Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shoestring Home + a spring GIVEAWAY

Just because I'm not shopping doesn't mean I can't browse, right?

When I saw Shoestring Home, I was thrilled. Mandi, the owner, has a great eye, and her choices for the shop are so well edited. It's hard to browse the site without clicking on almost everything.

Here are just a few of my favorite things from Shoestring Home...

{all images from Shoestring Home}

1. Angelina Cake Stands - translucent, mouth blown milk glass stands in three sizes. You're not surprised these made it on my list, right? If I weren't still on my shopping hiatus, these would probably be sitting in my house right now.

2. Herb Potting Kit - everything you need for an adorable herb garden, including seeds, soil, and these perfect pots made from reclaimed cement bag overruns. I love re-purposing, especially when it looks this good (and trust me - $40 for a ready made herb garden is a serious steal) .

3. Lucia Soaps - not only is the packing beautiful, but they come in scents like watercress and chai tea. I love the sharp scent of watercress and the spices of chai, and I'm very, very tempted by this one. Of course, tea leaf and wild honey is probably equally delicious.

4. Porcelain Flower Candle Holders & Vase - a sweet little trio of delicately shaped flowers, ready for candles and a spring bud. These would work equally well for fancy table settings and everyday dinners.

And the best news ... Mandi is generously offering a giveaway, so one of you lucky readers is going to get these fabulous cube vases.

{image from Shoestring Home}

Aren't they genius? The simple glass cubes contain glass tubes just the right size for a single blossom. You get a set of three, perfect for displaying the first spring flowers.

To enter, just visit the Shoestring Home shop and then leave a comment on this post (make sure you include your email address, if it isn't already linked to your profile). You have until Thursday evening to enter, and I'll announce the winner on Friday.

You only have a couple days, so don't be shy, people! I love it when readers pop out of nowhere to leave a quick comment.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Weekend + no shopping update - week 11

I'm in the home stretch here and things seem to be going smoothly. I did a little bit of almost shopping last week (you know, the kind where you online shop and put things in your cart and then close the browser without checking out), but I managed to hold strong. Next week I'll have a little wrap up of the shopping hiatus and explain where I plan to go from here.

I can definitely say that one of the benefits of not shopping is the extra time it gives you. We had a lot going on this weekend, but I'm not sure any of it will be ready to share with you this week. Hopefully soon.


glued + clamped


Did anyone else have a productive weekend?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bits of loveliness

Sweet surprises this week...

Finding a lovely package in my mailbox from the oh so sweet Anne of The City Sage. These adorable liners will be used to bake something delicious. There were also some yummy Japanese treats, but I have to admit most of them didn't last long enough to have their photo taken.

sweet little liners

These were almost like Pocky, but the sticks have random little phrases on them and the chocolate was in a separate container for dipping. D loves squirrels, so we both cracked up when we found this. Equally awesome ones - "star + fish = starfish" and " frog - amphibian."

d loves squirrels

Coming home to a beautiful bunch of yellow tulips and a clean apartment (D is on spring break this week, so I get spoiled).


Thanks for all your hair advice yesterday! I think I'm going to schedule a cut for next week, and I'll make sure to share.

Have a wonderful weekend, my dears!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Silly and indecisive

Will you indulge me in a completely self centered post today?

I can't decide what to do with my hair.


Background - I have very straight hair that I alternately grow out and chop off. I've had it almost as long as my waist and cropped to my earlobes, so I'm not exactly scissors shy. Right now it's in the annoying in between phase and it's starting to drive me nuts.

I've never had bangs, but I'm thinking of going for it. I'd actually prefer the short look but I'm wondering if my hair is too straight to look good in that cut.

Full disclosure: I am also very, very challenged in the styling department. The most I can manage is a haphazard blow dry. I am apparently incapable of holding a brush and the blow dryer at the same time, so I can't do any complicated maneuvers. I have no experience with product, but I'm not averse to it, as long as it takes less than 5 minutes to apply.

Let's take a vote (anonymous, of course).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Strawberry shortcake

It's strawberry season here in Southern California! Which means that all the farms have little roadside stands filled with red berries. Park and walk up to one, and you can smell the sweetness from several feet away. Yum.


So naturally, this was a big part of the weekend.


First you wash all your berries and slice them up. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle just the tiniest bit of sugar on top (I tossed in some grated lemon zest as well).

While they sit, mix up your dough and cut it out.


The biscuits only take 10 minutes in the oven, but that's plenty of time for whipping up some heavy cream (again, just add a touch of sugar and vanilla - you want the berries to shine).

And before you know it, you have this...



Strawberry shortcake biscuits (makes about 6 servings, adapted from the Tassajara Bread Book biscuit recipe)

2 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, cold and cut into cubes
2 eggs
1/2 cup cream

**Put the dry ingredients into the food processor and pulse to combine.

**Add the cubes of butter and pulse 7 or 8 times for about 1 second each. The mixture will resemble coarse cornmeal. Use a pastry cutter or two knives if you don't have a food processor.

**Mix together the cream and the eggs and then pour into the food processor while pulsing. A soft dough should form within a few seconds. Stir the liquid in with a spatula if you aren't using the food processor. Don't overmix.

**Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and gently shape into a rectangle approximately 1/2 inch thick. Fold in thirds lengthwise, turn one quarter turn and repeat once more. This gentle folding creates a tender, flaky biscuit.

**Roll the dough out (I just pat with my hands) to about 1/2 or 3/4 inch thick. Cut out your biscuits with whatever shape you like.

**Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 10 minutes, until the tops are just golden brown.
The biscuits might sound slightly intimidating (it's all the patting and folding), but they seriously take all of 15 minutes to pull together. Once you have the technique under your belt, you can have them ready to pop in the oven in 5 minutes (I know, because the first batch was so good that I had to make a second one, immediately).

P.S. Looking for a specific recipe and don't want to search through the archives? I finally added a recipe index post that I'll update as I go along. Check it out by clicking on the link in my sidebar.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quick headband

I do most of my sewing with vintage cotton sheets, which leaves me with lots of long strips of scrap fabric.

The other day I braided three long pieces together and had a new headband in under 5 minutes.

{it is very hard to take a picture of the top of your head - i now have several dozen pictures of the ground}

I didn't bother finishing the edges, because I like the slightly frayed look. I simply tied this around my head because I didn't have any elastic on hand, although I eventually intend to get some sewn on.


Side benefit? This actually stays put. I have very straight hair, and most headbands just slip right off unless they are so tight that they induce headaches. The texture of this one seems to keep it in place and it is actually comfortable. I've worn it almost every day since I made it. At some point, someone is going to notice and I'll have to stop.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Weekend + no shopping update - week 10

Can you believe it's week 10 already? Two more weeks to go.

I cruised through last week and then temptation snuck up on me, during a quick trip to the bike shop. $500 worth of temptation (but on sale from $600!).
{Simple City 3 W image from Fisher website}

I wish this picture did the bike justice, but it doesn't come close. The bike is glossy, of course. But it has the sweetest retro leather saddle (by Bontrager!) and leather covered handles. The lines are beautiful and in person it is very, very hard to resist running your hands over it covetously (luckily people in bike shops are used to this sort of behavior, and no one thinks you are crazy).

I didn't cave, but it was shockingly tempting. I have the sweetest yellow 1972 Schwinn and I am still too terrified to take it out in LA. So I definitely neither need nor deserve something this deluxe. But still.

So I guess that's just me. I resisted a $60 dress last week and then almost impulse purchased a $500 bike. Baby steps.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Greenery on display

I should have shared this for St. Patrick's day. Consider it a belated bit of green celebration.

I love flowers. Loooove flowers.

But sometimes it's nice to let the green bits play the starring role.

{Various CA native greenery, in a vintage milk glass bud vase}

Go take a look around this weekend. You might be surprised (and delighted) by all the different shades of green you'll find.

{Photos clearly not taken in my dinky apartment - this is my parents' lovely kitchen}

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cornbread (again)

Is it cheating to post the same recipe twice? What if I modify it slightly and make it even easier for you?


It's just that cornbread makes me so happy, and my clever mom recently created a shortcut version. If you are intimidated by the pastry cutter, this is for you.
Cornbread, simplified (makes one 8x8 square or 12 muffins, originally posted here)

**Mix together:
1 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup cornmeal

(You can make several batches of this at once, tossing the ingredients into quart sized ziploc bags and then storing them in the freezer to pull out for later use).

**Whisk together:
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

**Blend the wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed and bake in a 400 degree oven until the edges are golden and crisp (about 15 minutes for muffins). Enjoy.
Having some mix on hand makes it possible to have muffins pulled together in a matter of minutes, with no fumbling around for ingredients or measuring spoons.


Serve them with honey and butter for a sweet treat or modify the recipe to make them savory (stir some grated cheddar cheese and chopped, cooked applewood bacon into them right before baking for a special treat) - I promise you'll like them either way.

P.S. Lovely Amy of Old Sweet Song asked me some questions and my answers are up today!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Planter solution - repurposed wine crates

You guys are so smart! Several of you mentioned wine crates, which kind of steals my thunder, but I'm glad to see that we're on the same page. I would have loved to use the self watering containers that Christina recommended (see them in use here), but my odd space constraints made it difficult (my patio is very long but not terribly wide).


We already had a storage rack sitting outside on our patio, and I wanted to use it if I could. Luckily, wine crates fit on it perfectly.

Craigslist came through for me, and I scored 11 wooden wine crates for $39, which gave me 6 extra to use as storage on the lower levels. They are pine, so they will deteriorate eventually, but pretty much anything you fill with dirt and water and leave outside is going to do that. I considered treating the insides or lining them with plastic but ultimately decided it would only slightly prolong the inevitable.

Prep: My uncle saw my wine crates and immediately worried that they needed to be reinforced to hold up the extra weight. He screwed little rectangles of wood in each of the corners for me! We drilled holes in the bottom to allow for drainage and then laid down a bit of old screen to prevent soil from leaking out.

Planting: Fill with good potting mix, add your plants and plenty of water to get them started. I also tried some seeds. I have no idea if they will take, because all I did was sprinkle them and then put a bit of soil on top. We'll see. I'm not exactly an expert gardener.


See those funny little terracotta things sticking out of my planters? They are called ollas (oy-yahs), and they are a very traditional way to water in the southwest. For more detail, check out this wonderful post about using ollas. Basically, they drastically reduce the amount of watering you have to do, which saves water and effort.

Olla sources: Mine were given to my by my mom, and she purchased them from the local nursery Tree of Life. I found Arizona Pottery to be the most reasonably priced online source.

Technically, this didn't break my shopping hiatus, because the wine crates were repurposed and my mom treated me to the soil and plants because she was so excited to see I was finally going to start my own garden. If I had done the purchasing myself, it would have been about $35 for the gardening supplies, plus the cost of the wine crates and the ollas.

What did I plant?

Sage + greek oregano - both perennials, which means I shouldn't have to replant next year
Rosemary + mint - also perennials, placed together because they are equally invasive and I figured they could hold their own against each other
Basil (two different kinds) - annual, will need to be replanted each year
Cilantro + red bell pepper + Italian parsley - annuals, will need to be replanted each year

I'll make sure to post updates so you can see if I manage not to kill everything.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Plants and another dilemma

One of the big reasons we took our apartment was because it has a large balcony and I could plant herbs for cooking. We have been here three years and so far the garden hasn't materialized. (We do eat on the patio, as evidenced here and here, so we aren't completely wasting it).

Well, I have planter problems. Specifically, I have issues with the fact that many of them are ugly and expensive. The ones that actually look nice are even more expensive. Oh, and I already know exactly what I want despite the fact that I don't know if it exists.

I want straight sided squares or rectangles (I have nothing against round pots, but they aren't very space efficient). No frills, no carvings of grapes. Preferably made out of some material that isn't just straight up plastic, although at this point I'm willing to compromise.

{image from simplyplanters.com}

This would be a perfect space saving option, because we could store things underneath it. Exciting? Not exactly. Functional? Yes. But paying over $200 for a planter is too painful for me right now.

This website has some affordable planters I can admire, but no indication of whether or not they would ship them. Target has even jumped in on the game with one cute rectangular planter, but it's just too small.

If money was no object (as in, if I had so much money that I could literally pile dollar bills in my bathtub and wallow around in it for fun), I would throw all my requirements out the window and buy this one by VesseL. It is 60 inches long so you could fit tons of plants in it! It is glazed white ceramic with a good shape and a simple wooden base!

{images above + below from VesseL's own site, architecturalpottery.com}

Here is one in use, just so you get the scale...
I'm kind of in love with it.

Stay tuned tomorrow to see what I ended up doing.

- it does not involve fabulous $1,700 planters or amazing facsimiles thereof. So don't get too excited. And yes, I just had a tiny heart attack when I typed out that number.

Monday, March 16, 2009

No shopping update - week 9

If you are trying to avoid buying anything do not drink two margaritas with your girlfriends and then aimlessly wander into...1. Urban Outfitters
2. Anthropologie
3. Gap *

And then definitely don't go onto their websites to find pictures to post on your blog or you run the risk of finding even more things that you want, like...

4. Gap (online only)

Just saying.

(No, I didn't buy anything - but it hurt a little).

*I only went into Gap because I had to go to the bathroom, and they are the only ones who have a bathroom and I didn't even expect to see anything good because I've found them moderately disappointing over the last few years and they've pretty much fallen off my list. Until now.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy Friday!

I have no plans for the weekend. And it feels good.

Wonderful girls happy hour last night here.

cut flowers

It looks like we are finally easing into spring here, alternating slightly gloomy days with slightly sunny days. Flowers are popping out everywhere. I am daydreaming about having my own herb garden on the patio. More on that next week.

Hope your weekend is filled with flowers or other loveliness!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Baked macaroni and cheese (with wild mushrooms + sage)

It's still a bit gloomy here, and sometimes there isn't anything better than a cozy meal, particularly if there is lots of cheese involved.


Mark Bittman's baked macaroni and cheese + a few alterations (makes 4 - 6 massive servings, from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

2 1/2 cups milk (low-fat is fine)
2 bay leaves
1 pound elbow, shell, ziti, or other cut pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups grated cheese, like sharp cheddar or Emmental (I used a blend of sharp cheddars)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper & salt to taste

2 tbsp chopped fresh sage (my addition)
1 cup dried wild mushrooms (my addition)

**Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.

** Cook the milk with the bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. When small bubbles appear along the sides, about 5 minutes later, turn off the heat and let stand.

**Cook the pasta to the point where it is almost done but you would still think it needed another minute or two to become tender. (If using dried wild mushrooms, make it easy on yourself and toss them in the pot - they'll hydrate along with the pasta and you don't have to deal with an extra step). Drain it, rinse it quickly to stop the cooking, and put it in a large bowl.

**In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter (toss in the chopped sage, if using); when it is foamy, add the flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture browns, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves from the milk and add about 1/4 cup of the milk to the hot flour mixture, stirring with a wire whisk all the while. As soon as the mixture becomes smooth, add a little more milk and continue to do so until all the milk is used up and the mixture is thick and smooth. Add the cheddar and stir.

**Pour the sauce over the noodles, toss in the Parmesan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to grease a 9 x 13-inch or similar-size baking pan and turn the pasta mixture into it. Top liberally with bread crumbs and bake until bubbling and the crumbs turn brown, about 15 minutes. (I didn't have bread crumbs, so I sprinkled the top with Parmesan, and it was delicious). Serve piping hot.


This was such a perfect weekend supper and everyone ate it up. I'm embarrassed to admit that it still won't wean me from my guilty addiction to Kraft Mac & Cheese. For those of you who don't have an entirely emotional/nostalgic attachment to bright orange chemicals, making the swap permanent should be easy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Address label issues

Can we talk about address labels? I like to think of myself as an easy going person, but at some point I'm going to have to give up that delusion. I am a little obsessive and for some reason, things like address labels drive me nuts. I have never been able to bring myself to use the free ones that various charities send to me (does that make me a terrible person? I still donate). I can't even use them to pay our bills, which D thinks is slightly insane.

I spent literally hours online researching address labels when we moved to our apartment. Most sites offer you three choices of "font" - regular, bold or italic. People, italic is not a font. It just isn't.

How I wish I'd seen Sweet Paperie's Etsy shop when I was going through this madness. Look at these lovely designs. And I'm smitten with the old fashioned wooden stamp they use.

{images from Sweet Paperie's shop 1, 2, 3}

There are so many designs to choose from that it's tough to narrow it down. I think I need all three of these. 1 for business-y correspondence, 2 for fun letters and 3 for whimsical notes.

For those of you who still want glossy address labels, I highly recommend the site I finally managed to track down. iPrint's website may not look very promising, but they offer more flexibility (and fonts!) than any other place I found. Start with their standard address label page and you will be able to adjust the fonts, add graphics, and move layouts around.

I ended up picking a design something like the one shown below (but customized, so it looks much nicer in person), and I've been very happy with it. You get 300 glossy white labels for $7.99 and they come on a roll in a little dispenser. Sweet. You can even add your own graphic if you want.

Okay, just go ahead and tell me - am I completely crazy or do some of you have issues with this as well?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Coconut cupcakes

Okay, apparently we are all cupcake addicts. I'm glad I'm not alone. Although actually being alone with a tray of cupcakes is not a bad thing, in my opinion.

Today's cupcake is simple, tender and delicious. And it tastes like coconut, and you know if I can add coconut to anything I will (witness the coconut rice pudding and the coconut frosting on sis's wedding cake).

coconut cupcake

Coconut cupcakes (makes 21, recipe from Martha Stewart)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed sweetened shredded coconut
6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg whites
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

**Mix the dry ingredients together (including the shredded coconut) with a fork and set aside.

**Cream the butter for three minutes, then slowly add the sugar and continue beating until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time.

**Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in three parts, alternating with the coconut milk and the vanilla.

**Pour batter into prepared muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.

As much as I love Martha Stewart recipes, sometimes they are a bit quirky. This one makes 21 cupcakes, for example. Why? I want a cupcake recipe to make either 12 or 24, which seems logical. But they taste good, so I tried to put aside my OCD.

Martha calls for seven minute frosting with these, but I've never cared for it. It's just a bit marshmallowy for my taste, and while I love marshmallows, I do not want them on my cupcakes. Instead, I used the Magnolia Bakery creamy vanilla frosting that I posted about here, but I added toasted coconut instead of orange zest, along with a teeny tiny bit of coconut flavoring. Yum.

Need more proof of my cupcake addiction? Get more here, here, here and here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

WINNER!!!! + no shopping update (week 8)

The winner of the lovely Jess LC necklace from last week's giveaway is.....

Commenter number 53 - Elizabeth Bufton! Elizabeth, you'll be contacted by Jess directly.

See the rest of the winners over at Jess's blog. And as a little added solace to those who didn't win, Jess is offering US shipping for everything on her site today and tomorrow. No code needed - just head over to the JessLC website and the free shipping will be applied when you check out.

At 8 weeks, I'm officially 2/3 of the way through my shopping hiatus and I think I've hit my stride. I even set foot in a boutique last week and managed to not feel a serious tug of temptation. Well, maybe there was some temptation (super soft long sleeve striped shirts were involved), but there was no conflict. I'm definitely feeling like I can make it through the next month.

This week, I have a little bit of cooking (finally!), possibly some crafting, and maybe I'll even torture you with yet another cupcake recipe, if you don't think it will be too much to handle two weeks in a row.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Happy things

Laundry hanging on the line

laundry on the line
{my photograph}

Stylish print-at-home wedding invitations from Pretty Pretty Paper.

{image from Pretty Pretty Paper}

This fabulous wedding via Once Wed with gorgeous photography by Kirsten Ellis.

{images pulled from Once Wed, photography by Kirsten Ellis of Beaux Arts Photographie}

Perfect return address stamps from Paperwink.

{image from Paperwink}

I guess this week I'm loving weddings and stationery. Oh, and laundry. Random.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

P.S. I will be announcing the giveaway winner on Monday, so make sure to drop by!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Vanilla bean + orange cupcakes

Can I confess something? I sometimes make cupcakes out of box mix, because I usually think people can't tell the difference if you top it with homemade frosting.

cupcake liners

But I may change my position on that. Because making cupcakes from scratch is fun, and not very hard, and you really can taste a difference. The only trick I've ever found for making good cake is to never short yourself on the amount of time you beat the butter, then add the sugar slowly and beat until it is nice and fluffy. This provides the structure. Also, you should be scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently, to make sure everything is getting mixed.

vanilla bean + orange cupcake

Vanilla bean + orange cupcakes (makes 12 - 14, original recipe from Martha)

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
2 large eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

**Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Cream butter for about 3 minutes, then slowly add the sugar, vanilla seeds, and orange zest and continue to beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy. With mixer running, add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl.

**Combine cream, orange juice, and vanilla extract in a small bowl. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with cream mixture, ending with flour; beat until just combined. Make sure you are scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.

**Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until testers inserted in the centers come out clean, about 25 minutes.
Martha suggests using her swiss meringue buttercream recipe, which is wonderful, one of my favorites. For no real reason, I opted to use my other favorite recipe, the Magnolia Bakery creamy vanilla frosting. It has a flour base, which makes it slightly unusual, but the texture is amazing. It is light and fluffy and perfect for people who might not be completely sold on buttercream frosting.
Magnolia Bakery creamy vanilla frosting (makes enough for 3 dozen generously frosted cupcakes, slightly modified, original recipe from this book)

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped (my addition)
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar (I only use superfine baker's sugar for this recipe)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Zest of one orange (my addition for this particular cupcake)

**In a medium-size saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Do this by adding a tiny bit of milk to the flour, whisking it into a thick paste and then slowly adding a bit more and stirring until it is all incorporated. This takes a bit of time, but if you try to do it too quickly you will end up with a lumpy mixture that is even more of a hassle. If using vanilla beans, add them here. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature.

**In a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat well. Add orange zest if desired.

**Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on the medium high speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes before using. I always pipe my frosting on because it is much faster and less messy than any other method I've found. No pastry bags or tips? Just load your frosting into a ziploc bag, cut off one corner and you have an instant solution.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I buy wine for the label - Fuerza Malbec

Not in a snobby way. Okay, not too snobby. I just hate ugly labels.

This one appealed to me. And it only cost $4 at TJs.

latest wine

I won't try to pretend I know whether it was a fabulous wine or not. I drank it, and I enjoyed it. No one else complained about it.

It has a screw top, which I am digging these days because it eliminates any awkward struggling with a cork (despite my mastery of the champagne cork, I am not so good at opening wine). If any of your friends give you grief about buying screw top wine, just casually mention that there was a New York Times article about it, and they'll have to back down.

P.S. Come visit Grace's wonderful blog, Poetic Home, where I'm sharing a few of my favorite vintage things!

P.P.S. You can still enter the necklace giveaway by leaving a comment on Monday's post!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No shopping update (week 7) + blog love

I had some weak moments last week, but I pulled through. For some reason I was craving craft supplies. Odd, right? I wanted bright, beautiful, expensive paper, fancy hole punches and rolls and rolls of delicious ribbon (I will blame that on Kate, because she posted about The Ribbon Jar and now I'm addicted). I held off because I don't need any of these things and it makes sense to wait until I have a specific project in mind. Maybe it's a seven week itch?

I did get very lucky and receive some beauty in the mail. The ever so sweet Patricia of PVE Design sent me a little package in the mail, containing several of her beautifully illustrated cards and a special surprise made just for me.


A teeny tiny book with perfect illustrations of some of my favorite photographs!


You can't believe how talented Patricia is. Seeing her drawings in person is such a treat - there is a special personality that shines through all of them. I've been showing off my little book to everyone. Drawing is a talent that I seriously envy, so I'll have to live vicariously through her.

Isn't this little blogging community wonderful?

P.S. You can still enter the fabulous giveaway from Jess L.C. Jewelry by commenting here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Happy, happy Monday + a great giveaway!

Let's start the week off right, shall we?

The lovely and talented Jess of Jess L.C. Jewelry is offering up the Falling Star necklace from her SocChic line and one of you lucky readers is going to win it.

Not only are the necklaces in Jess's SocChic line adorable, the profits also support various social causes. Amazing, isn't she?

To enter for a chance to win the Falling Star necklace, please leave a comment on this post and make sure you include your name and your email address (if it isn't already on your profile) and tell me who or what inspires you on a daily basis. I will randomly pick a winner on Friday and Jess will send you the necklace. You don't need to have a blog, and you don't need to be a regular commenter - I love seeing people come out of the woodwork.

Want even more chances to win some of Jess's necklaces? Check out these wonderful blogs today for chances to win the other necklaces in the line.

The City Sage ------------------- Pink Lemonade Necklace
Design Lovely ------------------- Lucky in Bed Necklace
La Dolce Vita -------------------- Silver Lining Necklace
Delight by Design ---------------- Good Intentions Necklace
Coco + Kelley -------------------- Match Made in Heaven Necklace
The Bright Side Project ---------- Commenter's Choice

All the winners will be announced on March 9th over at Jess's blog, Make Under My Life.

And do yourself a favor and check out Jess's new Studio 1423 shop on Etsy as well. If anyone wanted to make me very, very happy, this pink jade and gold necklace would be a good way to do it.