Saturday, October 27, 2012

Riding out the Storm: Bake & Create

Hello again! Tropical storm Sandy's rain has already reached us and the winds are kicking up but I'm settled in and enjoying this lazy Saturday tremendously. I was so inspired this morning by a blog I found -  I can hardly wait to share it with you! Amy Moss, creator of Eat Drink Chic has an absolutely lovely blog that will inspire you to create, entertain, collect, and well, want to be her. She's absolutely lovely. So, while the wind is whistling outside and rain is pounding the roof, I've decided to bake, create and clean out my pantry. Huh? What? Clean out the Pantry? That's not much fun, right? Wrong! The Clean the Pantry Cookies recipe below is not only "oh my gosh these are so good!" amazing, but it is designed to use up small amounts of baking chips and left overs from other recipes. You can substitute whatever you have in your pantry, just make sure that you include approximately 1 cup baking chips and 1/2 cup nuts.

Next I'm going to sew some aprons, and several potholders from the book Pretty Little Potholders for Christmas gifts; I'll try to post pictures tomorrow if I can fit it in.

Clean the Pantry Cookies

1 cup butter-flavored shortening
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
1/3 cup white chocolate morsels
1/3 cup toffee bits
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, beat shortening and sugars at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.

3. In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

4. With mixer on lowest speed, add flour mixture to shortening mixture in three batches, beating well between each addition. Fold in chocolate chunks, white chocolate morsels, toffee buts, and walnuts. Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, placing cookies 2 inches apart.

5. Bake until edges are lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool on pans for 5 minutes. Remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Kitchen Tip: These cookies are designed to use up small amounts of baking chips and left overs from other recipes. You can substitute whatever you have in your pantry, just make sure that you include approximately 1 cup baking chips and 1/2 cup nuts.

Monday, October 22, 2012

How To Layer Jewelry

I'm loving the new layered jewelry trend - especially layered bracelets. Like layering clothing, however, there are some do's and don'ts to achieving the perfect look. Check out this video from LEAF, and then my do's and dont's below and you'll be piling them on in no time.

DO mix metals. Gold, Rose Gold, Silver all look great together. Just keep it consistent everywhere else.

DO combine textures, gemstones and materials. Leather looks beatuful next to pearls, next to linked chains and next to diamonds. Keep your layering as eclectic as you are.

DO have fun with it. This look can be as simple or complex as you’d like. Pile on the bracelets to be extra chic and draw attention to your every gesture or slip on a couple of delicate necklaces to add extra sweetness to your sundress.

DO learn the art of organized chaos. This is not about piling on a bunch of random stuff or wearing all of your favorite jewelry at once. There’s an art to it! Keep everything organized and follow the suggestions above.

DON'T think that one size fits all. Layering is all about mixing and matching complementary pieces of jewelry. Mix chunky pieces with delicate items and you’ll be right on target.

DON’T combine too many colors. Pull a statement color out of your outfit and incorporate that into your layered pieces.

DON’T overdo it. If you’re wearing a plethora of layered necklaces, keep earrings simple (think studs). Going for arm candy today? Don’t pair them with a million necklaces or rings.

The outfit & jewelry deets from video:
Shirt: Kimberly Taylor Veronica Top
Jeans: R13 Slouch Skinny Jeans
Necklaces in order of layers: Diamond disc necklace by Syndey Evan, vintage, black tone and multiple chains is by Skova & Gilded Bar necklace by Sophie Monet
Bracelets in order of layers on right hand:Gold stud cuff by Jennifer Fisher, vintage, vintage, pearl and gold chain bracelet by Bijules, nrown leather with gold hardware from BaubleBar, DIY friendship bracelet, Hermes.Bracelets in order of layers on left hand: vintage, gold and silver bone bangles by Bijules, Michael Kors watch, rose gold square bangle Nicholai by Nicky Hilton.Rings in order of layers on right hand: Made Her Think Talon Knuckle Buster, Mr. Kate Rose Buried Treasure Ring, everything else vintage.Rings in order of layers on left hand: 4 mixed metal rings by NISSA (similar here), black cocktail ring by Bijules, 3 layer silver ring by Bijules
Song featured: Wheels, No Engines by Awesome New Republic

Friday, October 19, 2012

How to Layer for Fall

I love Fall because you can have so much fun layering your clothes. Achieving the classic layered look isn't hard but there are a few rules to follow to ensure you achieve a sleek and stylish look.

Rule of thumb: The thinnest garment should be worn closest to your skin and the thickest garment as the outermost layer. For example, wear a camisole or a fitted cotton T-shirt as the the layer closest to your body. Next layer a light cardigan, then a heavier jacket or a blazer for the the topmost layer.

- Wear fitted clothing: To achieve a sleek look the first and second layers should be fitted. As explained in the above point, apparel which are more loose fitting (jackets, blazers, shrugs, trench coats) are worn towards the top to reduce bulkiness.

- Limit Layers: Most stylists recommend that you to stick to a maximum of three layers so that you don't end up looking too bulky.

- Mix different fabrics: put a sequined cardigan over a T-shirt, a short military inspired blazer over a simple top or a waistcoat/vest over a long sleeve shirt.

- Layer your legs: Layer your legs with tights and leggings worn under a skirt with knee-high boots or booties.

- Accessories: Other items to add to your layers are scarves, belts and accessories. These pieces enhance your overall look. Scarves especially are an essential item to achieving a layered look, but many women say they just don't know how to tie a scarf; check out this website for 50+ Ways to Tie a Scarf.

- Mix different colors: consider your body your palette and play with colors like I've done below. One of the reasons we want to layer clothes is to show off the contrast between different colors and cuts, so there is no need to be dull and boring by wearing a single color for all your layers.

Here's an outfit I put together recently. It wasn't too cold outside so my first layer was the Gap's oxford polka dot shirt, I layered it with this burgundy Calvin Klein corduroy blazer, and a cute scarf. For the bottom half I wore a pair of skinny jeans, and black riding boots for a classic casual look.

Friday, October 12, 2012

High Five for Friday!

Happy Friday! I hope you all had a great week and that you'll have a fantastic weekend! I'm linking up with Lauren at From My Grey Desk like I do every Friday to share my fab five for the week.

1. I visited Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina on Sunday. This is my favorite photo from that day.

2. I discovered a butterfly garden at Brookgreen and snapped this shot.

3. I picked up the the Gap's perfect dot oxford shirt. Totally loving this polka dot trend.

3. This week I've been listening to the new Matchbox Twenty album "North". Love it.

4. It's been a decade since No Doubt's last album. Their new album "Push and Shove"is more grown up and I love it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What I'm Reading

It's the time of year when I start snuggling up in the evenings to a good book. Normally I read only one book at a time but right now I'm actually reading three.

Way before Twilight I had a thing for vampires. While browsing new paperbacks over the weekend I discovered Thomas Emson's "Skarlet" and decided to pick it up. The plot? Dozens of people die after taking a new drug called Skarlet. Forty-eight hours later, the dead wake up and begin butchering the living for their blood. It's Blade meets The Walking Dead.

My friends Joanne & George Belev gave me Invisible Acts of Power by Caroline Myss for my birthday. Myss explains how we become channels for divine grace and a conduit for miracles through kind, compassionate, generous actions, or, as she calls them, invisible acts of power. When we act compassionately, without a private agenda or expectation of credit or reward, God works invisibly, anonymously through us. And as we move from visible acts, such as giving a friend a helping hand, to invisible acts, such as prayer and healing, we undergo a profound journey of personal empowerment.

About a year ago I decided to read The Bible from beginning to end, reading just a few chapters every day. My good intentions were thwarted by the difficulty I had understanding it. So when my daughter got me this book for my birthday, I was thrilled. The Story is The Bible written as a novel, is easy to read and understand and I've learned so much. I'm taking my time with it and really enjoying  it. There's a workbook out now that I'm thinking about purchasing before I get too much further into it because I think it'll reinforce what I've learned.

I recently finished 50 Shades of Grey. What can I say about this book that you haven't already heard? I am looking forward to 50 Shades Darker which I've read has a lot of surprises.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall and the Domestic Goddess

I love Fall - everything about it really: the cool, crisp air, the changing leaves, pumpkins, apples, mums. For some reason, Fall brings out the domestic goddess in me and all I want to do is make and bake. So this weekend I got to it. On Saturday I baked Pumpkin Bread (recipe below) that filled our house with smells of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. I hung my Fall wreath and decorated our dining table with fall decor - I still need to purchase two candles for the candle holders but I think it still looks great.

I started knitting about seven years ago and have yet to move beyond a single hat and scarves. So I found a simple (and cute) mitten pattern, picked out some super soft yarn and started knitting my swatch so that I can check my gauge. If you're new to knitting, the best way I can describe gauge, is that it's a way to measure how closely my tension matches what the pattern calls for using a specified needle size. If my stitches are greater or lesser then I will have to change my needle size so my gauge is as close as possible to the pattern's suggestions in order to ensure that the garment is the proper size. In any case, I'm really excited about making the mittens which should be a "quick knit" and if so, it may turn out that I begin mass producing them as Christmas gifts.

Not to stop at pumpkin bread and knitting, today I made some turkey chili, producing a nice slice in between my index finger and thumb in the process. I think I may need a stitch or two but I was to busy to sit at a doctor's office so I masterfully bandaged the cut so that it stopped bleeding and aside from the throbbing, I think it's okay. The chili turned out wonderful and I made enough so that I could freeze it and have some during next Sunday's football games - another reason to love Fall.

Here is the pumpkin bread recipe. Taste of South called it "cake" but it's really a bread made in a bundt pan. I made it and shared it with friends who loved it. Enjoy!

Heavenly Holiday Pumpkin Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-vegetable shortening
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Garnish: Confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 10-cup Bundt pan with nonstick baking spray with flour.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, beat sugar and shortening until light and fluffy, a full 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Add pumpkin, mixing well.

4. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, alternatively with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Fold in nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan.

5. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 50 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. Dust cake with confectioners' sugar, if desired.