Friday, October 29, 2010

It's Good to be a Girl

This blog post comes after a quick trip to ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT. Not to drop names (but I will anyway) I'm just pretty lucky to have walked across campus with Chris Fowler and discussed the weather with Bob Ley. Ahhh. Nothing like a little brush with fame to start off an epic Halloween weekend. 

I grew up with a fantastic brother who helped make sure that I was well-educated on the finer things in life - a great macrobrew, the 1992 Dodgers starting line up, the patience to watch 3 NFL games in a row, how to bet a trifecta, etc. Couple this with a love a skiing and hatred of chocolate and *chatting* on the phone and well... sometimes I don't feel like the typical girl.

However, after a trip to the heart of the mans sporting mecca - I'm appreciating everything that I like about being a girl. My house (aka My Barbie Dream Home) is taking on a decidedly girly touch that I am absolutely loving. The previous owners had 2 small girls - each with there own cotton candy pink bedroom. Since being a girl requires a fantastic collection of party dresses, purses and shoes, I've turned one of the bedrooms into a closet room.

Much of the room's decor is still in progress, but my latest project involved revamping a vanity chair to fit the color scheme. Nice thing about this project is that since I am on the "my car unexpectedly required new brakes budget," it could be done on the cheap.

The chair was a TJ Maxx find - and I must admit for home decor I am a *Maxxanista." Shopping TJ Maxx, Ross and Marshalls can produce some finds as good as your local vintage store or flea market.

I picked up this small vanity chair for $25. I removed the seat with a handy-dandy Phillips screw driver, then recovered with a $5 pink ultra-suede remnant from the local fabric store using a staple gun and a bit a patience. Since antique brown just doesn't say "girl," I repainted the chair in chrome spray paint that I picked up at the Home Depot.

All and all the entire project was done in 1 day for less than $40. And I think I did Barbie proud. Somehow this looks quite similar to the one they are selling for America's blonde princess at Toys 'R Us these days!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Finding Time for the Small Things

It’s been a busy week - from happy hours to co-planning a meeting for 300 women at Benaroya Hall to volunteering at the Harry Potter Opening Gala tonight to gearing up for trips to the east coast and LA the next 2 weeks.

While it is wonderful to get out and about, I love to keep myself centered by making time for the simple pleasures – a great walk around the park, a late night run in the along Lake Washington, homemade raviolis and parmesan and Wrestlemania VIII with my schnauzers.  (BTW, if you can’t tell I really love lists. Perhaps, maybe someday I will blog about why there are always at least 3 lists going at any one time in my house.)

Also, as you all know, one of my simple joys in life is baking. It’s a stress reliever, a way to channel my creativity. I know I said earlier that I was off baking and focusing on other things but  I decided to make a quick, simple fall cookie. Recipe below –

Oatmeal White Chocolate Chip with Coconut and Pecans

1 cup butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup coconut

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease baking sheets.
2.  Sift together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda.
3.  In an electric mixer, cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Slowly, add in flour mixture. Mix on medium speed for 3-5 minutes.  
4.  Stir in oatmeal, chocolate chips, pecans and coconut.
5.  Spoon drops of dough onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chalkboard Pumpkin

It’s time to start getting serious about my absolute favorite holiday – Halloween. Today is going to be dedicated to costumes and getting the house spookafied.

Here is one if my projects -

Pumpkins can add festiveness to your porch, mantle or table. On my walk yesterday,  I noticed many pumpkins were already out on doorsteps but not carved. Jack O’ Lanterns are fun, but carving pumpkins too early can lead to a rotten, moldy mess way before Halloween.

For those wanting to add a little early October festiveness, try this idea… chalkboard paint and chalk!

Pick out your favorite pumpkin and paint with chalkboard spray paint. I used Rust-Oleum Black, but green might be an interesting choice as well.  Then use chalk to create a scary face or saying.  If you goof or change your mind on the look, simply wipe with a damp cloth and start again.

For my art, I did a traditional version and then a vampire schnauzer for Haasenpfeffer. (He’s a crazy little dog and now just obsessed with the Twilight movies.)

Note: these pumpkins are best to keep dry. Set undercover to avoid a rainy day ruining your masterpiece.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cupcake Craziness

The challenge: 1 night - 70 cupcakes. My first *catering* gig. Two canine sous chefs. One dishwasher who’d rather be a taste tester.... we worked out a good compromise. Don't worry.

In my day job, I work in the technology division for a major media company. I've got a great team who has been awesome sports about playing lab rats for my desert creations. I've had some winners and losers, but I guess a few more of the former as I was asked to provide some *professional* cupcakes for the strategic services all-hands meeting vs. one of the other famous "cupcake houses" in Seattle. Honored, I accepted the challenge. Well, who in their right mind would ever decline?

As someone who is not a choco-holic, I like to provide a selection that has a variety of tastes.

·    Snickerdoodle (in dedication to my awesome mom who I missed so much over the last 2 ½ weeks… She makes A TO DIE FOR snickerdoodle cookie)
·    Spice Pecan Cake with Orange Icing (something yummy for fall)
·    Gingerbread with Cream Cheese Frosting and Sprinkles  (a look forward to the holidays)
·    Chocolate Peanut Butter *Surprise* with Chocolate Drizzle (the surprise is a peanut butter cup hiding in the cupcake... it’s a little "Family Circle" vs. Martha Stewart, but sometimes the simplest things are the best.)

And after tonight, I think I'm moving on from cupcakes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A little bit of adventure and a little bit of sparkle

Just wrapping up a pretty fun weekend. Friday kicked off with me walking into the Alice in Chains concert sans ticket. I always like a little bit of adventure and the expereince brought back some memories of Lollapalooza 1993 at Portland Meadows. Sadly, this time I was without my 20 eye Docs and didn’t arrive by VW bus. Yep, I’m sure Martha S. can’t claim those fun facts but maybe more folks would like her if she could.

On Saturday, I celebrated Alaina’s birthday. Whether dancing with tortillas, rocking NYE or captaining a vessel, she’s been a wonderful friend and there have been a ton of laughs.

Presents for special people in your life can be challenging. I love to give handmade gifts, something that I have spent time preparing with the person in mind. These gifts can range from jewelry to scarfs and mittens to homemade jam. Even preparing a great dinner or great breakfast can someone know how special they are to you.  

For Laina, I made an amazonite and smoky quartz necklace with sterling silver chain. A few beads and some wire-wrapping completed the project. I’m a little obsessed with the seafoam color of amazonite right now in clothes, curtains and in jewelry. Plus, blue and sparkle always looks good on blondes.   

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Signature Cake?

Thanks to everyone for the kind words on my blog. The feedback has been great. I hear you guys on fashion tips. Not sure I have any so far, except guys don’t peg your jeans if you want to hit on me. C’mon, really?

I’m also getting a lot of pressure to cook with booze, so here we go. A Kir Royale is my all-time favorite drink. I don’t have them too frequently so I have wonderful memories attached to the flavors - from New Years to escargot. I had my first Kir Royale in a small bistro in Le Marais and fell in love. You might say now this is my signature cocktail – something EVERY girl should have.

Most important thing to remember – a Kir Royale is made with Crème de Cassis. It is not made with Chambord. If anyone is in LA, please remind the bartender at Koi of this.

When thinking up this cake recipe, I had three things that I wanted to incorporate – the bubbliness of the champagne, the blackcurrant flavor and zest of lemon used as a garnish on the traditional drink. A chiffon immediately came to mind. From that starting place, I developed the recipe below. Please try it out… I hope you have as many wonderful times enjoying this cake as I have with the drink.  

Kir Royale Cake
Chiffon Infused with Champagne, Black Currant Filling and Lemon and Champange Whipped Frosting

For the cake…
2 ¼ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder
½  teaspoon salt
½  cup vegetable oil
7 large egg yolks
¾ cup chilled champagne  
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla
9 large egg whites
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the filling…
½ cup currant jelly
4 tablespoons crème to cassis
1 cup confectioners sugar

For the icing…
2 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons champagne or sparkling wine at room temperature
Zest of 3 lemons for the topping

* Instructions *
For the cake…
1.   Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2.   Sift together flour, ¾ cup of sugar, baking powder and salt.
3.   Whisk together oil, egg yolks, champagne and lemon zest.
4.   With an electric mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar. Beat until soft peaks form. Add in remaining ¾ cup  sugar.
5.   Grease and flour 2 8-inch cake pans.
6.   Bake for 45 min or until the middle springs back to touch.  

For the filling…
1.   Heat jelly and crème de cassis over low heat until bubbly in small sauce pan.
2.   Remove from heat.
3.   Stir in confectioners’ sugar and stir until smooth.
4.   Spread between layers.

For the icing…
1.   Beat whipping cream in chilled bowl with an electric mixer with 1 tablespoon sugar.  
2.   Fold in champagne.
3.   Frost cake and garnish with lemon zest.  

Friday, October 1, 2010

31 Days O’Halloween

October is my favorite month of the year because it means my favorite holiday… Halloween. Maybe I love it because nothing is better than playing dress up. Maybe I love it because spiders make awesome pets.  Maybe I love it because I am *a little bit* evil.

To kick off the season, I am starting going with ghost cupcakes. It feels a little silly to writing up the instructions, because these babies are just way, way simple. So simple they would make a perfect Halloween party activities for kids… or adults who are like me and act like a kid.

Things you need to get going with this project –

·    Cupcakes… pick your favorite kind and bake them in white liners. I went with milk chocolate cake (Yes, made from scratch Rob) and chocolate chunks because I have recently been informed men love chocolate… which is odd because I was always told women love chocolate and that since I don’t really care for chocolate that I was crazy. C’mon people… I am crazy, but pick a better reason than I don’t like chocolate. OK… back to what we are doing.
·    Frosting that is pipe-able. Martha’s Buttercream  is an excellent option.
·    Chocolate chips, raisins or black frosting for the eyes.

*Instructions *
1.   Fit your pastry bag with a starburst tip. Load up your pastry bag with frosting.
2.   Create an arc over the top of the cupcake.
3.   Extend the arc down for long loops off the side of the cupcake. I think it looks best when there is a little bit of space between the loops, but up to you.
4.   Place 2 chocolate chips for eyes.
5.   Enjoy!