait and see how I want to decorate my new studio space before I settle on a new look for my desk, but I definitely think I'll end up utilizing this two-tone look in one of our furniture pieces.

Another thing about Liz's desk that I love? The IKEA jars next to that big spool of red and white baker's twine. I actually have almost the exact same setup on my desk. Three IKEA jars (one of the four in my set was broken and I didn't notice until I got home with my loot) holding vintage buttons, and a huge spool of baker's twine. Though I'm afraid mine aren't as artfully displayed.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

My friends had a little cookout/game night last night to say goodbye to a friend who's moving. Our friend has an unyielding love for all things peanut butter, so of course I thought to make a sweet peanut buttery treat for the occasion. I was so busy yesterday that I knew whatever I made had to be quick. I immediately remembered some Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies I had come across before on the Martha Stewart website. Glancing back over the recipe and reading numerous comments about the cookies being dry and bland, I decided to look for another recipe. My search took me to my beloved All Recipes where I found this recipe. After reading the great reviews, I decided to use a slightly modified version of the recipe. And I'm certainly glad I did, because these cookies were great!

After making some seriously sinful Levain Bakery inspired cookies recently which used cold, cubed butter rather than the usual room temperature, I decided that cold butter is now my secret weapon when I don't want my cookies to spread while baking. Using cold butter and a cookie scoop gave me the most darling, perfectly rounded cookies, a look that I adored about the original Martha Stewart cookie inspiration.

The combination of the peanut butter cookie and the melted chocolate morsels make these cookies irresistible. And the texture on these cookies are magical! With an almost fluffy interior, the crumb is along the lines of what you'd find in a cake.

These cookies are divine, and if you're looking for a peanut butter and chocolate fix, look no further. This is one mighty fine cookie.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from All Recipes
makes about 40 cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups smooth peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the cold, cubed butter and brown sugar until thoroughly combined and fluffy. Beat in peanut butter, vanilla and eggs.

Sift in flour, cornstarch, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Mix until almost combined. Add in the chocolate chips and finish mixing until everything is incorporated. Be careful not to over mix.

Using a cookie scoop (I used a 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop), shape and place cookies onto a parchment lined sheet pan about 2 inches apart.

Bake for 12-16 minutes, or until cookies are set and bottoms are golden. Be careful not to over bake the cookies, the tops will only be lightly golden when they are done.

Let cool on sheet pans for 5 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks to cool completely. Store in an air tight container.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Meringue Kisses

I made chocolate and vanilla meringue kisses last night. I separated some egg whites earlier in the afternoon, intending to start aging them to bake some French macarons. Instead I got the urge to make these meringue kisses right away.

I used this recipe from Not So Humble Pie, adapting it slightly to make half the batch chocolate and half vanilla. After whipping my meringue to stiff peaks in my stand mixer, I separated half the mixture into another bowl. To that bowl, I sifted 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder and gently folded it in until no streaks were left. In the mixer bowl, I added a wee bit of pink food coloring and whisked it in until the color was even. I piped the meringue kisses using piping bags and two different tips. These adorable, quarter-sized kisses were in the oven for a little over 2 hours at 175 degrees, until they no longer stuck to the parchment.

I'm not sure why, but my chocolate meringue kisses turned sticky once cool though my vanilla meringues dried out perfectly. At any rate, texture aside, the hubby and I both decided that we preferred the delicate, barely there flavor of the vanilla meringue kisses.

These are so simply to make and are really sinless as far as dessert go. These fat free sugary clouds are cute and delicious, and I'm sure I'll be making them more often. I can't wait to experiment with all the pastel colors and darling shapes these little meringue kisses can be.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Such Vintage Charm

I'm back to share another new design for Mayfest. These are a cross between a stud and a dangle earring. Vintage ivory rose cabochons are given 14K gold-filled post backs and are accented with vintage yellow rose cameos set onto the most darling brass charms with a heart and scroll design. The rose cabochons sit on the ear lobe while the yellow rose cameos dangle just below the ear. I am crazy about this style and hope to offer a few different rose and cameo color options. I should have these available with blue and coral colored vintage rose cabochons and coordinating floral cameos. I am hoping to have the other colors paired with sterling silver findings if I can get the little brass charms plated in sterling silver in time for Mayfest. If I can't get them plated in time, I may offer them in 14k gold-filled/brass as seen here for Mayfest and have them in sterling silver in the future.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Perfect Print

I did a little online shopping last week when Torrid had one of their fabulous 50% off clearance sales. I also had a 10% off coupon which got me some great deals. Torrid usually only has a handful of pieces at any given time that are really feminine and frilly enough to suit my style. This floral print chiffon ruffle blouse was just my taste--feminine and romantic with just a hint of whimsy. And it has the most perfect print: light and airy pastel flowers. Love it. Had to have it. And now it's mine!

Seriously, isn't that print amazing? I'm a big fan of teeny tiny floral prints but hate bold, overpowering prints. This print is large enough to be noticed, but delicate enough to still look soft and understated. Something about the thin lines and transparent hues remind me of watercolor, which I just adore. I have a few design ideas for the perfect earrings to pair with the blouse. One idea is a bit more sculptural, playing off the outlines in the print. Another idea is more simplistic to compliment the pretty pastel colors. We'll see which wins my heart.

I also purchased this perfectly pale gray cardigan to wear over the floral blouse. Now I just need a dark denim pencil skirt to complete the look. I have a denim pencil skirt but the color is a bit too light to pair with more elegant tops and it's becoming rather worn as it's one of my staple pieces. I'm having the worst luck finding affordable (plus size) just below the knee length pencil skirts this season.

These are my favorite of the pieces I purchased during the most recent 50% off clearance sale. These sales are pretty much the only way I shop from Torrid as I just can't justify their regular prices. I'm proud to say that none of the pieces I purchased were more than $12. I just love a bargain.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Triple Berry Smoothie

Gina has been posting some seriously mouthwatering smoothies this week. When she posted this Triple Berry Smoothie yesterday I knew I had to make it! I love a vibrant, healthy smoothie full of fresh fruit and yogurt. This one really hits the spot.

Be sure to scroll through her blog to see the other smoothie recipes she's posted this week. And, honestly, you'll want to stay a while. Gina offers some of the most delicious, figure friendly recipes! Her blog is always my go-to source when I'm looking for a healthy, but delicious meal.

Triple Berry Smoothie
via Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes
serves 2

1/2 cup blackberries and raspberries
5 medium strawberries
1 cup crushed ice
6oz WW berries and cream nonfat yogurt (I used WW vanilla yogurt)

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve with a straw.

*I just kind of eyeballed all the ingredients and it turned out great.

Vietnamese Coffee Jello

I know half of you, dear readers, are thinking "Ewww!" And the other half are intrigued...

I was intrigued when I read this recipe at The Food Librarian yesterday. I was so intrigued in fact that I had to run to Kroger to get some sweetened condensed milk so I could try this right away.

I threw this Vietnamese Coffee-inspired Jello together in about 15 minutes yesterday evening, popped it in the fridge and eagerly waited for the gelatin to set. I had never even thought about making homemade Jello until my mother-in-law made those darling almond Jello eggs for Easter. Now I'm pondering all the different Jello options out there.

This Vietnamese Coffee Jello turned out pretty darn tasty, if you like coffee and gelatinous things. I found the overall coffee flavor to be pretty mellow and perfect. The sweetened condensed milk offered the ideal level of sweetness, in my opinion. I'll definitely consider making this recipe again sometime. I'd like to try making it with 2 packages of gelatin instead of the 3 called for in the recipe, to see if I prefer a slightly softer texture.

The Jello can be cut into the most perfect, smooth cubes and are sturdy enough to be picked up and eaten with your fingers. The Food Librarian referred to it as "finger jello," and I think that's a perfect name for it. These definitely offer a unique combination that could be quite a hit in the right crowd. Unfortunately I am the only coffee drinker around these parts, so I'm not sure I'll be able to finish off this entire batch before I get tired of Jello. We'll see...

Vietnamese Coffee Jello
via The Food Librarian

1/2 cup cold water
2 cups strong coffee
1 (14oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
3 packages of Knox unflavored gelatin

Place 1/2 cup cold water in a medium bowl. Sprinkle 3 packages of unflavored gelatin over the water; stir to combine. Let this mixture set for about 10 minutes, until the gelatin blooms. Meanwhile, prepare 2 cups of strong coffee. (I used 8 tablespoons of ground coffee for 2 cups of water.)

Stir the hot coffee into the bloomed gelatin until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

Stir in the can of sweetened condensed milk.

Pour the combined jello mixture into an 8x8 pan (you could use a larger pan for thinner jello cubes). Place in the fridge for 2-4 hours, until gelatin is completely set.

Cut into 1-inch cubes and serve, or store in an air tight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Head in the Clouds

This darling photo of marshmallow clouds floating in cocoa from Nikole Herriott is one of the sweetest things I've ever seen and has been on my mind since I first saw it a few months back. I think any day would be brighter if it began with a few clouds in your morning drink.

I haven't found much about the origin of the marshmallow clouds, but I imagine they are probably Japanese as all the cutest candy is. Nikole had some for sale in her shop earlier in the year but they seem to have sold out quickly (of course). I'd love to get my hands on some. I even did a little search for molds as I thought about making my own. I'm sure you could create a similar looking cloud using a cookie cutter, but you'd sacrifice the sweet rounded edges these have.

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Buffalo Wing" Turkey Burgers

{Don't you just love that bit of sauce dripping down the burger?}

I made these "Buffalo Wing" Turkey burgers for the first time on Saturday evening. I've been wanting to try some different turkey and chicken burger recipes lately since they are a bit healthier than your typical beef burger. I've heard tales of dry, tough chicken/turkey burgers before and was a bit worried before I made these, but they were so moist and juicy!

I had planned to make these with ground chicken but couldn't find any at my local Kroger when I shopped for the ingredients to make these burgers. Instead I went with 93/7 ground turkey (I would have used ground turkey breast, but the 93/7 ground turkey was on sale). These were really amazing and I'd love to try them again with ground chicken to see how the flavor differs.

I flavored my ground turkey with onion and garlic sautéed in a bit of butter, salt and pepper. After grilling the burgers for 5-6 minutes per side, I coated them generously in a mixture of Frank's buffalo wing sauce and a tiny bit of melted butter. They were topped with mozzarella cheese and placed on a kaiser roll smeared with peppercorn ranch. I think these would be killer with a blue cheese spread but I figured my hubby wouldn't touch it and I didn't want to buy expensive blue cheese just for myself. Regardless, these were amazing! I really loved the juicy burger paired with the spicy sauce, creamy ranch and soft bun. It was just a knock-out burger, in my opinion! The burger itself doesn't have the same intensity of flavor that you're used to from a beef burger, but I think the lighter flavor is a nice change of pace and makes these burgers really great for experimenting with different flavor profiles. I also turned these into "Chicken Parmesan" Turkey Burgers and they were delicious as well.

"Buffalo Wing" Turkey Burgers
serves 2

2 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons white onion, minced or grated finely
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 pound ground turkey (or chicken)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3-4 tablespoons Frank's buffalo wing sauce
2 slices of mozzarella cheese
2 kaiser rolls
ranch or blue cheese dressing

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté a couple of minutes, until translucent and tender. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, gently combine cooked onion and garlic, ground turkey, salt and pepper. Do not over mix. Shape into two patties.

Preheat cast iron grill pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter and combine with 3-4 tablespoons of Frank's buffalo wing sauce, set aside.

Cook the burgers in the preheated grill pan for 5-6 minutes per side, or until burgers are cooked through and the juices run clear. When the burgers are finished cooking, coat them generously in the sauce mixture and top with a slice of cheese. Smear buns with the dressing of your choice and serve!

Petit Fours

These petit fours were fun to make, though I certainly don't recommend making them from start to finish in one day as I did--well, I did bake the pound cake the night before I finished them, but that was by far the easier part of making these sweet little treats. Making the gum paste flowers alone took nearly two hours. The icing was simple to make, but incredibly messy! These are so cute though so they are well worth the time put into them. I'd definitely save them for special occasions, however. Tea party anyone?

I used this vanilla pound cake recipe which is very much your traditional pound cake--in one word: dense. But delicious nonetheless. I sliced the pound cake into 1-inch thick slices and used a 1 1/2-inch round cutter to make little petit fours. I kept them simple and iced them with this petit four icing which is essentially a very, very thick glaze. Instead of the clear vanilla extract (I don't have any) and almond extract (which I'm not a big fan of) called for in the recipe, I used 1/2 teaspoon of orange extract which gave a very pleasant hint of citrus flavor. When I make these again, I'd like to try using a cream cheese pound cake, splitting the layers of the cake and filling them with thin layers of buttercream and/or fruit curd for some added flavor and texture. I was able to get 20 petit fours out of one pound cake loaf. I think these would be even cuter on a slightly smaller scale. I made due and used the smallest round cutter I had. The resulting petit fours are darling little 2-3 bite treats. Perfect for nibbling on between sips of tea.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Feeling Springy

This is how I spent my Sunday afternoon. I made my first batch of petit fours... just a very simple version made from vanilla pound cake. I was inspired by these petit fours from Such Pretty Things which are so very pretty. These were quite time consuming, with baking the pound cake, making the gum paste flowers, making the icing and decorating, but they are so very cute! I could see these at the most darling tea party or bridal shower. With the pound cake scraps, I'm making a trifle with layers of pound cake, whipped cream and fresh strawberries macerated with vanilla bean paste and sugar. YUM! I'll be back tomorrow with prettier photos of the finished petit fours.

I hope you all had a beautiful Sunday!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Closet Inspiration

After seeing Freckle Chick's closet makeover at Adventures in Renovating a Brooklyn Limestone, I have been dreaming of pretty closets. I thought I'd post some of the prettiest and most practical closets from some of my favorite bloggers as well as some professionally styled closet inspirations. With spring cleaning on all our minds, I think closets are a great place to focus. Behind closed doors--out of sight, out of mind--our closets are often anything but glamorous. As these closets show, a clean, organized closet can be one of the most cheerful and inspiring corners of one's home.

The first two photos are from Making it Lovely's Nicole Balch. Nicole uses a freestanding wardrobe from IKEA to organize all her clothes and accessories.

I really love Nicole uses interesting knick-knacks and display pieces to organize and show off her jewelry.

All of her clothes and shoes are neatly and attractively displayed. While very full, the wardrobe is neat and everything is visible and easy to find. I love this inspiration for those who don't have a typical built-in closet to work with. See more photos and read more about Nicole's wardrobe here.

Next are two photos from Freckle Chick's closet makeover. What I find most inspiring about this closet is how well the space is utilized.

Clothes are neatly hung on the bar to the left, a simple bookcase is brought in to organize and display a gorgeous shoe collection, and a shelf above the bar helps to utilize height for storing purses and other items.

I am crazy about the beautiful display of jewelry and accessories and that fabulous little mirror! Freckles Chick added style and organization to her small closet for under $100. I really admire the way she was able to transform her lackluster closet into a really chic, practical space. This is a very attainable inspiration for those of us who don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on fancy closet systems. See more photos and read more about the makeover here.

Ladies, get ready to be totally and utterly jealous! Lola B's Kasey has transformed a small room in her gorgeous home into her own little boudoir.

I love the separation and definiion of space. This space really feels like a trendy little boutique!

I am crazy about the bright light streaming through the window. The room is so sunny and inspiring. I would love to get dressed every morning in this space! I adore the use of dressers in this closet space and the table in the middle of the room is beautiful and incredibly practical for folding and putting away clean laundry. I really love when form and function meet. Click here to see more of Kasey's fabulous closet.

Lastly, for those with space and money to spare, the Elfa closet systems from The Container Store are a real dream come true! I admire how many different organization solutions these systems offer. There are racks for hanging garments, pull out drawers for folded pieces and intimates, and beautiful boxes for small or out of season items. I am totally a sucker for the way these closet systems are styled with a focus on a single color. I tend to gravitate to the same colors and I think there is something so chic and whimsical about a closet filled with similar-hued fashions.

These systems offer a really sophisticated way to organize one's wardrobe. Different finishes are available, but I am most fond of this beautiful walnut finish. It looks so rich and luxurious.

I think having a closet this beautiful would be all the inspiration I would need to stay on top of laundry and keep everything pressed and perfect. I could spend all day in such a beautiful space.

I am really drawn to how decluttered these closets look. I like that they aren't filled to the brim. Each and every item of clothing looks expensive and fabulous. With room to breath, these clothes look crisp and clean. With everything in a similar palette, it would be easy to imagine countless different ways to pair outfits together.

These inspirations have me dreaming of making over my closet. My current closet is a dark, unfinished cave. It is anything but glamorous and, aside from tearing the whole thing out and starting over, there is no way to make it feel spacious and inspiring. The hubby and I will be moving sometime in the near future and I look forward to the possibility of having a little more space to utilize. I think one of the best investments you can make when adding some glam to your closet is to invest in matching (wooden) hangers. Sturdy, matching hangers instantly make a closet look more sophisticated and expensive. Utilizing containers, shelves and other storage solutions will make the most of a space and keep everything tidy and organized. And to best utilize a small space, think vertically!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter enjoying the beautiful spring weather, spending time with family and friends, and celebrating a risen savior!

I enjoyed a wonderful time spent with the hubby and his family. My mother-in-law and I spent several hours last night doing some preparations for today's dinner. I made the nest-inspired chocolate cake above. It didn't turn out as well as I was hoping. I had to use two 4 oz. Hershey's chocolate bars instead of the huge 16 oz. bar the recipe called for, so the chocolate for my nest was a little more rustic looking than the perfectly chopped chocolate from the Martha Stewart inspiration. It was still pretty cute though, and quite yummy!

I also made modified versions of Ina Garten's Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic and Parmesan Smashed Potatoes. We also had some amazing ham, rolls, corn and broccoli. Homemade beer cheese and deviled eggs served as appetizers while we finished cooking this afternoon. My mother-in-law also got the brilliant idea to turn an almond Jello recipe she loves into egg-shaped Jello Jigglers. I wish I would have snapped a photo (I was too full at that point to even think about photographs), because they were perfect! They were opaque white and looked exactly like hard-boiled eggs. I insisted that they become a tradition because they were too cute! She also prepared Rice Krispies Treats to make Peep Sushi but we were all too full and folks had to part ways before we could get around to making our sushi--so sad!

We had a wonderful time and I'm already thinking ahead to the cute treats I want to try out for next Easter. There are still a few spring-themed treats that I want to try in the next month, including some adorable petit fours which I had originally planned to make for today but ran out of time. I am hoping to make them next weekend. I am going to relax a bit this evening, probably spend some time in the studio (because hardly a day goes by where I don't work at little) and hang out with my adorable hubby.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Featured on the FRONT PAGE of Etsy!

{Please click to view larger.}

This morning at 8am while I was preoccupied in dreamland, my Butterfly Stud Earrings were featured on the front page of!

According to the stats from CraftCult, the treasury which featured my earrings appeared on the front page this morning at 8am. Fortunately/unfortunately the earrings sold at 8:23am, so they didn't receive as much front page glory as possible. I have gained quite a few new shop and item hearts from the experience! This is so exciting as I've been hoping and waiting to see one of my items on the front page for years. It's a real honor!

Friday, April 2, 2010

In the Studio

I thought I'd share another version of the In the Garden Necklace which I shared in my last post. I love the soft femininity of the pale pink rose paired with the white freshwater pearls. It's so sweet and romantic.

I've been insanely busy building stock for boutiques, Mayfest and my Etsy shop (which is utterly neglected these days). My studio is an insane mess and it's driving me a bit bonkers.

{It actually looks worse since I've taken this photo. Oh dear!}

This is what my main work table looks like right now. My mind gets all foggy and I get cranky when things are messy, so this is a real problem. I have so many pieces in progress and others that are finished and waiting to be carded and/or labeled. I need to take 15-30 minutes to go through and put away any stray materials and get things a bit organized. I know I'll feel much more calm after a little organizing.

I've been so preoccupied with work lately--often I'm in the studio until 2 or 3am--that I haven't gotten to dive into any cute Easter baking. I was planning to make some flower topped petit fours and individual versions of this cake for Easter dinner, but it looks like I may only have time for the cakes. Maybe I'll be naughty and make time for both on Saturday.

...But maybe not. This weekend, in addition to everything else, I'm actually working on some pieces to send off to Kentucky Bride magazine for them to potentially use in a photo shoot for the upcoming issue. I actually had the joy and honor of being included in their Fall 2009 issue. I'll be sure to share if any of my pieces make it into the upcoming issue!
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