Thursday, August 23, 2012

Summer polish

I seem to have a rule wherein once I've worn the same polish twice in a row, I decide it's officially worthy of mention here.

essie's vermillionaire
{essie's vermillionaire}

So I'll just tell you that essie's vermillionaire is my current favorite, even if the manicurist laughed at me for choosing something so bright. It looks terrifyingly orange in the bottle, but perfect on your nails.

I also got a really good Butter London manicure at the Seattle airport (terminal C, if anyone has time to kill at Sea-tac). I don't have photographic evidence, but their Come to Bed Red is perfection.

I'm still not buying nail polish but instead paying for a manicure or polish change every now and then (or lately, three weeks in a row, but that's unusual). It's working for me and I'm glad not to have the accumulation of polishes that I never manage to use up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Emergency chocolate frosting


It wasn't my month for cake. Prior to the cake disaster of 2012, I made a yellow cake and decided to attempt the notorious fudge frosting spur of the moment. But because it was impulsive, I didn't have all the right ingredients. I was low on sugar, so I skimped a bit. I was out of baking chocolate so I used semi sweet. I stirred the entire time because I didn't want to deal with cleaning out a really messy pan. I'm sure you can see where this is going.

It was an epic failure. I gamely attempted to rescue it with a 30 minute beating, then a splash of milk, then I tried adding powdered sugar to make it a buttercream. Not happening. It was grainy and wouldn't set up. I cursed for a while and then stuck it in the fridge and went to bed, under my theory that sleeping fixes everything.

In the morning, I still had a perfectly good yellow cake that needed frosting. A night in the fridge hadn't improved the fudge. I was out of white sugar completely. I only had salted butter. I needed to leave the house in less than an hour and I was starting to feel like an idiot for not just making birthday cookies instead - so much less fussy!

I dug through my cookbooks and found a recipe that met my narrow requirements. I had to use salted butter and semi sweet chocolate, but it didn't seem to make any difference and it came together in less than 5 minutes. I had low expectations. Glaze is not frosting, I say. This may have changed my mind. It set up in the fridge and created a satisfying layer on the top of the cake and it will definitely be part of my kitchen arsenal from now on.

I knew I didn't have enough to frost the entire cake, so I drizzled the glaze over the top while it was still hot, letting it drip down the sides. Then I let the remaining glaze chill for 20 minutes, whisked it up and spread a thicker layer on top of the cake.

Ridiculously quick chocolate glaze (recipe from Dorie Greenspan's wonderful book, makes ~ 1/2 cup - you'll want to double or triple for a layer cake)

3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or semi-sweet)
3 tbsp unsalted butter (I used salted, actually)
3 tbsp powdered sugar

:: Put everything in a bowl or glass measuring cup and microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or so until melted. Don't let it get too hot! If it boils the butter will separate and the frosting won't get thick. It should come together quickly (there can still be a few unmelted pieces of chocolate and they'll melt as you whisk) and once it's hot you just need to whisk it till it gets smooth. Use immediately if you want the glaze effect or let it cool a bit if you want it to be spreadable.

:: If you don't have a microwave, you can just place your heat safe bowl over a pot of boiling water or use a double boiler. Just be careful not to let steam or water get into the bowl, because water is the enemy of chocolate. I don't use the microwave much, but I'm always grateful to have one when I'm working with chocolate.

I used my pathetic grainy fudge for the interior of the cake, but now I wish I'd just made more glaze and used it as filling as well.


Bright confetti can help disguise a multitude of sins.

I used this yellow cake recipe and I'm a fan. I didn't have buttermilk and it was totally fine.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The weekend, briefly


third annual LA brew crawl
{third annual LA brew crawl}

las perlas
{las perlas}

seven grand
{seven grand}

cana rum bar
{cana rum bar}



:: notes :: 

It was one of my favorite summer weekends - the third annual LA brew crawl (we went to years one and two as well). I love the little bars tucked in random buildings and parking structures downtown as much as I enjoy tasting new beers. Drake's seasonal Aroma Coma was my new favorite, everyone else agreed on Sir Walter's Scottish Ale from Craft Brewing Company.

The rest of the weekend was quiet. We grilled with friends, made multiple meals of nachos with the leftovers, saw a movie at 10 am on Sunday morning and it felt really luxurious. We have so few unscheduled days with no obligations that it makes them that much sweeter.

I've been loving this $4.99 Espiral Vinho rose from Trader Joe's, by the way. It's sweeter than I would normally like but it has a little bit of sparkle and it's completely appealing in the heat. I have to admit that I preferentially look for a screwcap on wine, because D is not a fan and I need the bottle to last several days in the fridge.

Friday, August 17, 2012

For your Friday ...

To everyone who has ever cried in frustration over a cake recipe and wondered why it only happens to you ...

cake disaster
{cake disaster}

It just happens. Oh, maybe the other side is better, say you?

cake disaster
{cake disaster}

Nope. That was the side that avalanched right off in the fridge and I just ended up packing it back into place.  Tears were shed.

I've been making this cake annually for over a decade. I have no idea what I did wrong this time. Luckily it was still delicious, if extremely humbling to my baking ego. On a brighter note, the frosting, which is usually the issue, cooperated beautifully even though I made a triple batch in one go.

I'm just going to pretend it looked like the 2009 version instead. That was a good year.

the cake
{the cake}

This time last year we were deep in wedding preparations and I had to get a storebought cake and almost dropped it. I think my mom's birthday might be cake-cursed.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The summer, briefly

afternoon tomato
{afternoon tomato}

circe evidence
{circe evidence}

olives, cheese
{olives, cheese}


birthday cake, rescued
{birthday cake, rescued}

garden thyme
{garden oregano}

evening wine
{evening wine}

circe staring
{circe staring}

:: notes :: 

There hasn't been a lot of cooking around here, but there's been plenty of eating. We're doing lots of simple meals and more than our usual allotment of eating out. Gifted tomatoes will always get me in the kitchen, though, as will family birthdays (cake!).

Circe came and stayed with us for a week and because we are besotted, we let her have the classiest dog dishes ever (my 2010 Heath summer collection pieces). Note that they did not convince her to actually eat, and I was a wreck the whole week. I ended up hand feeding her rotisserie chicken and sweet potatoes, which she deigned to nibble on. She was homesick for her pal Snowy, I think, although she did enjoy the view off our balcony.

The balcony has been getting a lot of play these last few weeks, and not just from Circe. It's the best place to be when the weather warms up. I would sit there all day and night if I didn't have actual things to do.

I've missed you guys. It feels good to be back here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I've been seriously absent here lately, but I'm still around. Part of it is that we've had a bit of an overwhelming last couple of months with family stuff and I'm worn down, part of it is that when I do have some spare time the last thing I feel like doing is sitting down at the computer and editing photos.

I will do it, soon. I miss it and I want to catch up.*

In the meantime, I have a little interview up on Jacquelyn's lovely blog where I'm sharing a few of my favorite things. Go check it out, and I'll be back, hopefully this week.

* Mostly about summer TV. There are burning questions here. Are you watching Episodes already? Because the second season is killing it. Are you as bummed out about True Blood as I am right now? Does the fact that I haven't managed to watch a single episode of the new season of Project Runway mean that I'm over it forever or should I catch up?