Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's!

Here are a few of my favorite phone images of all things that remind me of Valentine's Day!
In the name of all things pink, I stumbled in my photo archives on a little project for a guest room from a few months back. I bought this vintage Thomasville bamboo dresser for a song and intended to use it in a nursery. Since I wasn't expecting at the time, I decided to paint it a neutral color that would work well in our guest room. I chose a creamy color with a touch of pink to match a pigment in the room's curtain floral pattern. I diluted the original Martha Stewart color too much so unfortunately, it was a lighter color than my goal, but I've since warmed up to it.
I hope to eventually use it, along with some other Hollywood Regency style bamboo furniture I've collected, in a navy blue and white room. I love seeing bamboo furniture in bright pops of coral or creamy, lacquered white. It works in my mind, at least ;) A coral would be nice so I could accent the white hardware and white paint details. I hate to touch original paints and finishes on vintage furniture, but this time it had to go.
It's a tad more pink than shown below. The lighting was a bit dismal that day.
Have a wonderful Valentine's Day with your loved ones!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A sweet garden plot

I dream of having a big garden. In my mind I go through the bevy of vegetables, fruit trees, and rows of dahlias, hollyhocks, sunflowers, lilies, english roses, irises, hyacinths, narcissus, peonies and tulips I'd love to plant. Every time my husband and I talk about where we'd eventually like to end up, I always seem to throw in growing conditions of the area and he gives a knowing chuckle. I think I'd move just about anywhere with him, as long as the climate would permit a large garden for our future family to enjoy and work in.
(A few shots from mom's garden last year)
Growing up, my mom (and often dad) worked long, hot days in our plots so we would always have a big garden, and some of my favorite memories are walking through and gleaning whatever edible goods and flowers were in season (especially the dinner plate sized dahlias and the super sweet raspberries and blackberries.) She used no pesticides, so we'd eat raspberries, apricots, apples, and peaches in bunches right off the bushes and trees. I always felt like a lucky girl. When I visit home, I still like to pop my head in the garden right away to see what's sprung up.
For a church activity, I wanted to make a dessert that reflected a short lesson I was teaching on planting good seeds and making good choices early in life that bring forth sweet fruit and strong roots later. I saw a similar cake in, I think, Better Homes and Gardens, and loved the idea.
Instead of their cake idea, I made a rich chocolate pudding base and the compost looking dirt is a mixture of what I had on hand: graham crackers (I didn't have Oreo's), cocoa powder, a little butter, and powdered sugar. I couldn't believe how much it looked like real dirt with the graham crackers! The veggies are made out of airheads and skittles and the seeds are sunflower.
For now, this dessert is the best "garden" I can come up with in this desert! I'm still reading up on when to plant and how to conquer the extreme temperatures.

Are you planting any plants this year? How about a garden?

Friday, January 6, 2012

The San Francisco Baking Institute: Part 1

Happy New Year, friends!
For Christmas, I was lucky enough to be the recipient of a week long's artisan bread baking class at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Words can't describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity because I've wanted to take a culinary class since I took one in college. I. can. hardly. wait. Since my mom is from the Bay Area, and can never get enough french bread (who can?!), she, my aunt, and I are all starting class this Monday. My only experience with artisan breads is through trying a few recipes by Artisan Bread in Five, specifically their no-knead loaf and King Arthur's no-knead crusty white bread (see below). I've probably made this 15 times with a few different add-ins (honey, wheat flour, etc.) and love how easy it is (really!). The truth is that I hardly eat bread, because diabetes and blood sugar issues run in my family, but I love to have a little nibble and make it for my husband and friends.
I love making sandwich bread as well, especially since a friend gave me a really great, foolproof, honey whole-wheat recipe that is my new go-to (so light and fluffy!)
This blog got me even more excited as she catalogs Monday-Friday of the class.
http://www.bakingasweetlife.com/2008/03/03/san-francisco-baking-institute-artisan-bread-day-one/. I can't wait to learn, be totally overwhelmed with information, gain 5 pounds, and share any pictures and tips I pick up!
If you could take any class, culinary or otherwise, what would it be? I'd love to take an illustrator class, knife skills, sauces, and a power tools class (how's that for diverse? ha!)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year

Christmas for my side of the family is all about warmth, lights, family, smiles, friends, a family and friend Christmas party at my parents home, the San Diego parade of lights, treats, and celebrating the joy that comes in remembering what the holiday is all about to us- the birth of a Savior. Here are some glimpses from the last week of relaxation and festivities!
Some treats my sister, mom, and I made for a Christmas party
Grant dressed as Buddy to help deliver some presents for a secret santa family a few nights before Christmas
Pre-ugly sweater party

Pecan walnut praline clusters
Peppermint-cocoa marshmallows and the annual cinnamon roll distribution
Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight! I hope you are having a wonderful time with family and friends, wherever you are!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree!

How lovely are your branches...
I love little trees! I also love making simple paper ornaments each year; it get's me into the Christmas spirit! Each year I just kind of make whatever I feel like or have around and hang it on the tree, and Grant is a good sport. This year I went really simple; I just love the look of an old fashioned tree (it just feels "homey"!). The tree is topped with a darling little 1950's red sparkly topper that I inherited from my Grandma last spring.
Poor Grant's been sick with the flu (only time in the past 10 years!), so today we enjoyed sitting on the couch in rainy weather, watching Christmas movies and keeping the tree lit all day. I wish the Christmas season took up 2 months, at least!
I hope you are enjoying your Christmas tree! I wish the glow and the tree smell could be a permanent fixture through the colder months. Aren't Christmas trees magical?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Go-to Christmas Desserts

Excuse the absence; I've been working on a new, simpler blog design and it always takes me forever- especially during the busy Christmas season. It just flies by too fast, doesn't it? Today I'd love to share some of my go-to Christmas party desserts and treats with you. A few favorites consist of berry pavlova (named after a ballerina, it reminds me of the sugar plum fairies), plain madeleines (or coconut orange), russian tea-cakes, baklava, a yule log cake, and the pioneer woman's cinnamon rolls (I think they still can't beat my mom's, but they're very close and make a huge batch!) Here are the ones I made and actually got a picture of.
The pavlova meringue base after it bakes- Once you use a Silpat mat, you won't go back! (If you'd like the recipe for this one, it's got graham cracker in the crust and is in a book I have- I'd love to email it to you)
Madeleine's- Sometimes I add coconut and a little orange zest
I prefer to halve the Pioneer Woman's recipe, tamper with the frosting and omit the coffee and maple (just personal taste), and then wrap in give-a-way dishes wrapped in dark red cellophane and pretty ribbon.
Baklava made with phyllo, apricots, honey, almonds, bread crumbs, and walnuts.
A sugar cookie date night to start off December 1st
What are some of your favorite Christmas treats? Happy baking!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

(A fall arrangement my mom made for a pre-Thankgiving family dinner)
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I tried to post a few times last week but had some difficulties with blogger. This year, my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful, relaxing San Diego Thanksgiving with my my parents, siblings (except for one brother serving a church mission in Mexico), sister-in-law, baby nephew, and my aunt's family. I always feel so uplifted and happy around so much family, and it was such a joy to be there, especially around our new sweet nephew Hudson, who everyone fawns over. Can you blame us? With all his tummy, arm, and leg rolls and red cheeks, he looks like a little Santa.
(my sweet husband with my older brother's son)
Mom makes the dinner every year with a few of us adding extra dishes, Aunt Judy brings the pies, my sister, Annie, sets the table and makes place cards, I usually do the centerpieces, and my dad does the dishes (yikes!).
I look forward to the dinner all year- it has so many fond memories for me, like so many other families! Our Thanksgiving dinner includes turkey, mashed Idaho potatoes and turkey drippings gravy, yeast rolls (my grandma's recipe-my favorite), a green bean casserole, stuffing, a cranberry/pineapple dish, and candied sweet potatoes. This year my sister made a Bobby Flay brussels sprout dish and my sister-in-law Jess brought a family corn pudding dish- both were fantastic.
(My sister-in-law and I picked these beauties off a nearby tree)
I love Thanksgiving because it's all about gratitude, which brings joy. I'm so thankful this year for my abundance of blessings, especially my family, and also for the small trials in my life which have provided me with more faith, understanding, and empathy. I hope you're enjoying the beginning of the holiday Christmas season; can't wait to share some decorations and projects!