I love Bottega Louie's *Valentine's Day Window Display*. I am seriously crushin'. They make me want to move to LA. I hope they open up something on the east coast, then I might have a shot at visiting them. Their macarons look to die for (I might have to send myself a Valentine's Day gift).
*Heart Brownies* are a staple in my house and at almost any gathering I attend. They are easy to make and they are delicious--crunchy edges with soft, gooey centers. A priest once told me they were 'walk on water good'. I almost died at the compliment (hubby doesn't believe or likes to pretend he doesn't)! However, since I make them all the time they hardly seem special for Valentine's Day and I have to remind myself they are the perfect Valentine's Day sweet. Keep reading for my super secret recipe...
...which is not really secret at all. The key to making the perfect heart brownies is having a heart-shaped pan...this is a must and it's the only way to get brownies with crunchy edges and soft middles. I use this pan from Nordic Ware, in fact when making brownies I use three pans at once because I never make just one batch (each pan makes 6 heart brownies)--it may be somewhat of an investment, but totally worth it. The next key step is to spray the pan(s) with Pam Baking spray (or an equivalent baking spray), regular Pam will not keep the brownies from sticking to the pan so do not use it. Most boxed brownie mixes will yield good results, but the best mix I have found is Ghirardelli's Triple Chocolate Brownie mix, which can be found in bulk at Costco. Follow the directions to mix up the batter and use a cookie dough scooper to fill up the hearts 1/2 - 2/3's full. One bag/box of mix usually makes 13-14 brownies. Then bake the brownies at 350 degrees (instead of prescribed 325) for 19 minutes (adjust time to your oven). Allow them to cool for 2 minutes in the pan before dumping them out on a cooling rack. I have found that the brownies taste better the next day as long as they are stored in an air tight container. Make sure you spray the pans in between batches to make sure the brownies don't stick.
This year I plan to pack up the brownies in cute heart-shaped containers I purchased from Target for Brooks' teachers. Last year I packed them in polka dot bakery boxes from Martha Stewart Crafts. I included a festive badge on top of the boxes which were made from cupcake wrappers and animals cut out from Paper Source wrapping paper (instructions found here).
Happy Baking & Happy Valentine's Day!
I previewed these new printable *Valentine's Day Cards* on Instagram a couple of weeks ago. I am finally finding some time to post them to the blog. These cards have a simple and clear message: 'Love You' and are perfect for anyone near and dear to you. You can download them in with all red hearts here OR with a mix of red and pink hearts here. There is blank space at the bottom of the cards to add a name or a short, sweet message. If you would like a personalized version then head over to my Etsy shop. Each file contains 6 cards and is best printed out on heavy card stock (110 lbs or thicker), which can be found at any office supply store.
Here's a picture of this year's Love You card hanging on the 'bulletin' board in my youngest's room along with mini-versions of some of our other Valentine's Day cards available for download.
Happy printing and cutting!
*Christmas Sugar Cookies*--yeah, they're a lot of work but they're worth it!
This year I squeezed in a day off from work so I could make some. I made the dough the night before and after dropping off B$ at daycare I headed home to roll out the dough. I have come to realize it's best to only select a handful of shapes to make (change it up every year so you don't get bored). This year I went with bear, mitten, reindeer, snowflake, Christmas tree and candy cane shapes. Start cutting the dough with the biggest shapes and then use the smaller shapes to fill in. I follow Martha's techniques and tip to cut out the shapes directly on a silpat baking mat so I don't have to worry about transferring the shapes to the cookie sheet (more tips here).
By lunchtime my cookies were baked and I had eaten a ton of raw cookie dough. I had fallen into a slump. I realized there is one thing I hate to do when it comes to the sugar cookie process: make and color the royal icing. For some reason my sister loves this part. I called her hoping to entice her to come over during her lunch break to whip up my icing, but it was a pipe dream and did not materialize to anything beyond words of encouragement. I thought about going out to lunch, but then I set myself straight and got to making the icing (it's really not that bad). My favorite part is to decorate the cookies--I really love this part. Having fewer shapes but larger quantities of those shapes allows you to knock them out rquicker and also gives you the chance to experiment with them.
Once you finish icing the base and applying the sprinkles to your cookies it's time to go back and add the fun details (e.g on the polar bears I added scarves, ears and tails). When complete the cookies are the perfect holiday treat to share with others. For easy packaging of your cookies you can follow the link here.
My friend gave me some of her mom's vintage cookie cutters, expect to see more of there bears next year.
Make sure to put your sugar cookies on top of the other cookies in your cookie tin--they will impress and will stay nice.
My older boys have a special miniature Christmas tree in their room. It's decorated with ornaments loving made out of candy (thanks to Martha for the inspiration). Naturally I wanted little Brooks to have his own special tree in his room. When I pulled out what I had up in his room last Christmas I was horrified. I couldn't believe 'that' was the best I could come up with. Sure he was only 4 months at the time and I had just started back at work, but it still didn't seem like a valid excuse. After I was done chiding myself for last year's disgraceful attempt I stripped down the tree to nothing. But then I couldn't think of anything cool to do for his tree, but I put up his miniature tree anyway hoping for some inspiration. It sat there for a while as an empty slate waiting for me to do something. I finally wrapped the felted ball garland we used in our Christmas card photo shoot around the tree, but it was still very, very lacking. Maybe next year, I thought. Then one night I got the idea to use one of his toys to make ornaments for his tree. It was perfect--easy and simple, but still meaningful since the toy used to belong to his brothers and therefore practically vintage (*wink*--does 10 years count as vintage?).
Here is the toy (from Pottery Barn Kids) prior to any alterations. I am not even sure what it is called.
After dismantling the toy I settled in with some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (can't stop baking) and ribbon to tie through the blocks. Viola! Done!
Here is the tree. I never got around to making a proper tree skirt for it. This picture was taken just before I packed it up till next year. I hope I don't take it out of the box next year and give myself three lashings for another poor attempt. It could still use a little something, but at least little Brooks seemed to like it (or he was just happy to finally get grabby with it).
I spend a lot of time thinking about our annual Christmas card. Starting in the fall I start looking at the different card websites to get an idea of the various card designs I like (my favorite sites are Paper Culture, Minted & Tiny Prints). This gets my mind thinking of possible compositions so when it does come time to shoot I am somewhat prepared. Of course trying to get one single good shot of three squirmy kids is NOT easy. For the older kids I use bribes...$5-$10 each, but only after I have gotten a good shot--they will tell you this is one of the only times I use flat out bribery. This year I made the mistake of waking them up on a Saturday morning to get the shoot done as early as possible and to accommodate the little one's happy schedule. As a result one of the twins looks a little bloated and red-eyed (lesson learned, I will not do that again). Usually I do one photo session in front of our tree and one elsewhere around our house, but this year since we lost a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas our tree was not set up so I only got one session in. Also little Brooks was not too happy at the end of our first shoot so I lost the patience to try another one. Here is the 'behind the scene' look at our photo shoot...
Here is our our card actually turned out...I went with Minted this year despite my love of Paper Culture. Next year I will go back to Paper Culture, their cards are just a little bit nicer plus eco-friendly.
I also got a little creative with the stamps this year and went with the ultra cool Ray Charles stamps instead of the expected holiday stamps. And I love the kraft envelopes offered by Minted.
Here's a look at our Thanksgiving starting with the kiddie table. This year we featured paper foxes made by the boys and I (from a Paper Source kit) with pastel pumpkins and gourds piled high on our kid's table. Our kiddie table used to be non-existent, but thanks to Oliver & little Brooks we have some new inspiration. The paper table cloth is from Mari Mi (available at Target) and is a remnant piece I just never threw away--I love the sweet little polka dots. The gold utensils (West Elm) and gold leaves give the kiddie table a touch of sophistication, which is good because my sister sat there for most of the meal.
I initially created the centerpiece below for our main Thanksgivng table but I ended up using it on the dessert table.
Instead I went with the bright and fresh clippings from our camellia plant which just happened to be blooming. I can never predict when it will bloom, but when it does it is always a treat because it is usually long after summer has past. The camellia blooms were tucked amongst orange, yellow and green variegated gourds. I opted to go without a tablecloth and instead only used cloth green and white toile napkins.
Our Thanksgiving post wouldn't be complete without a picture of the beautiful and tasty turkey prepared by Chef Miles.
Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
I am not the seamstress in our family. That title is maintained by sister (and mom). I prefer to do more crafty/graphic design type stuff which is usually paper based. Over time this difference between my sister and I has worked itself into a nice exchange system. Anything I need sewn my sister willingly does for me and anything she needs designed and printed I do for her. It has become the perfect give and take relationship. There are no complaints and only feelings of great gratitude and a happy-to-help mentality (speaking for myself). I assume my sister feels the same way, because if she didn't she would certainly let me know. This is all to say that I really don't sew and don't have a need to. So I was surprised to find myself at the sewing machine last Friday night. Yes, sewing! I was inspired to make little B$ a quilt so he could have a nice snuggly blanket when he transitioned from the infant room to the toddler room at daycare. I was also inspired use up some of my fabric stash which hasn't seen the light of day in years. I promised myself I wouldn't go out and buy any fabric and that I would make do with whatever fabric I had even though it may not be perfect. And even though I wouldn't call the quilt perfect, it gives me great joy to know that little B will cuddle with something which I made everyday at school (don't worry sis, our perfect arrangement will stay as is).
The inspiration for the quilt I made came from two sources. My main source of inspiration were the quilts my aunt made for my twins when they were first born. They were high loft quilts and the boys loved them (they still do, even though they are too big for them). My aunt told me she was slightly embarrassed that they were high loft quilts, but I don't think they boys would have loved them so much if they weren't. My other inspiration was blabla's new coverlets: simple and sweet. I ended up using three different Japanese inspired fabrics. I had to sew together two pieces of fabric for each side of the quilt (not bad at all). Then I sewed the sides together, inserted my high loft (3/4") batting and then sewed up the last side. To keep the batting in place I tacked down the corners and middle of the quilt using embroidery floss.
This is my favorite picture of the quilt posted in my IG account.
I always try to sign up to bring soccer snacks right around Halloween time. This weekend we brought these goodies to the team...Brownies + Frosting + Candy Corn Oreos + More Frosting + Ghostie Topper = Total Yumminess.
Here's the progression...Start with brownies baked in a mini-bundt cake pan...
Add some Halloween frosting (I used Pilsbury Halloween Funfetti)...For this layer you don't have to make the icing look pretty. It will act as the glue to keep the Oreo on top of the brownie.
Next, add your Oreo cookie...we used the extra delicious and seasonal Candy Corn version.
Time to add more frosting...no complaints here.
Finally, add your Halloween topper. These ghosties are from Wilton (we purchased them from Michael's), but if you didn't have these you can always use some candy corn.
Done! Ready for the team!