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Friday, January 20, 2017

Emma's Big Girl Room | "Real" Furniture

After living in our house for a year and a half, Emma's room is finally furnished and complete.  I have to admit that Mike really pushed me to get to it, and make some decisions.  I had kept putting it off - after all, her room was completely fine.  She had a great upholstered headboard we bought last year... but that was it.  I was searching for the perfect pine dresser for her and an antique bedside table.   The search takes a while, I would tell him.  He reminded me that if I waited too long, she might have even more opinions than she does now : ).                                                    After much searching, I found the perfect pine chest of drawers that was petite in stature, with porcelain knobs and a price tag that would've put it at one of the most expensive items in our home.  And it was going to go in her closet (since her room is so small, and her closet is so big).  I just couldn't do it!  I showed it to Mike to help me with my decision and he was baffled at the price, and the fact that the drawers didn't easily slide in and out... which meant they would never be shut/always be messy.  He appreciates antiques, and items with a history, but we discussed that we wanted Emma's room to feel comfortable and easy.  Adding investment antiques that don't function perfectly (but gave me the "look" I was going for), wasn't the right decision.  

I set out on a search for a new set of furniture that would have a classic, whimsical and nostalgic feel.      I typically don't consider matching furniture sets.  Too predictable, too matchy-matchy.  However, in a room that is usually strewn with dolls, skirts, socks, shoes, toys and toys and toys... I started to think that maybe simple was best.

The hunt was so simple.  On the recommendation from my sister who recently heard that a Jenny Lind collection that was once at Land Of Nod, was now available at Target - my decision was done.  You might remember that Emma had a Jenny Lind style crib from Pottery Barn in her nursery.  It was the perfect mix of nostalgia and whimsy.

Jenny Lind Furniture Collection at Target, this is not sponsored : )

I am so impressed with the quality.  It is solid wood.  It is heavy.  The paint color is a perfect soft, creamy white.  It was delivered in about a week and a half.

I accessorized with the pine finish I was looking for in the antiques, which added just enough charm and primitive feel, in an un-rickety way.  

I have a decorating color philosophy.   I also think that any color or tone, should be repeated 3 times to make a space feel right.  In Emma's room, the colors are Cream/White, Pink, Gold, Medium Brown and Black, each of those are repeated in a few places throughout the room.   

I used natural linen on the two roman shades, and on the lamp shade.  Matching shades and windows is a great place to find continuity in a room.   There are gold accents in the wreath, the gold stars and her "E" that sits over her silhouette.  We used various shades of pink - the palest on the field of the wallpaper, then brought out the brighter rosette from her wallpaper on the embroidery on her bed.  The black and white from her silhouette is echoed in another set on the other side of her room and in the black hardware on cream doors.  The antique pine wood finish is used in the lamp, in the frame, and soon to be on a stool that will go with her mini vanity table... as soon as I find one : )

The pale pink velvet pillow ($28) from the Valentines Collection is the perfect finishing touch for her room.  Puppy finds it very cozy.  Emma uses it as her pillow every night, too : )

I wallpapered the room with help from my Mom.  I LOVE this sweet paper.  You can see more details on that adventure, here.

I added roman shades to her windows from my all time favorite roman shade resource - Home Depot. You might remember that I used them in an ivory linen in our bedroom and bathroom.  For her room, I chose a natural linen, in a fine weave called "Oxford Jute."  You can find it here.  The price starts at about $125 each - a great price for a custom shade.  The quality is superb.  We are getting ready to order these same shades in this same fabric for our hearth room and dining.

I found these little mini potted flowers at Trader Joe's.  They are the sweetest thing.

This perfume bottle is one of Emma's most prized possessions : )   See that tiny cupcake?  From her calico critters bakery.

We are big on house shoes around here.  They are well used and well loved.

I took these photos while Emma was at school one morning, giving me time to get everything just how I wanted it - which hardly ever happens, so I indulged myself.

This same collection has been around since she was a baby and still are all loved and played with... usually as spectators or pupils.

The silhouettes are from Pottery Barn Kids.  I decided to keep the artwork very simple in her room for now, since it is usually pretty busy with toys and "things."  Everywhere.

Sometimes the littlest things make the biggest impression - just as these stars have.  They are Emma's favorite, and mine, too.

In her closet, you can see that I chose a simple, white dresser - Caroline Pottery Barn Kids.  I still think about that sweet pine dresser, though... maybe someday : ). Meanwhile, Emma loves having a big girl dresser to keep her clothes in. 

In full disclosure, on a recent trip to Target she loved this "aqua" blue reading lamp and just had to have it for her room.  I think it is sweet she is excited about her decor and compromised with her.   It does add a nice juxtaposition touch of contemporary.  It is also a hint at her progressing style - she continues to wear most of the items that I pick out, then adds 2-3 hair bows in crazy colors or a bright pink sparkly skirt.  

She is completely delighted with her big girl room, and is constantly adding her personal touch : )  

My Secret for the Best Cupcakes from a Cake Mix

I love making homemade pound cakes, and homemade chocolate cakes... but for cupcakes, I usually turn to a cake mix.  I don't know why, I've just found them to be easier and more reliable.  However, because I can never leave well-enough alone, I have my own way of doctoring up a cake mix to be even better and have more of a homemade taste.

Doctoring Up a Cake Mix

1 cake mix (works for any flavor)
3 eggs
1 cup of milk
1 stick of butter, melted
2 teaspoons of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixer, combine all ingredients and mix for 2-3 minutes until thick and smooth.

Scoop batter into cupcake papers using the large scoop*.  This keeps all of the cupcakes uniform and your cupcake pan clean.

Bake them for 13-15 minutes, just until they bounce back when touched.   Let cool.

Frost with homemade easy vanilla buttercream (recipe here).

Scoops, Set of 2
*New addition to the store!

Comes as a set of two scoops, of the sizes I use all of the time.  The large (2.75 oz) is what I use for cupcakes and large cookies.  The smaller (.875 oz) is what I use for regular cookies and small muffins.  I find myself using these scoops all of the time.  They are heavy duty and will last a long time.

Find these cupcake papers and more baking essentials, here:

Baking Supplies

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sparkly Star Cupcake | Easy Valentine's Day Treat + Easy Cupcake Tips

Homemade Gift Giving

When I started this store, the concept was to make giving homemade beautiful gifts easier and accessible.  I know that when it is time to think about what Valentine's Day treats (usually the day before...) we will take to school or to a party, the less errands to run the better.  We don't have time to go to Michaels for the right cupcake papers, Hobby Lobby for the boxes plus Target for some cute cards.  It is my goal every season to bring you darling ideas that are easy and allow you to experience giving gifts at a new level - the world of "homemade."

I know it is not typical to expect friends or neighbors to give Valentine's gifts to each other - but all the more reason to.  Maybe you've always hoped you would have time to plan for and give thoughtful gifs for small holidays or just because.  The trick is not to have more time, but to be able to make beautiful things in less time - so you are more likely to actually accomplish it.

I love this assortment!  The stripes, the pink, the coral, the gold - all so cute.  Notice, they are not covered in hearts, so they an be used for any occasion - especially darling for girly birthday parties paired with Pink Celebration Candles.

This box of cupcakes is the perfect example.  Sure to receive ohs-and-ahs from your recipients, a pink box full of Sparkly Star Cupcakes is such a sweet gift.

The only thing you need to supply is the cake mix and some frosting.  Yes, I said cake mix.  I always use mixes for cupcakes - they just tend to turn out better.  I will share a post tomorrow with my secret to doctoring up a cake mix.

With just one mix, you can create 24 cupcakes and you will have 6 of these pink boxes full of cupcakes to give.  In our house, we send 1 to school, 2-3 to drop at a friends or neighbor, 1 to work with Mike and one to keep.  Lots of Valentine's joy delivered from a simple project.

I love the color of this bakery box - it is not too soft, not too bright.  They are now on sale 10 for $6 (instead of $8).

Heart Tags, 10 for $4

Pink Bakery Boxes, 10 for $6 (on sale, from $8)

Ok, so what if you are not into baking at all - maybe you just like wrapping and packaging?!  A box filled with bakery donuts or brownies is just as great, especially when you dress it up in your own way.

Supplies :

Heart Tags, 10 for $4

Sparkly Star Cupcake Kit, 48 papers + 24 stars, $14

Pink & Red Cupcake Wrapper Kit, 48 for $5.50

Pink Bakery Boxes, 10 for $6 (on sale, from $8)

The trick to getting the perfect swirl is to use a disposable pastry bag (Disposable Pastry Bag, 100 for $14).  I just snip off the end - no tip needed - to get the smooth swirls.

Here is a link to my favorite frosting recipe for cupcakes.  Remember, I'll be sharing my secret for doctoring up a cake mix for cupcakes tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Milk Chocolate Creme Brûlée | Valentines Dessert

I can't tell you how simple creme brûlée is to make.  Much easier than making a cake or cookies for dessert.  You don't need to get out your big mixer, everything stirs together.  Even the ingredients are simple - as long as you have cream on hand.  

When Mike and I were in Italy for our honeymoon, we treated ourself to one fine dining experience.  For dessert, we had a milk chocolate creme brûlée with poached pears.  I've recreated the creme brûlée for us many times in the last six years.  I came across the Individual Heart Ramekins, $6
 and thought it would be the perfect thing for a special Valentines dinner.

In the Barefoot Contessa's most recent book, she shared her version of Chocolate Creme Brûlée.  I simplified her recipe (eliminating scalding the cream on the stove, used the microwave instead) and swapped the bittersweet chocolate with milk chocolate - my personal preference.  Her original Creme Brûlée recipe can be found, here.

Milk Chocolate Creme Brûlée
makes 4

4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar + more for topping
3 cups of heavy cream
8 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Heat oven to 275 degrees.  Heat the cream in the microwave until hot, add the chocolate and stir until melted.  In a batter (pourable bowl) whisk the eggs and sugar together.  

Slowly add the chocolate cream mixture to the egg mixture, whisking constantly - making sure not to add to quickly or it will cook the eggs.  Add vanilla.

Place ramekins in a casserole dish.  Pour chocolate mixture in ramekins.

Place on the oven rack.  Using a small pitcher or measuring cup, pour water in the casserole until it reaches half way up the ramekins.  (Doing it when it is already in the oven saves from sloshing the water into the chocolate mixture on the way to the oven.)

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until only a little jiggly.  Remove from oven, let cool.  When cool, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

When ready to serve, sprinkle sugar on top.  Use a kitchen torch to caramelize, or place it until a hot broiler for 1-2 minutes.  The top will be crunchy, caramelized and sweet.

This is a great recipe for entertaining because it can be made in advance (even a couple of days, or the morning of), then torched before serving - if you are using a kitchen torch, then it is fun for the guests, too.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Coeur a la Creme | Recipe & Photos

Oh, you guys are in for a treat.  The result was so creamy and light, but full - almost like a very moist and creamy cheesecake... but much softer and much more luscious.  It was so simple to make - Emma helped me with the entire thing.  We whipped the cream cheese and powdered sugar, then added the room temp cream cheese and vanilla bean paste... then she scooped it into the cheesecloth lined mold - doing all of the spreading herself.  

So many times there is a lot she can help with, but I have to do some of the intricate work (much to her resistance), but this she did all by herself.  It was nice that it was completely error-proof, there was no way to mess it up.  The mold does all of the work for you - as long as she got (most of) the filling in the mold, it was perfect.

While Valentine's Day is a romantic holiday, when you have kiddos it becomes a family affair, too - and she is going to love presenting this special dessert to Dad after our Valentine's Day dinner.  Of course, as it is still three weeks away, we'll need to make another one ; )

The Coeur a la Creme Molds ($14.50) are officially in stock in my store, ready to ship.  So for those of you that ordered earlier this week, yours are on the way.  If you order now (I think only 20 or so are left?) they can be sent out today.

I followed the Barefoot Contessa's recipe (link below, her photo to the left), which was very very simple.  

The raspberry sauce was a cinch to make, too.  You simple cook raspberries and sugar with a little bit of water for 4 minutes, then processes in food processor with raspberry jam.  I only had 1/2 cup of strawberry jam (instead of 1 cup of raspberry), and it still worked great.  I also did not add the Grand Marnier, because we were sampling on a Tuesady morning ; )

Here is the link to The Barefoot Contessa's Coeur a la Creme recipe.

Here is the mixture all wrapped up after sitting in the fridge over night.

I put the platter on top, then flipped it over.

Then just pulled the mold off.

And took off the cheesecloth to reveal the nice little pattern.

I did the raspberry sauce without Emma's help... boiling fruit and sugar + toddlers does not mix well.  She would've had her fingers in it... I know I could hardly help myself!

Then we poured the sauce all the way around and scattered raspberries.

I love the way the sauce spread into the scalloped edges of the platter.

For a dinner party, I would just scoop big spoonfuls on everyone's plate and serve extra raspberry sauce on the side in a little pitcher for them to pour over.

You'll be so impressed by how simple and delicious this raspberry sauce is.

Sampling time!  It was sooo creamy and rich - almost just like slightly sweetened thick whipped cream.  If you were serving it for a party, you could serve it with little cookies or graham crackers.  I can't wait to try a savory version with herbs and drizzled with honey, served with crackers.  I also think a lemony version would be fun for spring and summer.

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