Easter is one of my favorite holidays. I really have no idea why, but it is. Maybe is because some magical bunny is supposed to come in the middle of the night and leave a basket of fun stuff. Or, maybe it is because my mom was always so creative on Easter with the small little trinkets that can fit into an Easter basket. It seems better than Christmas because it all had to be contained within that little basket which made the small finds even better.
The older I get, the less “stuff” I keep around to decorate for each holiday. The reality is that I have just kept and continued to collect the things that I love rather than just a bag of “easter stuff”. It makes each holiday worth looking forward to and makes the unpacking of all the little treasures even more fun. So, rather than decorate my entire house, I pick several key areas and create small vignettes. It makes it fun and challenging.
One of my favorite Easter things is this tree that my mom got for me over five years ago. It is great with it’s painted eggs and other items I have added over time. I kind of think every holiday should have a tree….don’t you?
Here is a closeup of the painted wood eggs.
I used the chandelier over the table to drape a cute egg garland.
And, a few of my favorite Easter accessories. A crunchy old rabbit and some stuffed carrots that I placed in some decorative glass bowls on either end of the spring table runner. I even crunched up a green table napkin in the bottom for a little extra color.
A close up of the egg garland.
I added some wicker/weaved charger plates and some colored napkins to the kitchen bar in bright spring colors. It brought a whole new life to the kitchen without much work.
Here’s a bigger view of the table.
I also spend a little time decorating the inside of my china hutch with some colored eggs placed in the vases and a little easter garland. It really added a nice touch without much effort.
What are your Easter traditions? What are your favorite decorations?
A post is in the works on the first “customer” quilt that I finished up this weekend. For now, just a quick note to say Happy Valentines Day and to let you know that my Valentine’s Day project was featured on another blog. Click the button below and check it out!!
Talk to you soon….Wendy
It is no secret that I love to bake. I could really take or leave cooking. I like to cook as well, but it would be enjoyable if I had more time. The reality is that I have limited time to do either. So, if it comes down to cooking or baking…it is going to be BAKING!
This time the occasion is my dad’s birthday. I went back to my favorite location for baking recipes at the moment…MARTHA STEWART. I can hear my mom and mother in law sigh in disgust; Martha seems to represent someone evil to them. Despite all the stories (oh and the jail thing), I like her recipes and clear instructions. Yes, I know, she probably has an army of people working for her that make her house look so perfect and the kitchen so damn clean when she cooks with everything neatly organized in those little bowls. But, can’t a girl dream….
I would like to think that would be the reality of my life if I didn’t have a full time job. I would flit from one creative thing to another throughout the day while making sure that my sheets were pressed, the roses pinched back and dinner roasting in the oven. Wake UP…you have to go to work tomorrow!!!
So, for the cake….I used the recipe from Martha Stewart for Butter Cake. In addition, here are the details below.
- 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cups milk
Shot from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.
- Divide batter between the prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.
First Cake Turned Over - Used My Patience on This One!
Cake All Wrapped up in Refrigerator Overnight
And, here’s the recipe for the amazing chocolate frosting….also from my friend Martha.
- 24 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
- 3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Yellow Butter Cake
- Colored sprinkles (optional)
Melted Chocolate - Make Sure to Cool to Room Temperature Before Mixing w/ Butter/Sugar
- Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water. Turn off heat; stir occasionally until chocolate has melted completely, about 15 minutes. Set bowl on countertop, and let chocolate cool to room temperature, 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine cocoa powder and boiling water in a small bowl; stir until cocoa is dissolved.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add melted chocolate; beat on low speed until combined, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in cocoa mixture.
- Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to make level; brush off crumbs. Place four strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy Susan. Place the first layer on the cake plate, and spread top with 3/4 cup of frosting. Place the second layer on top, bottom side up, and spread top with 3/4 cup of frosting; repeat process with the third layer. Place the remaining layer on top of the third layer, bottom-side up; insert a dowel into the center of cakes if necessary. Spread entire cake with remaining frosting. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired.
See the Disaster on the Side of the Cake - Fixed w/ A Little Construction
And, of course…my TIPS….these are the embarrassing things that no one else will admit to or tell you how to handle.
- The recipe is for two 9″ layer cakes. The recipe in my cookbook is not clear so I doubled the recipe. So, if you do this and fill up each of the cake pans, you have overflowing goodness on the bottom of your oven. Lovely. If this happens, act quick and place a cookie sheet on the rack below so you don’t have burnt goodness wafting through your house. However, I did have extra cake for my husband which made him happy.
- When you are mixing the flour and milk alternately, the texture seems really weird (kind of lumpy). It turns better as you empty your last batch of flour mixture.
- If you have a gas oven like I do, the baking temperature should really be more like 300 degrees and the time for baking is more like one hour. My oven is calibrated, but it cooks the top and outside too quickly at 350. For baking, I typically lower it by 25 to 50 degrees and bake longer.
- Be patient…HELLO! You think I would know this by now. When you take the cakes out of the oven and let them rest for 30 minutes, follow the instructions. For the first cake, I followed the instructions and turned the cake over onto a wire rack. It is simplest if you use two wire racks on either side to squeeze the cake together. It worked great. I guess I got cocky on my second cake layer and decided to do it by hand. Ooops…the cake broke in half!
- Stick the cake layers in the fridge over night….it will fix everything. Hopefully.
- Put a layer of parchment paper between your cake plate and your cake. I didn’t and it was a pain to clean out the chocolate frosting out of all the little holes of the cake plate. Lovely.
- Cutting even cake layers is harder than it looks. Be patient and don’t cut too deep or you will have crooked layers.
- Use a cold cake to fix your problems. I had a large hole in the side due to #3 above. As a result, I was able to fill this area with some cake cut off the top and do some construction with the frosting.
- DO A CRUMB LAYER OF FROSTING AND THEN PUT THE CAKE BACK INTO THE REFRIGERATOR! Best tip ever…this will make it so much easier to put your second layer of frosting on without crumbs all over the place.
- Make extra frosting for your husband to lick. Otherwise, you will get mad at him!
Cake w/ Crumb Layer of Frosting - Goes Back into Fridge for 30 Minutes
Last, but not least…have fun!
Swirl Textures w/ Frosting & Sprinkles
I am using pinterest more and more to collect recipes and ideas that I see and want to try. Rather than clip something out of a magazine or bookmark it on the computer and never use it, I seem to really use pinterest to keep ideas and actually try them. I saw this recipe for Pizza Monkey Bread (I call it pull apart) a few weeks ago and pinned it. Then, when checking yesterday for just the right appetizer recipe for my niece’s 6th birthday party, I decided on this recipe.
I used the idea from the recipe above and headed to the store. I decided that I didn’t want to make anything from scratch so I set out to get items that were ready to go.
My Shopping List
Supplies You Need
- Pan – I used a bundt pan. You will want a pan that is somewhat deep so that you can stack the rolls.
- Baking Brush (not required but helpful)
So, when I had all the ingredients on the table and my husband saw the bundt pan, he was a bit confused to say the least. He thought a dessert with pizza sauce????
Here’s how you pull it all together…really simple, but allow yourself a good 15 to 20 minutes to get it oven ready.
- Take butter and garlic over medium head and melt until garlic starts to brown.
- Remove from heat and set aside.
- Take small chunks of pizza dough (a little under a Tbs) and press flat.
- Place a piece of pepperoni and cheese piece in the middle.
- Fold over the dough and roll into a ball. Make sure everything is completely covered in the middle.
- Place in the bottom of your pan and brush the garlic butter sauce on the ball.
- Keep adding to your pan until you have finished all of your dough.
- Cover and let sit for 30 minutes.
- Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Cook for 30 to 35 minutes until the top is lightly browned.
- Remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes.
- Turn your pan over onto your serving dish, add pizza sauce for dipping and you are done!
So, I got too excited and forgot to take a photo of the final product! But, it turned out great and was a hit. It is also very kid friendly. It would also be a fun recipe to try with kids that like to cook. It’s a fun hands on recipe.
Here’s a photo from the website linked above for this recipe…thanks for the assistance in the final photo that I forgot to take. And, yes, it did look something like this.
Check out my pinterest board with all of my pinned recipes for appetizers and entertaining. Hope you have a great Sunday. Hoping for rain here and to get a little sewing in! Wouldn’t that be great!
I am slowly but surely finishing up the home decor in our new home. Surprisingly, I got most of it done in the first few weeks after moving (huge thanks to my mom for the help). I have a few things left to do:
- Window Coverings – I am threatening to make these so be on the lookout.
- House Plants – I could use some greenery in the house.
- Front Entry – Plants & Decor
- Framed Bulletin Board – This is on my list to make myself. Stay tuned.
- Laundry Room – Needs something!
- Garage – Forget it…not mine!
That is pretty much it. Today, I crossed one item off of the list. This was the second bathroom which has been waiting for me to find just the right color combination of towels. I wanted something different and colorful. Today, at Target, I found it. Enjoy the before and after photos. Super simple update that took less than 20 minutes. I already owned the framed prints which worked perfect in the bathroom.
BEFORE – PLAIN JANE
New Shower Curtain & Towels & Few Touches of Turquoise on the Counter
Floor Candles, Photos
Quick and simple…I <3 Target!!!
Have a great week.
So, this could prove to be a pretty boring post about some random New Years Resolution of which I am not particularly fond of advertising. I tend to believe that if you advertise your new years resolution, it is a pretty good bet you aren’t going to follow through. Let’s call this an excuse for a craft project. One of the things that I don’t do well when I am focused (and sometimes consumed) with work is to cook regular dinners. So, one of the things I spent my break doing is checking out different recipes on line and pinning them to my pinterest board for future use. I have actually already made a few of them. And, spent some time at the book store selecting the right combination of cook books for making healthy and quick meals. The reality is that I like to make much more than I cook, but I have figured out that I can’t survive on the products I bake alone. Wait…let’s take that back. I can survive on the results of my baking; not so sure it would look good on me!
Back to the story…one of the things I have learned is that if I don’t plan ahead my meals, then I tend to go for the quick and easy out of the box when I get home rather than something more well balanced. In order to better plan, I decided I needed some visual menu (reminder) of what is planned for each night. There in lies the craft part….
I decided to make a menu board out of the door to my pantry. Still up for debate whether I like it or not or whether I need to add more to the creation (a few cricut vinyl letters might do the trick).
First, I purchased the vinyl sheets from JoAnn‘s that are removable and can be repositioned. Then, I figured out where I wanted them on the door and after several trials and errors, got the right fit. I wouldn’t recommend my approach which is the “that looks about right” approach. Rather, I would create a template and then cut the vinyl from the template before removing the backing. It would really make it much easier. But, I am stubborn and was eager to play with the vinyl. And, I am not that good at reading directions (or so I am told).
It’s a simple list of supplies that you will need:
- Adhesive Vinyl (photo below of brand that I used from Joann’s)
- Credit Card (not for a new purse either)
- Measuring Tape
- Template Paper or cardboard (if you desire)
Adhesive Vinyl That I Purchased
Things you should know:
- This vinyl is super sticky. Only remove the backing as you work your way down the surface you are applying to. Do not remove all the backing and then try to adhere. I promise you that you will make a mess and say things you don’t want to. Trust me.
- Reveal the top portion of the vinyl sticky back and smooth as you go down the surface removing the backing as you go.
- Continue to smooth as you go…lift up to get out air bubbles if they don’t push out with the credit card.
- Be patient.
Vinyl w/ Backing ... This is how it comes out of the package.
Sticky Mess - Proof that I didn't follow my own tips.
Vinyl Application Complete
Menu Board Complete
As I noted above, I think I might finish this off by using my new Cricut to cut the perfect vinyl letters to make this more permanent. And, so far so good….three days and three home cooked meals. Now, let’s see if we can keep this not so New Years resolution going. :)
So, I found this recipe some years ago and I must make it every year. It is the best. Try It.
- In a large bowl, combine the sugar, butter, cream cheese, salt, almond and vanilla extracts, and egg yolk. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour until well blended. Chill the dough for 8 hours, or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough 1/3 at a time to 1/8 inch thickness, refrigerating remaining dough until ready to use. Cut into desired shapes with lightly floured cookie cutters. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
- Bake for 7 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until light and golden brown. Cool cookies completely before frosting.
- Make sure that you chill the dough. It will keep for up to a week. I wrap mine in plastic wrap in a large ball.
- Do NOT overcook these cookies. They will not seem done … do not worry! They should only get a slight tint of color.
- Use lots of frosting…I used the simple frosting right out of the squeeze bottle (Michael’s) this year for the first time. It is quick and simple. But, I really prefer using homemade frosting from scratch and taking my time. But, time was not on my side so I did what I had to.
- Eat a lot of these….(and then workout)
One of my goals this year was to make handmade gifts. Well, I didn’t make every gift by hand, but I tried. I baked my heart out and packaged up at least 15 plates of cookies and yummy holiday treats. And, when I was done with that, I decided to try my hand at making some sugar scrub. I love this type of body scrub and I was first introduced to it from L’Occitane. No doubt, this scrub is amazing and I love it. However, it is a bit pricey and I use it a lot! Then, thanks to pinterest, I saw that people were making their own scrub. So, I did my research and checked out a bunch of recipes on line. Here are a few for reference:
So, with my research behind me, I decided to go at it alone and started mixing in the kitchen. I decided upon a sugar scrub to start using olive oil. I first was going to use essential oils, but then decided against it once I realized that I couldn’t taste it. I know this sounds crazy, but when you are mixing oil and sugar it seems to me that you should be able to taste it. And, adding essential oils made it not to tasty. I know…weird, but I didn’t like the idea of adding an oil that smelled like perfume. I went all natural with the ingredients and decided upon two mixes after some trial and error….vanilla sugar scrub and gingerbread sugar scrub. I took my research into consideration and then did what I wanted.
Vanilla Sugar Scrub
- 3 Cups plain old white sugar
- 1 Cup Olive Oil – I used extra light olive oil
- 1 Tsp Vanilla
Simple as that…just put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix it all together until the sugar is completely saturated. I decided that I wanted my scrubs to look a bit festive for the season so I split the batch in half and colored half of it with a few drops of red coloring food. That way, I could make red and white stripes in the container.
Gingerbread Sugar Scrub
- 3 Cups Brown Sugar
- 1 1/2 Cups Olive Oil
- 1 1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
- 1 1/2 Tsp Ground Cloves
Same as above…mix all together and it is ready to go.
I had the hardest time finding the containers for the sugar scrub. I found some glass containers (the last four that were on the shelf) at Michael’s. These had a screw on top like a mason jar. And, then I found a set of four at Target that had a clasp top which I loved. Too bad I didn’t pick up more when I got those. I went back later to find that they were sold out!! You want to make sure that the jar has a large enough opening that you can get your hand in to scoop out the scrub and that it is not too deep. One idea for future batches is to include a cute wooden scoop. I wonder where I could find those.
Last, but not least was decorating the container. I choose to do a simple label on the top of the jar that I constructed using craft paper and mod podge. Believe it or not, this was the first time that I used mod podge and I have to say that I was quite impressed. I spent the evening making in a mess in my kitchen (again) and I loved it! I kind of think that mod podge just might be elmer’s glue in a different package. But, it was fun nonetheless.
Labels & Container Adornment
- Craft Paper
- Modge Podge
- Ribbon (I always like wire ribbon because it holds it’s shape)
- Foam Paint Brush (small)
- Make sure you wait to add any food coloring in until after the oil is well absorbed into the sugar.
- Use a small measuring cup to scoop the scrub into the final container.
- Use a small flexible spatular to pack in the sugar scrub into the container. It works really well when you are trying to layer colors.
- Stick with natural ingredients.
- Be patient and let the mod podge dry … it takes a bit. Don’t keep touching it like I did.
- Have fun and be creative.
It was a busy week trying to wrap up all the loose ends at work (as if that is really possible). I have finally realized that I will never have everything ‘done’ before I take time off at work. I am either at that point in my career or in my life that I realize it simply isn’t even possible. Yet, I still try every single time.
It certainly feels like the Christmas season around the house with presents under the tree, the smell of baking and 70 degree weather (yes, southern California is lovely this time of the year). Although, I wouldn’t mind a chill in the air.
It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas…I narrowed down my Christmas decorations this year and really just kept those things that I absolutely loved. I mean really loved. Here’s a small sampling of this year’s tree.
The tree skirt is got to be at least 15 years old. I made it by hand; it was a cross stitch pattern that I probably bought at Michael’s and took a few years to complete. It needs to be updated I think; maybe a project for next year. I am thinking it needs some type of quilt backing and an update on the edge ribbon. We shall see.
I also tried my hand at a few hand made gifts besides the cookie baking and pretzel bag gifts in my previous post…I tried my hand at some homemade sugar scrub. Stay tuned for that in my next post.
The biggest bummer about this week was that Cali went in to have her teeth cleaned only to come out with 11 teeth extracted. Now, first, I feel like the biggest jerk dog owner in the world because her teeth were in this condition. But, second, I signed up for a teeth cleaning, dropped her off and called to get a status only to find out that they removed 11 teeth. The initial appointment was predicated on a teeth cleaning and maybe having to remove one tooth…NOT 11. Much to my surprise when I called for her status, I was casually informed that she was doing well and that they had to remove 11 teeth. My first response was “how many teeth does she have”. Well, apparently they have 42. I don’t know about you, but they would never remove 11 teeth out of a human at once. NEVER. I am not a happy camper. I paid for the x-rays so that they could call and tell me ahead of time what the plan was…NOT so that they could remove 11 teeth and tell me after the fact. They assure me that this is fairly normal and that she will be fine. I am most unhappy that no one notified me and when I did call, they were so casual about it. So, I am waiting for her to come home so I can make her feel better…..I feel so bad. So, so bad.
Sweet Cali - I am so sorry!