Thursday, September 29, 2011

Yarn Wreath for Fall

I don't know why it took me so long, but I finally got HOOKED on discovered Pinterest.  Then I immediately called my mom and got her even MORE hooked on to check out Pinterest. What I love about Pinterest is that my 3" binder with a dozen tab dividers and magazine cutouts bulging out the sides is now conveniently located online. I can access it anywhere. I can add to it at any time without worrying about running out of page protectors. Win-win, folks. Win-win.

Well, I was recently inspired from various images on Pinterest to decorate our apartment for fall. I wanted the decorations to be subtle, simple, clean, modern-ish, and not too country/kitsch. And this is what I made...

What you need:
styrofoam circle
LOTS of yarn (I wish I knew exact yards, but I would buy at least one large skein.)
fabric scraps
hot glue gun/glue sticks
ribbon scraps

What to do:
Wrap the end of your yarn ball around the styrofoam circle and knot it off.
Looping the yarn ball through and around the circle, wrap the yarn tightly all around the styrofoam, creating multiple layers, so as to hide the styrofoam sufficiently (I will admit that this took about 2 hours for me to do... I used VERY thin yarn... I would advice you to use thicker weighted yarn to save time.)
Hot glue some fabric scraps and fabric rosettes on the wreath in an arrangement of your choosing.
Cut a length of ribbon, thread it through the top of your wreath and knot it.
Hang above your mantel, on your front door, on your bedroom door... really wherever you like!
*NOTE* Fabric rosettes are SUPER easy to make. Here is a tutorial.

Here is my wreath incorporated into our living room fall decor...

I think it meets my requirements :)

Styrofoam crumbs in my lap,


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting + a Tutorial!

When our friends D and J requested a carrot cake for their birthday party, I knew exactly which recipe to run to. This cake recipe is oil-based, which translates to SUPER moist and melt-in-your-mouth. Top it off with a smooth cream cheese frosting and you've got one tasty cake!

This recipe comes from Gram, my mom's mom. She is a petite, sweet lady with a chipper voice and a twinkle in her eye.
Now I am no expert at frosting a cake. Typically what goes down is something like this:
Smack a big plop of frosting on top
Smack a big plop of frosting on the side
Use a dinner knife to try and smooth out the mess
Lumpy frosting job.

No bueno.

But, guess who is an expert at frosting cakes... my momma. And guess who I called before I frosted this cake? Yes, my momma. With her expertise, I can say that I am proud of how this turned out! And... I'm going to share her knowledge with you at the end of this post!

What you need:
For the cake
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups grated carrots
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

For the frosting (best cream cheese frosting, ever.)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1 box confectioner's sugar (4 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

What to do:
Mix together oil and sugar until well combined, then add the eggs one at a time and mix until just combined.
Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to the wet ingredients alternately with the carrots.
Grease and flour 2 9" cake pans, then pour the batter into the prepared pans. *TIP* I like to grease the pan, then put a piece of parchment paper down in the bottom of the pan, grease the paper, then flour. This will guarantee that your cake will not stick to the bottom!
Bake at 300 degrees for one hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Mix together all icing ingredients and spread in between each layer and on top of the cooled cake layers.


How to frost a cake (successfully)!

Step 1: You MUST wait until the layers have cooled COMPLETELY. I always try to rush this, but you just can't.

Step 2: Place a small dap of frosting on your cake stand and place the first layer down. The bit of frosting will act as a glue to keep the cake in place. Cut out 3 triangle pieces of parchment paper and slide them under the first layer (see photo at left); this will prevent frosting from getting all over the cake stand :)

Step 3: Place about 1/4 cup of frosting on top of the first layer and smooth it out on the top surface, then place the second layer on top of the frosting.

Step 4: Make your "Crumb Coat". This simply means putting a thin layer of frosting all around the cake (see photo at left) to smooth out any holes/spaces, and get the crumbs put in place. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. This coating provides a nice, even workspace for the remainder of the frosting process.

Step 5: Once the crumb coat has set, use an offset spatula or a sturdy plastic spatula (as seen in photos at right) to plop all remaining frosting on top of the cake. Slowly and carefully start smoothing out the frosting on the top of the cake, working it out to the edges and allowing the extra to fall off the top, onto the sides. You are looking for about 1/4 inch thickness of frosting.

Step 6: Use your spatula to smooth out the frosting that has fallen onto the sides. You may have to grab some more frosting from the top if there is not enough to cover the sides well. 
        a. Start by working the frosting in a downward motion, from top to bottom/bottom to top, all the way around the cake.
        b. Then, place your non-dominant hand on the bottom of the cake stand (as seen in photo at bottom right) and place your dominant hand with spatula at a 90 degree angle to the cake (see photo at bottom right). Using your hand on the cake stand, start rotating the cake stand, leaving your spatula in place and allowing the rotation to create a nice, clean, smooth edge on the sides of the cake.

Step 7: Remove the parchment paper and ooo and ahhh at your beautifully frosted cake!

I know that may seem lengthy, and maybe difficult, but don't let my description fool you! It really is quite simple. The key is to be patient! And do that crumb coat! 

Licking my fingers,

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kati's Maternity

I had the immense pleasure of taking maternity photos for my friend from graduate school, Kati. She was beautiful as a not-pregnant woman, and now she is stunning as a mother-to-be! The threat of rain was immanent, but it held off for us and we were able to capture some lovely photos of Kati and her soon-to-be baby boy.





Seeing blue,


Monday, September 12, 2011

Chalkboard Window

Scott was driving home from... somewhere? one day and saw one of our neighbors tossing several white framed, wooden windows out into the dumpster. Knowing that if I saw such a travesty, I would probably have a heart attack, he kindly picked up about 5 of them, loaded them up into the back of our highlander, and called me saying he had a surprise for me...

Was I EVER excited when I saw these beautiful, antiquated, white framed, wooden windows sitting in our garage....! Oh, the possibilities!

Well, this happened over a year ago and sadly I am just now completing my last project with the last of the windows. I will say that I donated two of them to a friend/neighbor, then I donated one to one of her friends who was also inspired.

Leaving 2 for us :)

The first one I used as a picture frame to house one of my large, abstract paintings of a Colorado aspen grove. It now sits nicely in front of our fireplace. You can see it here. And, without further ado... the last window was used to make a chalkboard window that now hangs in our dining room!! I don't know what took me so long to do this project, because I absolutely love the way it turned out!

What you need:

chalkboard paint
window cleaner
paper towels
painter's tape

What to do:
Wipe down all window panes with window cleaner and paper towels
Cover all frame pieces with painter's tape
Spray paint the window panes (I needed 5 coats)
Remove the painter's tape
Hang the window
Write/draw/doodle/jot your little heart out!

Chalk dusk on my fingers,


Saturday, September 10, 2011

Album Cover

He's creating his first album soon. He's in my small group. His wife is a sweet heart. He's a natural at posing.


All I had to do was point and say, "C, why don't you go stand over there by that *wall, door, gate*" and he did the rest! Man, made my job a lot easier! He, his wife, and I collaborated on creative poses and locations. I love it when my subjects have a creative eye, too. Sometimes being behind the camera, I find myself paying more attention to my camera settings rather than poses, so it's an added bonus when the subject (and the subject's spouse!) can say, "what about this" or "C, close your mouth."

C approached me about doing the photos for his album cover a few weeks ago, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity! He said he was thinking of doing some shots with him smoking a pipe in front of a Catholic church, which sounded intriguing... plus, I had never shot photos of smoke before, so there was an added challenge. The lighting was beautiful this morning, creating the perfect canvas for excellent exposures. I really didn't have to do much editing to these photos.

C said that he wanted the photos to have a more vintage look, so in post-processing, I ran an action called "Seventies"(photos below with this action applied say "seventies" underneath the photo).









Smoke in my lens,


Curried Gnocchi

Some days, you just don't want to go to the grocery store. And by "some" days, for me, it's most days. Which is crazy, because I LOVE to bake, like to cook, but I am just rarely in the mood to find a parking space at our local HEB and run over people toes with my shopping cart fight the crowds for an 8 oz. block of cream cheese. You know?

Well tonight, my friends, THIS girl did NOT have to go to the grocery store. AND, with the help of my hubby, we had a very tasty dinner with things found in our refrigerator and pantry. Double high-five!

Gnocchi is one of those delicacies that I thought a) would take forever to make and b) would be too difficult. Well, wrong, and... wrong.

The ingredient list for gnocchi is a mere 4 items that you will definitely have lying around:

2 lbs yukon gold potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 egg

I found my recipe (as posted on my Pinterest) from this guest post over at WhipUp, and I did not change a thing; hop over to the link above for a detailed description of how to make your gnocchi dough. This, so far, has been the easiest dough for me to handle confidently.

Scott's Curry Sauce

what you need:
1 pound ground pork
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
juice of 2 limes
8 ounces plain yogurt or sour cream (we used sour cream because, remember, we did not go to the grocery store and sour cream is what was in the fridge!)
salt to taste

what to do:
Heat oil in a large skillet and brown the pork
Remove pork and drain the drippings
Add more oil to the pan and bring back to heat
Toss in onion and saute until clear, then add the garlic, stirring for 1 minute
Add spices to the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 more minutes
Add tomato paste and lime juice, stirring to incorporate with spice and onion mixture
Add the sour cream and cooked pork and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through; add salt to taste
Toss in cooked gnocchi and stir to coat pasta in curry sauce
Serve in a bowl, with mint to garnish!

Dreaming of India... and Italy,