Friday, April 29, 2011

.pucker up.

i've often heard people say the cliche "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade." heck, i've even used it myself! who really does this though? so, i decided to take something cliche and turn it into something practical.

when life gives you lemons, make pound cake!

after spending eighteen months pouring over every little crevice of creating the perfect wedding, the BIG day finally came...and went. while it was better than we'd ever have dreamed, happier than we knew possible and worth every moment of hard work, it left one craft-craving, directionless girl in it's wake. you see, when you spend so much time creating, revising, designing and envisioning one culminating event, you tend to lose sight of so much else. i'm guilty. once the buzz of the wedding began fading away and there wasn't any need for me to run to the local craft store, i felt lost. until, baking and blogging tapped on my shoulder...

with the most extensive cook book at my disposal, the internet, i took to the virtual streets in search of a lemon pound cake recipe. over the years, i've noticed that lemon cake is a common denominator in sweets. from chocolate fans to those who'd rather skip dessert for something more savory, a slice of lemon cake is rarely passed over. therefore, i wanted this to be one recipe i could perfect for a lifetime of happy tasters.

trusting those that bake and cook as their livelihood, i found this recipe from the food network's ina garten: . i followed it (almost) word for word.

last week, when i baked the strawberry cake, i was forced to use my handheld mixer in place of an upright with a paddle attachment. at the time, i thought this was partly to blame for the density of that cake. i wanted this lemon cake to be rich, moist and a lemony sponge. luckily, my kitchen-friendly friend, emily, let me borrow her awesome mixer to get my baking under way. i can't thank her enough because i believe it made a huge difference this time around.

zested lemons, squeezed lemons with my new apparatus, sifted, sifted some more, blended, beat, poured...then to the oven it went. my fingers were crossed tighter than someone's puckered lips after putting a lemon to their mouth.

in their raw form, lemons are sour and few people enjoy them without the aid of some water or sugar to dilute their punch. once juxtaposed with just the right amount of sweetness, they taste refreshing, cleansing and like a little bite of sunshine.

when the cake was ready to pull from the oven, i held my breath as i turned the bundt pan upside down. unlike last week, it was a clean fall and a beautiful cake stared back at me. one trick i implored that ms. garten didn't mention in her recipe was to poke holes with a wooden skewer all over the cake before pouring the juices on top of it. i'm so glad that those who came before complained about this in their blogs and found this to be a great trick through trial and error.

once the glaze was on, i couldn't resist having a piece before it even made it to the pretty plate. this was close-my-eyes-to-really-focus-on-the-taste kinda yumminess. my husband concurred and we definitely had dessert before dinner without one bit of guilt.

thank you lemon pound cake for turning my souring spirit in the creativity department into something so sweet.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

.smile me pretty (please).

soon after we got engaged, i began my journey down the information highway. and by journey, i really mean i immediately found my destination and dead ended right there. style me pretty was my one stop, wedding drooling spot. not only did i find ideas and inspiration on this premier wedding blog, but i would get lost in the images and stories of so many couples' beautiful days until my head was floating.

the site became my daily addiction and i would drool over all the swoon-worthy weddings. invigorated by all those brides that took their big day and turned it into their dream became my destiny. their do-it-yourself motto transormed to my anthem and for eighteen months, i was a crafting, creating gal! over time, i'll share some of my DIY projects on here. for today though, something more magical...

as i'd peruse through one little lovely wedding after another, i'd feel myself secretly hoping that my wedding would be as beautiful with our own personal touches. deep, deep down, i would daydream that one day, our own wedding would be on this gorgeous site for other future brides to find inspiration from.
last night, our photographer ( called me with the jaw-dropping news. style me pretty wanted to feature our wedding on their site! as my head danced with wedded bliss all over again, i genuinely squealed. not only did we enjoy a day full of love, but we now get to celebrate it all over again in a most webtacular way.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

.written nail.

more than likely, the urge began in middle school. we were learning to fold our secret notes into paper puzzles for only our best of friends to unfold. there were games made through our own origami and playing MASH (mansion. apartment. shack. house.) was a typical affair. i strived to come up with the most creative choices in our girlie games of MASH and i wanted my written notes to be witty and the envy of lunchtime.

as high school came and went, writing anything and everything i could gave me energy, an outlet, my sense of self. poems, songs (not for my own shower-only-friendly voice), stories, editing friends' papers, letters, pen pal cards, journals...these were my anchors. during college and my early years of teaching, not much changed and i still found solace with my mechanical pencil and paper.

writing notes to my closest friends and family still served as a source of happiness for me as my twenties marched along. i particularly remember one trip to seattle with my hpff (highest priority friend forever) where we blew our own minds. on the airplane ride back to florida, she sat closer to first class while my assigned seat was next to the back bathroom. joy. not being able to relive every single moment in chattered detail with each other, i wrote and wrote and wrote. jotting down every memory and new inside joke was such a pleasure. she still has that letter and every couple of years or so, we read back through to see how much of the note we still remember. sometimes laughing so hard until our sides hurt, i am reminded how beautiful the written word can be.

what got me thinking today about writing and my personal journey with it was looking at my chipped nail polish this morning while getting ready. now how in the world does nail polish and writing relate? many years after that classic trip with my hpff, she and i were getting a pedicure together. she chose a color called "don't mess with OPI"; from a whole texas collection. as we started reading through polish bottles and snickering at their clever names, i thought- i could do this!

so, that's exactly what i did this morning. i emailed OPI to let the (hopefully) right people know i had a color story for them that i'd like to share. fingers crossed that i hear back from them.

Monday, April 25, 2011


moving away from my home state of florida was a leap of faith in my now-husband. luckily, i landed on both feet and have really loved living in memphis. however, every so often a holiday rolls around where we are left with no family in sight. these are the days that i crave one of my mom's casseroles, my dad's always-inventive food creations, the roar of my niece and nephews running about.

in walks easter and out walks the chance of having any of this when i'm hundreds of miles away from home. holidays are steeped in tradition and memories. like millions of other people, my family had easter egg hunts, a holiday dinner, dyed eggs, and candy. for days after, there'd be that pesty easter grass making itself known in the oddest nooks and crannies.
my attempt at bringing all that tradition a little closer to my new home came in the form of baking this year. i had this vision of an adorable spring cupcake and i have to say...i'm pretty pleased with the result.

as i've stated before, chocolate and peanut butter dance across my taste buds in a most lively way. therefore, i set out to find a recipe to accompany such a dance. once again, ms. ina garten shared her tried and true medley with me (and the rest of the world) here:

this was my first attempt at chocolate cake in any form and i somehow pictured way more chocolate in the ingredients. instead, i found myself adding things like brewed coffee, white sugar, and brown sugar. until- hershey's cocoa powder made it's grand appearance.

sifting, whisking, and mixing are starting to become second nature for me and i am finding more confidence all across my kitchen countertops. once i put the cupcake batter into the the pans, it was time for my little chocolate lovelies to shine. closing the oven door to curtain their transformation, i began on the frosting.

i've not really had any peanut butter frosting in my life and was anxious to taste it for the first time from the labor of my own hands. i breezed through the frosting-making process, proud of my steadiness. as i turned the mixer on high, i glanced back at the recipe and noticed i made a BIG mistake. confidence, steadiness, breezing...all gone. there was supposed to be one-third a cup of heavy whipping cream and the only thing heavy was my hand as i had mistakenly added a whole cup. while this may not seem like a major blunder on the surface, but it really was in the bowl.

my visions of fluffy frosting were watered down by all the liquid. rather than starting over with limited ingredients, i ended up adding unmeasured (never a good thing in baking) doses of some of the other dry ingredients. by doing this, i of course created way too much frosting and it never got as fluffy as i wanted it to be. but, it still tasted like sweet, sugary peanut butter and i had a smidgeon of my confidence come back.

after my cupcakes came out of the oven and the quasi-frosting was completed, i moved on to making them my tribute to easter tradition. i toasted coconut in the oven on the bake setting that would serve as the nest for my little yellow birdie. in order to have the chirpy chick popping out of its coconut nest, i cheated and used an already-made peep. i'm not a fan of cruelty to animals, but it didn't bother me one little bit to rip the heads off each sugary peep in order to plop them on the cupcake. the end result was an easter cupcake, sure to delight a variety of senses. most importantly, it gave me a joy that is hard to find on a holiday away from my family.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

.from word to watching.

ever since the days of my little house on the prairie book collection, reading books has been my security blanket. in times of self-discovery, i read ayn rand. through personal turmoil, amy tan was my comfort. in carefree years, nick hornby made me laugh. then, one memoir after another speckled my own life's story as they shaped my perspective and sensitivity. from one flew over the cuckoo's nest to a 1000 splended suns, the countless hours i've spent engrossed in stories are priceless to me.

so when a book i love gets turned into a movie, there's a certain amount of topsy-turvy happiness inside me. usually, i first hear through someone else and then frantically try to find the trailer or google images to see how hollywood's vision of these beloved characters compares to my own. more often than not, it's not even close.

(amazing book, great movie...but he is supposed to be a redhead. it's a big deal, ok. )

in tinsel town's defense, it's got to be challenging to take this intricate story laced with in-depth characters, conversations and plots and turn it into a two hour blurb. even with this in mind as i enter the theatre, i still usually walk out let down by the live action rendition of the written word.

very few movies from books have lived up to my expectations. but when they do, it is magical. laughing through high fidelity with john cusack, crying through the joy luck club (even though the book was still so much better), cringing during fight club, and smiling throughout pride and prejudice. never has one of my favorite books as a movie surpassed my love of the book itself. nor, do i expect it to.

i do want to leave the theatre entertained and ok with what they did to the story. deflated after memoirs of a geisha or eat pray love, for instance, is a very flat feeling. so when i saw the preview for water for elephants, i held my breath that it would serve the book justice.

with a backdrop of the circus, sideshow, menagerie and a colorful hodgepodge of characters, my fingers were crossed that it wouldn't disappoint. i worried about twilight's edward, as the main character, ruining the escape to imagination by clouding each scene with less than tasteful acting and i feared reese witherspoon's blinding blonde hair would ruin the image of the brunette marlena as in the book. as soon as the movie began however, those fears dissipated and i escaped into a tale so pleasingly told that i didn't even find myself criticizing all the differences from the book. i actually enjoyed the movie, bunches.

(in the book, jacob is a redhead too)

Friday, April 22, 2011

.mix it up, peanut butter cup.

from pieces, to bite sized, to the real deal, to the easter eggs, oh the easter eggs...reese's has had the market on my heart for a long time. so when i ran across a recipe online for chocolate-coated balls of peanut butter and brown sugar with some crumbled pretzels for crunch, i couldn't resist putting these to the test.

i also knew this would be the perfect opportunity for me to use my new food processor that we got as a wedding gift and the no-stick baking mat i recently purchased. what better is there to break in new kitchen toys than with something sweet?

after throwing the pretzels into the processor, i realized i probably would have had better results with my fist and a ziploc bag. nonetheless, it chopped them up and then i was able to mix in the sugar, both brown and white, as well as the butter, both peanut and plain. if you think forming a peanut butter laden mix into precise little balls may be a sticky matter, you are quite correct. there were frequent trips to the sink and then hand dippings into ice cold water during this process. eventually, they were all laid out in perfect, pretzely rows, ready to put in the freezer to firm.

meanwhile, on the other side of the kitchen, i melted semi-sweet chocolate chips into a gooey mass of dippable chocolate. i read that dipping the balls with a fork and rolling them around in the melted chocolate was the best way to get an even, smooth coating. well, my chocolate must have been super cranky that day because it was determined to leave gaps, clumps, and a mess on each cluster i dipped.

yet in my eyes, i found beauty in each of my rough, pretzel pokey clumps of wannabe smooth spheres and was proud to take them to my friend's house later that evening to share. now, the all important taste component. they were really good, but i have decided that next time i will use a milk chocolate for the coating. that taste will take me back to all those holiday mornings when i would pull from either a stocking, an easter basket or a heart shaped mound my favorite candy. slowly peeling away the wrapper, i would take little nibbles as i savored each bite. yes, that's the taste i'm going for next time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


my mom would pull through the line at the bank and i'd sit on pins and needles in the backseat, hoping to get a lollipop from the smiling teller. most of the time my hoping panned out and i'd be one happy little girl with a colorful, sugary treat in hand. some things never change and as an adult, i still feel a little giddy when i get a special little delight out of nowhere.

for my recent wedding, my cousin and friend, tammy, made all of the delectables for our sweet's table. one of her specialities is her bite-sized, spherical gobblets of yumminess. i call them her cake balls. i know, i know...not the most appetizing nickname. although she makes all kinds of delicious flavors, we stuck to classic vanillas and chocolates for our blissful affair. just like those suckers from my childhood, she placed a lollipop stick in each making them both adorable and functional to pick up and eat.

when embarking on my baking lifestyle last weekend, i made way too much strawberry frosting for my cake. that left me with a delicious dilemma- what to do with all that icing! not to mention, i lost one of my three strawberry cake rounds the night before. however, i saved the crumbled mess because i just couldn't bear to throw out one-third of my hard work. so here i was on saturday morning with a tupperware filled with cake crumbles and another filled with pink and red speckled frosting.


it hits me like a ball to the side of the head (which did happen last year at one my husband's dodgeball games)- i'll make cake balls! i'd read online that cake balls were basically formed by combining processed, super crumbly cake with frosting. the ratios i found on several websites had a much larger cake to frosting scale. rather than stick to conventional baking wisdom, i decided to add quite a bit more frosting because in my case, it was way more appetizing than my cake itself was. i figured that would make the finished product taste better. after kneading the mix together of the two and then forming them into small spheres, i sent them to the freezer to stiffen.

in the meantime, i melted white candy coating with a little swirl of pink food coloring for the sake of pretty. after the cake balls hardened, i began the dipping process. this part proved a little harder than i had imagined and i had to pull out and put on my patience pants. by inserting a lollipop stick into each one, i knew it was only right to stop calling them cake balls and to begin calling them by a much sweeter name- cake pops.

just like when i was a little girl with a lollipop in hand, these little cuties made me grin all over before even biting into them. they were well received at home, at a friend's party and with my lunch bunch at work. they are this grown-up girl's prized treat.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

.my blue suede shoes.

it might help in getting to know me a little bit better if you know where i am; both in my life and geographically. recently, like six short weeks ago kinda recently, i got married to my chemist turned eyeball schooler, beer and sweet tea loving, hunk of a husband. the good news is that our fairytale doesn't end on the day we tied the knot. there's still a whole lifetime of untying left to do and that is always the more interesting part.

before we promised to be with each other for ever + ever, we made sure we loved each other, and sometimes more importantly, liked each other. when he and i began dating, we were both in our hometown in central, florida. about six months into our relationship, he started exploring his options in optometry school and one of his choices was in memphis, tennessee. we flew to the land of elvis and bbq together for him to interview at the school and to check out the town.

i remember us bundling up for the cold weather and i was thrilled to wrap a scarf around my native floridian neck. listening to an old blues band wail on the harmonica while at a local beale street joint still lingers in my sense's memory. that night, i thought to myself that maybe i really could leave the only life i knew in florida to see what this new one would offer me.

that valentine's day, while he was making dinner for the two of us, he received a phone call from a 901 area code and thought that was strange so answered it. he heard the good news that he was accepted to eyeball doctor school in memphis. that june, we loaded up our lives and made the move to our new home.

there was something very important, though, that i needed to work out before i moved away from my roots, my family, my dearest friends and all i had ever known. i had to have the perfect shoes. when i thought of memphis, i had a soundtrack running through my head and one of the tunes that i played on repeat was elvis' blue suede shoes.

these days, it seems like i see the most gorgeous blue suede heels everywhere from forever 21 to dillards to piperlime. but, it took me weeks of hunting to finally find my shoes with just a touch of blue suede. i wore them proudly to one of our going away dinners as a sign of things to come.

after living in memphis for three years now, i feel pretty close to being a local. those perfect blue shoes still live with me, but i don't get to wear them as often now that it isn't sunshine 350 days of the year. as much as i've considered it, they just don't look all that splendid with socks or tights.

out shopping with one of my memphis gals a few months back, i ran across a new hue of blue at the local mall. something about memphis (ok, and maybe my aging feet) have dissuaded me from wearing my heels as high as i used to. these blue beauties, though, were calling my name and made me feel six feet tall. as with most shoes i now buy during the cold months, i checked to see if they were tights-compatible and with the closed toe, they most assuredly were. practical shoes? not so much. needed to take them walking in memphis? definitely.
they are completely blue (faux) suede and completely where i am.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


when i was little, my mom went to great lengths to make me feel comfortable and happy being a child with curly, red hair and freckles. i got every red-haired doll there was from annie to barbie's red headed friend. my bedroom was decorated in strawberry shortcake as a little girl. now i look back with a freckled smile to think of all my mom did for my self-confidence (even though i'm still bitter my older, blonde sister always got the real barbie to match her hair). since those days of striped socks and bonnets on my bed sheets, i've always loved strawberries.

when my husband brought home some fresh picked strawberries friday afternoon, my mind started reeling with what i could make with them. not a kitchen aficionado, i immediately went to google. there, i discovered a whole world of cooking blogs that took my breath away. that moment, my heart went aflutter and i knew i wanted to start baking. not just this past weekend, but forever...i wanted to feel frosting coursing through my veins. thus, i set out to make my first cake completely from scratch.

the recipe i found was for strawberry cupcakes and i wanted to make a three-tiered cake. i had this vision in my head of a beautifully round tall cake, coated in pink-colored heaven. so, a friend of mine suggested to double the original cupcake recipe and that is what i did. being a math teacher and proud nerd, doing quick multiplications and conversions from the cupcake recipe was an added bonus to my newfound world of baking.

things were going wonderfully and i had all three cake pans in the oven while i moved on to the strawberry frosting. i'm salivating just thinking about it right now. i also doubled that recipe because, well, i assumed doubling the cake would mandate doubling the cake topping. the end result was an incredibly heaping amount of strawberry frosting. i thought "oops" i licked the spoon from every possible angle before tossing it in the sink.

ding! the cakes are done. i carefully take each out and place them on the stove as i set up my shiny, new wire cooling rack. my husband has watched me bounce around the kitchen for most of this process, surely thinking i'm going to blow something up at any moment. i take the first new cake pan and dump it upside down to find a perfectly formed, round cake. immediately, i turn to him and spout off, "booyah!" i grab the next pan, which is the one old one i had and go for it again. this time, disaster. the cake sticks and comes out in crumbles. i bite my lip and try the third; which is also a new pan and perfect. so, 3 beautiful cakes - 1 crumbled mess = a mostly still satisfied me.

after allowing the cakes to cool while i went out and about, i came home to frost the two layers i did have. it turned out to be beautiful, in a first-time-definitely-homemade kinda way. the icing was divine and the cake was just fine, but nowhere near "mmmmm." it was too dense and that is something i will have to work on and research. all in all, i was so happy to don my apron and to start my baking life...

*disclaimer: all photos are quick shots from my iphone and therefore there may be some blurring and confectioners sugar on the lens.

Monday, April 18, 2011

.opening act.

as my first blog entry, i want to write something amazing, inspiring, jaw-dropping. however, i am just so excited about starting this blog that this will be more like the rambling of an eight year old after inhaling three pixie sticks.
throughout this blogging process, i hope to cover everything from party planning to style to writing to my newfound love of baking. and by newfound, i mean like this past weekend kinda new. as a math teacher, i think people expect me to be type-a, nerdy, maybe even bossy. well, they'd be right. however, i'm also imaginative, caring and love to cut loose.
as a florida girl, i've got sunshine running through my veins. however, i followed my heart and now-husband to memphis, tennessee a few years ago for him to go through eyeball doctor school (as i call it).  even all the sunshine i've got in me can't protect me from the months and months i'm stuck in socks. now that's it's spring, i'm ready to start anew. part of that will be this new bloggin' for me.
as with most opening acts, what's to follow is way better. i hope the same will hold true for my posts.  thanks for stopping by!