Category Archives: inspiration

Easy Come … Easy Go

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It is in this moment and in these days that I am reminded of the ebb and flow of life. For some reason, it seems to help me understand and explain the things that really have no reason to some people. I realize that without low moments in life, there really are no highs. Our lives are filled with both and they would lack their significance without their counterpart.

It seems like a sick joke on the eve of a very exciting milestone that I would also be contemplating the end of a life (sweet chocolate lab Cali). But in the moment that this thought crosses my mind, I realize that it was the way it was meant to be. In some ways, I would prefer to experience the joy and excitement without the opposite experience waiting in the wings. It seems that if you pay attention, this is part of the human condition.

About 17 or 18 years ago, I had noticed a nest on my patio that held three bird eggs. I closely watched it over the course of a few weeks. Until one weekend day, I woke up to find that the eggs had hatched. I crawled up on a ladder and snapped a photo. They were three cute little birds just starting their life. Later that day, I took my three year old golden retriever to the park to play frisbee. She unexpectedly died at the park with the frisbee in her mouth. After a few weeks, I developed my film and saw the photo of the baby birds. It was in that moment that I first realized the ebb and flow; easy come easy go.

It might seem like a corny story, but it is something that I often think back on when I question the ‘why’ of life. For me, it is not about ‘why’, it is just the way it is and the way it is meant to be. Do I sometimes want it different, certainly. But, I submit that I have no control over these things. All the great things in life do not exist unto themselves. They are all part of the ebb and flow.

I will remind myself of this as I walk forward into this week with great anticipation for some things and with great sadness for others. And, I am mindful of a hummingbird nest just outside my back door with a small white egg waiting to hatch.

Wendy

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Easter…Hopping into town…

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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?

Hop Hop

Simple Cinnamon Rolls

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I am usually a “grab a quick breakfast” kind of a girl.  I always have breakfast…you don’t want to be around me if I don’t have breakfast.  But, every once in a while I like to cook breakfast.  My two favorite breakfasts are belgian waffles (on the crispy side) and some good cinnamon rolls.  You can always go for the gooey Pillsbury ones right out of the package OR you can make these.  These are the simplified version of cinnamon rolls…there is no pastry dough here.  Here’s the instructions and recipe….

ROLLS

  • 2 1/2 Cups Bisquick
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 2/3 Cup Mill (I use skim milk)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Mix all the above in a mixing bowl.  The dough is pretty sticky…I like to use the Silpat matts to roll out the dough.  I use about a 1/4 cup more Bisquick to keep the dough from sticking to the matt.  Turn the dough out about 10 times.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle.  The actual recipe says into a 16×9 inch rectangle.  I dont’ know about you, but things don’t ROLL OUT into a RECTANGLE.  Hello!  So, I roll it out the best I can into some sort of a rectangle shape.  Maybe there is a trick to rolling it exactly into the desired shape, but I don’t have a trick for you here!  Anyways, once it is in a sort of rectangle shape, I fold the edges up and over as seen below.  You will see why in a minute.

FILLING

  • 1/4 Cup Unsalted Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 1/4 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
Spread the melted butter onto the RECTANGLE.  Once spread out evenly, sprinkler the cinnamon sugar mix all over until it is absorbed in the butter.  You need the little dough “dams” to keep the butter from oosing everywhere.  A little trick I learned after the 10th time of having melted butter everywhere.

Once all of the filling is spread out, roll up the dough starting with the longest side.  This is a little tricky because all the sticky goodness in the inside wants to squish out.  Stick with it and roll until it is a little log.  At this point, I pinch the edges closed and then seal the flap on the leading edge of the dough.  This is sometimes tricky as the butter makes it a bit slippery.  Do your best…no one will know if it doesn’t stick.

Once you do that, slice the log into one inch slices and place them on a cookie sheet.  I like to space my rolls apart so that they get a little crispy on the edges.  If you want your rolls more gooey, place the cinnamon rolls close together (touching each other).  Scoop any excess butter/cinnamon sugar mix up and drizzle it on top of your rolls.

Place in the oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes until a light brown.

I like to glaze my rolls as soon as they get out of the oven so that it melts all over.  It does make a mess in the pan though.  If you want it more neat, I would wait until they cool a bit and then add the glaze.  Mix up the following ingredients for the glaze.  You will be shocked how fast that powdered sugar is absorbed…kind of magic.

GLAZE

READY TO EAT!!!

 

Wishing you a wonderful day….

Color of the Year – “Tangerine Tango” (Who comes up with these names?)

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So, in case you missed it, the color of the year for 2012 is Tangerine Tango.  I call it orange, but tangerine tango sounds much more sophisticated.  You can read more about it here.  You can even read about the spring fashion trends on the pantone website here.  It is kind of cool.  I am not so sure how this works…is pantone the chicken or the egg.  Do the fashion and interior designers of the world start using a certain color and then it becomes the pantone color of the year OR does Pantone select a color and THEN it is used by the designers.  I tend to think it is the former, but who the heck am I.

And, maybe I am giving it special attention because it happens to be one of my favorite colors.  So, for good measure, here is the run down of my favorite “tangerine tangos”!

Fabrics…..

Flowers…

Events….love this.

Fashion….

Texture & Architecture…

You can check out all of my other “tangerine” pins on my pinterest “orange and aqua” board here.  And, you will find all the links to the photos above on this board as well.

 

I have a new blog design coming soon and I am very excited about it.  I am also working on a few projects that I will post up soon.  Another spring quilt inspired by the jasmine in my backyard that is now in full bloom and smelling wonderful.

Have a great weekend.

Spring Quilt

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I started this little quilt a few weeks ago from some fabrics that were already in my stash.  The main squares in the middle of the quilt were from a stack of fabrics from Camille Roskelley.  I love the combination of the red and the light turquoise which happens to be her signature color combination.  Then, I added some other fabrics along the way for the borders.  This quilt was not pencilled out or designed before I started sewing.  Rather, I just let the fabric selection and final design come to me as I stitched.  So, we pick up the quilt here:

Measuring for the Second 6" Border

I love adding borders to quilts.  I have tried all different styles and sizes and each quilt wants a different type of border.  You just have to pull different colors out and see how they work.  And, then play with sizes.  I ended up doing three borders on this quilt.  A 2″ border in white to frame the squares in the middle.  A 4″ turquoise border and then a 6″ border in the large pink floral.  The other thing that I paid attention to is the colors that were in the quilt that I wanted to highlight.  In this case, it was the pale turquoise and pink.  Also, you will notice the scale of the print on the two border fabrics is quite different; the turquoise with a smaller scale print and the pink with a larger scale print.  I didn’t particularly plan it, but I do know that you want to change up scales of print throughout your designs.  Too many large scale prints next to each other is often offensive to the eye and too many small scale prints makes it too busy.  Rely on your eye and play with combinations.

Pinning is the Key

My tips for making sure your borders fit correctly:

  • Measure your border size using the middle of your quilt and not the ends.  If your quilt is “wonky” and not perfectly square at the corners, this will help to straighten it up.  Measure from the middle, but the border and then attach to the end of the quilt.
  • Now, if the size is not exact, you will need to stretch or bunch up the border and then pin.  You want to spread out the excess or the lack of fabric across the entire edge.  Trust me – we all create “wonky” quilts at one point or another.  The border is the trick to fixing this.  Be patient and don’t get too pissed off.
  • Pinning is the key to making sure that your borders are affixed correctly and match up end to end.
  • DO NOT measure your border at the end and then free sew.  Your quilt will be worse off…trust me.  Been there…done that.

Close Up of Front Panel

When your front panel is all done, make sure you iron really good so that it is ready to be sandwiched with the batting you have selected and the back.  I like to create the backs to my quilts so that they have a little bit of personality.  When I first started quilting, I hated doing anything on the back because I just wanted to get the quilt finished.  Now, I like to take my time so that the front and the back are just as nice.  The product of a good pressing job is that the back of your panel looks like the photo below.  Well, kind of…there are still a few seems that need to be repressed.  By the way, I hate ironing my clothes….but, I do iron my quilts.

Back of the Front Panel - The Iron is Your Friend

Then, it is off to creating the quilt sandwich:  front, batting and the back.  I always use 3M 303 spray adhesive to create the quilt sandwich.  It is the quickest and easiest way to do this…I have tried all different ways and this is my preferred method.  Then, I quilt.  I use my own Bernina to quilt all of my quilts.  I drop the feed dogs and go for it.  The next few pics show some closeups of the quilting.  I just used the standard stipple (meandering) pattern.

Quilting Close Up

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Quilting Close Up

And, here is the finished product.

She's All Done

Perfect Spring Quilt

Here’s a quick snapshot of the back of the quilt and my label….I wasn’t very good at labeling my quilts in the beginning.  Now, I label all of them.  You never know where they will end up (or where I will end up).

Back is Matching

This quilt is up for sale at my etsy store.  Check it out here>>>> Spring Quilt on Etsy

My next quilt is already rolling around in my head.  It has something to do with green pastures and cute sheep.  Stay Tuned!  Have a lovely day and do more of WHAT YOU LIKE!

 

For the ‘Joy’ of It

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It might seem funny, but there are days that I am filled with so much anticipation for whatever is to come that I am worried I won’t have time in my life to experience all that I want to. But, I love that feeling. It is a validation that my life is full and spilling over the top. I like the anticipation. I realize that it is the experiences in my life that I enjoy the most; not the stuff that fills it. (Now don’t get me wrong…I still eye that new Kate Spade bag or the perfect shoe and often indulge.)

For example, I am looking forward to an amazing moment in the future when I get word that the project that so many have been working on for so long is officially ‘approved’. It is not the piece of paper, but the moment that I anticipate. It is the feeling that will overcome us, it is the collective joy of the team, the settled feeling in your heart.

It is the same reason I love to give gifts. It is about finding just the perfect gift and watching the person enjoy the gift. It is also the reason that I love to travel. I want to see how other people live, experience different things and to just be in another place physically and in my mind.

My list of things to do in this life is long and probably more than is possible, but the thought of that fills me up. It can also be overwhelming and remind you of all the things that you cannot or don’t do. But, I don’t let it take me there. I allow it to be my day dream whether it is a small corner bakery or a quaint quilt shop born out of my fantasy and all the people that inspire me daily.

Without knowing what brings you fulfillment and joy, you won’t notice it when it crosses your path. You will miss the moment without even knowing that it was supposed to be yours.

I realize that this blog is really a product of all of these things; it is enjoying the process of creating and the anciticpation of what comes next.

What fulfills you and brings you joy?

Let Them Eat Cake

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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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. Stick the cake layers in the fridge over night….it will fix everything.  Hopefully.
  6. 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.
  7. Cutting even cake layers is harder than it looks.  Be patient and don’t cut too deep or you will have crooked layers.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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