Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The One With the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes With Bailey's Caramel Frosting

While at home in Idaho with my family, my brother and I hit up his favorite little coffee shop, Bucer's. I saw a little Guinness Chocolate cake in the deli case and decided that was as good a lunch as any and gave it a try. It was pretty good... so I thought I'd have a go at making my own. Of course, I needed an occasion and was pretty excited to bring this to my brother-in-law's birthday party. It was also an engagement party because said brother-in-law just proposed to his girlfriend and they're getting married in October! So it was indeed a cause for celebration. And the perfect debut for the first trial of Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes. (And also just in time for Saint Patrick's day... if you're into that...)

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
  • Betty Crocker's Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix
  • 1 1/4 cup Guinness Extra Stout Beer
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 eggs
Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with liners.
Combine cake mix, Guinness, and olive oil with an electric mixer. Gently beat in eggs one at a time. Pour batter into cupcake liners, filling only slightly over 1/2 full. The Guinness will make your cupcakes rise more than average, so don't overfill your cupcake liners. Bake for 14-17 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool for five minutes in pan and then for fifteen minutes on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the frosting:

(I couldn't decide between two frosting choices. Personally, I prefer the buttercream, because I'm a buttercream kinda gal. But many taste testers really liked the cream cheese frosting. So I guess it comes down to what kind of frosting you generally prefer. The buttercream is sweeter, a nice balance to the bitterness the Guinness brings out. And the cream cheese is creamier and has a stronger Bailey's flavor. Just for fun, I thought I'd share both with you.)

Bailey's Caramel Buttercream Frosting
  • 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar, loosely packed (1 pound)
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Baiely's Irish Cream with Hint of Caramel
Cream together butter and powdered sugar. Add milk and Bailey's Caramel until frosting is smooth and spreadable. If you need it to be softer, add milk or Bailey's Caramel (for a stronger flavor) one tablespoon at a time until you have reached your desired consistency.

Or perhaps you would prefer a cream cheese frosting:

Bailey's Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3-6 Tablespoons Bailey's Irish Cream With a Hint of Caramel 
Cream together cream cheese, sugar and Bailey's Caramel, beginning with 3 tablespoons. Add Baiely's Caramel, one tablespoon at a time, until you have reached a consistency and flavor you like.

Assemble your cupcakes and refrigerate for 3 hours or so before serving. The longer they sit, the stronger the Guinness flavor becomes.
I'm thinking these should be made into some microcakes. You know, to go with a microbrew. At like a fancy pub or something. It's in the works.

I linked this recipe up at Tastetastic Thursday on A Little Nosh and Tip-Toe Thru Tuesday at Crayon Freckles

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Speechless Sunday

 Audrey and Grace.
Shirley Temple.

Happy Academy Awards Day! Will you be watching tonight?

Friday, February 24, 2012

The One After the Delay

I'm sorry it has been so quiet around here lately. I've been sick all week. Really sick. Like not getting off the couch for three days sick. That left little time for fun projects to write about. But after a little R&R, I'm back!

Soon I'll have some exciting things to show you (Olivia's birthday party projects! A new label for my brother-in-law's brewery!). But today I'm just going to share some pictures from Valentine's Day. I worked with my mom in her flower shop. It was really fun to learn a little about flower design. And write love notes for people. I might add that being a florist on V day is just a little bit dramatic. I can see the reality show now.

But anyway. I think my mom is a really talented florist and I like her whimsical aesthetic. And all the pretty colors she uses. See:
Photographing flower arrangements is more difficult than I would have assumed. But I tried my best so that hopefully I could get some pictures my mom could use on a website at some point..
This is one of my favorite flowers. It's just wax flower, and it is just used as a filler. But it comes in lots of pretty colors. And it's shape and size makes it easy to use in many arrangements, so it was kind of my life-saver when I would get stuck on where to go next with an arrangement. And if I got really stuck I'd give up and ask my mom to fix it. She usually did by taking everything apart and starting with an empty vase. But that's ok. I'm still learning.
And finally, here's a glimpse of the table before the first deliveries went out. It was a pretty hectic day. And cold, out in the flower shop in Idaho... but it was a lot of fun to pull off a big family ordeal like that. I think we'll make it a yearly tradition to be back there for the day of love.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The One With the Brownies and Berries Pizza

It's no secret that I like pizza. And dessert. So when I saw the opportunity to combine the two, I thought it was pretty fantastic.
Brownies and Berries Pizza 
  • Brownie mix (I used Duncan Hines) and ingredients required, usually something like
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup + 2 Tbls sugar
  • 1 carton strawberries
  • 1 carton raspberries
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbls oil
Preheat oven to 350. Combine brownie mix and eggs, oil, and water as directed on box.  Pour batter onto a greased pizza pan or cookie sheet (that has edges) - the point is that you don't want it to be as thick as regular brownies. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, rinse and cut the strawberries into bite-size slivers. Rinse the raspberries and put them in the bowl of strawberries. Sprinkle with 2 Tbls sugar and toss to coat. Set aside to soak in their juices for about 20 minutes.
In a separate bowl, use a mixer to beat together cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth and spreadable.
Once the brownies have cooled, spread the cream cheese frosting on top. Drain the strawberries and raspberries and then distribute over cream cheese frosting.
In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate chips, beginning with 30 seconds and then in 10 second intervals, stirring between each. Once the chips are melted, add 1 Tbls oil and stir to combine. Drizzle over your strawberries and raspberries for the final touch.
For optimum taste, refrigerate your pizza for about an hour.

It's really yummy. You should try it. Maybe for a book club meeting where you discuss The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan? Nope? That's just us?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The One on Valentine's Day

It's one of my favorite holidays. Chocolate! Pink! Kisses! Sweet notes for loved ones! Unfortunately, with all our insane traveling lately, I didn't get around to much of that. And today I'm helping my mom in her flower shop with all the craziness of the day. Hopefully I'll at least be able to show you some of her handiwork. She really is quite genius at arranging flowers, among other things.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Always remember that you are so loved.

Via one of my favorite artists, Katie Daisy

Monday, February 13, 2012

The One Where I Love You The Orangest

When I was kid, I really loved the book I Love You the Pruplest by Barbara M. Joosse. In the story, a mother has two boys who are very different from each other, but both have their strengths that she admires. One night, each asks her who she loves best and to one she replies that she loves him the bluest, and to the other, the reddest. Together, she loves them the purplest.

I've always thought that was such a sweet way for a mother to show how she loves each of her children for their individuality. And so I thought I'd write some poems of my own, modeled after Joosse's. And then I thought they'd be the perfect thing to share for Valentine's Day.

Together, baby girls, I love you the orangest. Happy  almost Valentine's Day.<3

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Speechless Sunday

This map of the United States by Rachel Austin (another Portlander!) is fun. It's also fun to think I've visited several of these places over the last few weeks. Now off to Idaho to help my mom with her flower shop for Valentine's day. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The One Where Olivia is 11 Months Old

This definitely should have posted when she turned 11 months old (on the first), but with all our traveling, I'm just getting around to it now. But now on to the issue at hand. My baby is growing up way too fast. It's killing me to think she will be a year old in just a few weeks. I don't know if I can bear it. But on the plus side, she just gets keeping getting cuter and cuter with every passing day. 
I mean, look at that wild hair sticking up all over the place.
And she was just the sweetest smooch at Disneyland. Especially with her double-fisted wave at all the princesses at the parade.
I just love her wide-open-mouthed kisses. She has the most precious voice I've ever heard. It's kind of high pitched and so, so sweet. And when she sings songs I just want to bottle it up somehow and keep it forever. Not in a creepy way like in the Little Mermaid. But just keep it so that I could hear it whenever I want. It's beautiful.
She's even saying "uh oh." And she has little sounds for, "please," "thank you," and "hi."
Her little skootch is ridiculously cute. She's gotten really fast and kind of does this little flying leap around the house when she's really excited. She pulls herself up on things and likes to try standing up in the middle of the room... but I think it will still be a little while before she walks. I am in no rush for her to grow up, though. She can stay little just as long as she likes.
But my absolute favorite thing about this month is what we've dubbed, "the monkey snuggle." She's gotten a little skiddish lately and so if you don't hang on to her tightly enough she wraps her arms and legs around you just as tight as can be. She hangs on for dear life and it's nearly impossible to peel her off and put her to bed or at the table to eat dinner. If I'm going to be honest I have to admit that I sometimes pull her off or hang on too loosely so that she'll freak out and tighten her grip. It's the best feeling in the whole wide world. And I hope it never ever goes away. I will pick her up and carry her around until she weighs 100 pounds if she hangs on like that. Ok, maybe not really. That might hurt. But I sure do enjoy it now.
I'm already excitedly planning her birthday party and will be printing all the pictures for her first-year scrapbook. And I've got to start taking apart her onesies so that I can make a memory quilt like the one I made for Ellie.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The One With the Things I Love About Ellie (2 years, part II)

My little Ellie and I have spent the week apart. She is with her grandparents while Olivia and I are traveling in the South. We just couldn't afford to get her a plane ticket, too. But I really miss her. So I thought it would be appropriate to post some of my favorite things of hers, as of late.
1. I love when she gets food all over her face. I don't know why, but for some reason I always think her eyes look prettiest when she's got crumbs and sauce all over her little cheeks.

2. I love that she is such a big sister. She's a little bossy, opinionated girl who likes to help with dishes and keep things in their place. And she takes care of Olivia, too. When it's nap time she looks over into Olivia's crib and says, "Head back, Wia." So she'll go to sleep. And the she shushes her if she starts to cry. "It's ok, Wia." And if Olivia is ever sad, she rubs her back and says, "Poor Wia." It is very cute. And when Olivia is crawling around sometimes she pats her little baby butt and says, "Cute bum."

3. I love how she loves to be so friendly now, thanks to our Disneyland trip. She got so used to being adored that she just waves to everyone she passes now. It's very sweet.

4. I love how excited she was to go be with grandma and grandpa. As much as it was hard to see her go, I was happy that she was so happy to go spend the week with her grandparents. She loves them very much.

5. I love how she counts her kisses. "One kiss?" Smooch. "Two kisses?" Smooch. "Three kisses?" And on and on as long as possible. Steve taught her that. And it's my favorite. The other night he FaceTimed with her on his iPhone and she accidentally hung up on him with her lips while giving him "three kisses?"

6. I love how she is trying to learn about temperatures. When I give her some food she usually says, "Hot." And then she investigates and realizes it is just, "warm." And therefore ready to eat. This is a big part of our eating ritual, determining the temperature of the meal at hand.

7. I love her little sentences. They're trimmed to the basics, but getting so descriptive. It is so fun knowing what she is really trying to say. "Santa Claus coming town reindeer." (Yes, she still stuck on Christmas a month and a half later.) "Babies sad. Toys broken." "Good job singing, Mama." "Class good today, Mama?" And of course there's the reassurance, "I got it!" whenever she is doing something tricky, like climbing into her dinner chair in the most precarious way possible.

8. I love how much she loves books. I'm sure this has come up before. But we went to the Scholastic Book Fair at our church's school last weekend and we got her some new books. She was completely enthralled with them all day, every day.

9. And speaking of that, I love how she reads books to herself now. After I read them to her before bed or nap time, I let her take them to bed. Then she lays in bed and reads them to herself. It's usually just a few key phrases from the book that she repeats on each page. But it is precious.
10. And I love that she misses me. I am glad that it's not too bad and she is being good for her grandparents. But it is so nice to know that she loves me a little fraction of the amount that I love her. 
I can't wait to get her back today. She's just the best.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The One With Stephanie's Sewing Adventures

Hello! While I'm on vacation I thought I'd arrange to have some guest bloggers write posts for you guys! I asked my dear friend Stephanie to share her first sewing project: pillowcases! These look so awesome and I can't wait to make a few of my own - as I've been stashing pillowcase fabric for far too long now. Anyway, I'll let Steph take it from here:

Hello everyone! My name is Stephanie and my lovely friend Michelle asked me to write a blog post about my first sewing adventure. I received a sewing machine (Handpicked By Martha, my future mother-in-law would be proud) for Christmas!
The  first thing my fiancĂ© requested I make was pillowcases for our bed. I thought, yeah, who couldn’t do that? We bought some nice canvas type fabric and a couple weeks later I finally opened my sewing machine. First off, I didn’t realize that you had to spool your own bobbin. I figured the machine came with an assortment of colors but to my disappointment, it didn’t. After digging through the mini spools of thread that I own (mainly to sew buttons on) I managed to spool my own bobbin. The difficult part came when I was trying to thread the string through the base and meet with the other string that comes from the top. I had to watch a few random tutorials online before figuring out what I was doing wrong. Once I got it, I was finally ready to go. 
I started by using a pattern/formula that I found online. It suggested using a main square piece of fabric 1 inch larger than your pillow and two rectangles which were the same length but half the width plus 2.5 inches. For me, using an 18in X 18in, I had a large piece of fabric measuring 19in and two rectangles that were 19in X 11.5in. It called for rounding the corners and hemming all the edges of the fabric with a “zig zag” stitch. My sewing machine has that option but the zig zag was going all over the place and I felt like it was making my edges more uneven than anything. So, halfway through, I switched to a straight stitch which I personally think looks better anyways. I realized while making this first pillow cover that I didn’t have sewing pins; somehow I managed without them and the edges look relatively okay. After hemming the pieces and putting them together I shoved my pillow into its new cover. To my surprise, it didn’t close all the way. I thought hmmm that is weird, I followed the formula. The round corners also turned out to be an issue because I wasn’t able to sew them completely shut. After putting the pillow in its cover, I had to take it back out and sew some portions of it by hand. I was pretty much ready to give up on the second pillow case but instead I decided it would be a good time for a break. 
After running some errands (and buying some sewing pins), I thought to myself, why don’t I just figure out a formula? So, that’s exactly what I did. I decided that the main square didn’t have to be as long so instead of 19in I made it a little over 18in but not quite 18 ¼ in. The two rectangles I also shorted to about the same length and made them a little wider, about 11 ¾ in. I decided not to round the corners and also not hem the edges of every piece but just the two edges of the rectangles that would be facing the outside. I sewed all the pieces together, using pins this time, and viola! A beautiful pillow cover emerged and even shut all the way. The second one took half the time and looks even better than the first. Plus, there was no need to sew any part of it by hand. I was glad that I figured out an alternate way to make the second cover since the first one was a little excessive for me. Now I am ready to sew pillow covers by the hundreds! Okay, no, not really. Two is enough for now. 

Thanks for checking out my sewing adventure!
Special thanks to Michelle for letting me be a guest blogger while she is away on all her fabulous trips! 

I totally love that Steph improvised when the pattern she got didn't work out well. And if you need help threading your sewing machine or anything else, youtube is a great place to get free tutorials just like she did. Try searching whatever your problem is like, "how to thread a sewing machine," or "how to spool a bobbin," or "hemming," etc. I've used the tutorials on there many times!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Speechless Sunday

We went to New Orleans yesterday! It doesn't look quite like this, at least not on a regular basis.But this is a pretty picture nonetheless.
Via unknown.
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