H&M Inspiration

This time of year is always a bit crazy for me. While most people are planning egg hunting parties and planning for elaborate brunches, I am working longer hours and getting yelled at by people who feel like the IRS has it out for them personally. A side effect of this is that I go a little overboard with my out of the office hours. I decided that it is absolutely imperative that I tackle the bevy of small projects on my “to-do” list: you know, things that are absolutely crucial like rounding up clothes that need to go to goodwill, painting the guestroom before Andy wakes up, rearranging things in the closet, etc. Things that can be accomplished relatively easily, don’t take a lot of mental effort, and allow me to get rid of some of the frenetic energy that builds up during the work day.

Recently, the lack of “decor” in our home has become mildly distressing. A lot of my friends have wonderfully appointed homes, many of them have been in their current homes a lot less time than Andy and I have, and my brain is screaming at me “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER, BUCIOR!” My online browsing turned up an interesting decor source, H&M.


1. Cat Apron, 2. Feather Bowl, 3. Glass Box, 4. Photo Frame, 5. Jacquard Bath Towel, 6. Laundry Basket, 7. Small Wooden Box, 8. Round Metal Tray, 9. Candle Lantern Andy and I have very different opinions when it come to what is considered “good” design, but surprisingly enough we both agreed that a lot of these minimal pieces would be quite lovely in our home. The only downside is that there isn’t a H&M location near us that carries these wonderful items.

All photos from H&M.


Friday Link Love

My enthusiasm for the end of the week is a little underwhelming today. While I am very pleased that the work week is at its end, all I really feel like doing right now is flopping down on my couch and staring at the ceiling for a while. Actually, my couch wouldn’t work in this scenario. If I were to flop onto my own couch, I would be swarmed immediately by the fluffy horde because it is apparently a house rule. Is mommy sitting or laying? She must have no fewer than three cats vying to assist her. While I love my furbabies dearly, they have been going above and beyond to keep my blood pressure elevated. Breaking things, getting into things, trying to escape, crying at the door for half the night….you get the idea. All of this, I’m sure, will be remedied with a good night’s rest and some uninterrupted reading time. Maybe. Hopefully.

After this very long week, I am very much in need of this list of ways to improve your mood.

And to soothe your soul, these adorable cheetah cubs doing their best to sound ferocious.

If those two don’t get the job done, here are some essential oil blends that are supposed to help reduce anxiety.

A modern take on the iconic Carrie Bradshaw style.

Spirited Away is one of my favorite Miyazaki films and I think it is incredibly cool that you can walk through and “pig” out in the town that inspired the movie.

Speaking of pigging out, waffles anyone?

Let’s face it, in a world of Pinterest Perfect and Insta-Ready, it leave the average person feeling a little down about their home decor. Here are 10 decorating tips from someone who makes a living creating those gorgeous snap shots we all aspire to.

I like this modern take on floral arrangements; I think it could be a lot of fun the next time you host brunch.

 

 

Image from here.


I Got A Tattoo!!!

I have had “get a tattoo” on my yearly “to-do” for quite some time. At first, it was a “I want another tattoo!” and then after I lost my brother, it became part of what I felt I needed to do to cope with the situation. Tattoos have always been more than just a fashion statement to me. When I was younger, they were a way for me to finally start to love my body, something I’ve always struggled with, and over the years, they’ve become a way for me to document what is going on in my life. Now, that being said, not just anything goes. I got my last tattoo, the blue butterfly on my wrist, on my honeymoon, and it was to commemorate the new phase in my life and the loss of my maternal grandfather.

Butterflies may seem a little, well, flighty, but for me, they are so much more than just whimsical and pretty. Butterflies are the end result of painful, life altering change. A process that takes something plain and a little gross and turns it into something weightless and free.  When I lost my younger brother, it broke a part of me in a way that I am still working to understand. It changed me, and while I am still “me”, I’ll never again fully be the person I was before. This tattoo is just a visible symbol of that change.  Now to the less cerebral part of this little adventure. This is my 6th tattoo and I will say by far the most painful. I have tattoos on either side of my ribs, on either side of my lower back, and on my wrist, and none of those were even close in terms of pain. By the time we were finishing with color, he was holding my foot steady while he was tattooing, and as soon as he let go, my foot would start involuntarily shaking.  As painful as it was, it was one of the best tattooing experiences I’ve ever had. My artist Robert was fantastic; he worked quickly and efficiently, and he was really great about giving me breaks when I needed, making sure I was as comfortable as possible, talking through my design from size to placement to color, and never once making me feel like I was being annoying. I LOVED working with him, and I really hope I get the chance to do so again.If you are in the Tallahassee area and feel the need for some ink, be sure to check out Monument TattoosThey have some incredible artists, and they’ll make sure to match  you up with the best person who can best help you execute your vision.


Pecan Banana Bread with Brown Butter Glaze & Toasted Pecans

I’m on a roll, you guys! I woke up the other day and thought “I want to up my banana bread game,” and a few short hours later, I had this recipe. Now I will admit that this isn’t a “from nothing” origin: I used several different reliable recipes and shuffled, edited, and altered them until I had exactly what I wanted. This bread is dense, rich, nutty, and completely delicious. I can’t wait to make it the next time we have house guests!

Ingredients:

Banana Bread

  • 3-4 ripe bananas
  • 5 1/2 tbsps brown butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Glaze

  • 2 1/2 brown butter
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp cream

Topping

  • 1/3 cup chopped almonds

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease one standard loaf pan.
  2. Heat the butter over medium high heat until it turns a toasty hazelnut brown. Once the desired color is reached remove from heat immediately.
  3. Mash the bananas in a bowl, then beat in the sugar, brown butter, eggs, pecans and vanilla extract.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.
  5. Combine the two mixtures, stirring until just incorporated.
  6. Transfer batter to the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool for 25 minute and then turn out of pan.
  8. Toast the pecans to put on the top of the glaze in the oven for 6-8 minutes.
  9. While the bread is cooling, brown the butter for the glaze.
  10. Whisk together all the glaze ingredients until smooth and then drizzle over the cooled loaf. Top with the toasted pecans.
  11. Enjoy!!!

Notes:

  • I actually don’t have anything I would change about this. I think my only comment would be that it is a little dangerous. With the exception of the two small slices I cut for tasting and photography purposes, Andy ate the rest of the loaf within 6 hours of it being made. I’m just glad it wasn’t me.

Chocolate Lavender Cake with Blackberry Filling & Lavender Frosting

Well guys, I’ve done it. I written the first cake recipe of my 31 before 32 birthday challenge. It was a little labor intensive, mostly because I started with only a vague idea of what I wanted my finished product to look like, but I think things turned out pretty well. Plus, it was pretty delicious if I do say so myself. The recipe looks long, I know, but that is also because I included how I assembled and decorated the cake. You don’t have to take it as far as I did; this cake would still delicious without the fussy presentation. Here we go.

Ingredients:

Cake

Blackberry Filling

  • 4 pints of blackberries (minus 10 pretty ones*)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Lavender Frosting

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter
  • 6-8 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp powdered lavender*
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-3 drops of food coloring (optional)

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream

Directions

  1. Either the night or several hours before you bake your cake, combine the ganache ingredients in a microwave dish and cook at 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into the cream. Set aside uncovered for at least 3 hours to cool.
  2. Prepare the cake mix according to the directions on the box and fold in the chopped lavender after the batter is combined. Split the batter evenly between 3 9″ pans and bake as directed.
  3. While the cakes are baking, combine the filling ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Cook over medium heat stirring occasionally until the mixture has thickened sufficiently (A). Allow to cool to room temp before using.
    1. Put a plate in the freezer for about fifteen minutes before taking it out to test a spoonful of hot filling. Take the filling off the heat while testing. Push your finger through the filling on the plate – you’re looking for it to wrinkle and not flood back in to fill the gap.
  4. While the filling and the cake cool, beat softened butter (using a hand or stand mixer) adding the powdered sugar a 1/4 cup at a time until the frosting reaches the right consistency.
  5. Add in the food coloring and powdered lavender and beat for an additional two minutes.

 

Assembly

  1. Carefully, using a serrated knife or leveler, cut the domed top off of each of the cake layers producing three flat even(ish) layers.
  2. Fill piping bag (or ziplock bag) with 1/3 of your frosting.
  3. Starting with the bottom layer make a frosting ring around the bottom and middle layers of your cake.
  4. Split the black berry filling between the two layers carefully spreading across the cake to the frosting ringed edge.
  5. Stack the middle layer onto the bottom layer and the gently top with the top layer.
  6. Using the rest of the frosting in your piping bag (and a little from the bowl if you need) quickly cover the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting (crumb coat) and then place into a refrigerator to set for 25 minutes.
  7. Next, cover the cake in a more generous layer of the frosting, making sure to have a slightly thicker coating on the very top of the cake. Place in the refrigerator for an additional 25 minutes.
  8. Next spoon the cooled ganache over the top of the cake, creating drips down the side.
  9. Garnish the top of the cake with the remaining butter cream and the reserved blackberries. I also elected to use tiny chocolate candies.

Notes:

  • I wanted to try my hand at the “naked” frosting look for this cake, so most of the frosting was on the top and the top half of the side. This way there was still the frosting flavor, but the look was sill achieved because the more frosted bits were covered by the ganache.
  • Andy took the cake to work with him the day after I made it, and it didn’t even make it to lunch time. Which to me is a pretty good indication that the flavors were all balanced. That being said, despite my fondness for lavender, I didn’t want to over do it so that particular flavor could absolutely be turned up if you are baking for an audience with the same fondness. Be careful though; too much and you end up with a soapy taste.