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Friday, August 11, 2017

CRANBERRY CHOCOLATE CHIP BLONDIES

These are super rich, and super good!  Even better, they're super simple to make!!  If you enjoy the flavor of cranberries and chocolate, then you're going to really enjoy these babies.

INGREDIENTS:

1 stick butter or margarine, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup flour
3/4 cup craisins
3/4 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet, white, etc., I chose dark chocolate)
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg


DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.   Line an 8x8 pan with parchment; spray a little non-stick spray in the pan prior to adding the parchment, and another small amount after adding the parchment.
Next, melt one stick of butter in the microwave. In a medium size bowl, cream the butter, egg, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla by using a wire whisk.

Add the flour blending just until all the flour is incorporated.  Mix in the craisins and chocolate chips.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 24-26 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  If you like soft and gooey, go with the short end of the time allotment.

Remove from the oven and let sit approximately one hour until firm.  Slice into relatively small pieces since they are so rich.

Grab a cold glass of milk and Enjoy!  (bet you can't eat just one)

Note: You'll find a number of these recipes on the web...although, the vast majority use white chocolate.  I've never been a fan of white chocolate, so I substituted my favorite which is dark chocolate.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

CATHEDRAL VEIL FOR A RHODE ISLAND BRIDE

The time has finally arrived for me to share this with you.  This destination wedding that I shot alongside my daughter was such a treat!  First, we were able to capture memories of the wedding of Larisa and Murphy....a sweet couple who were surrounded by family and friends in the idyllic setting of Newport, Rhode Island.
The ceremony/reception included so many family/military traditions it was an absolute honor to be a part of the day.

The historic Channing Memorial stone church in downtown Newport hosted the ceremony, followed by a gorgeous reception at the Glen Manor House.  I have to share just a few pictures from the grounds of the reception since it was "fairytaleesque".



Secondly, I was able to see beautiful Larisa, firsthand in the cathedral veil that I made for her.  She chose a classic cathedral veil with a long blusher; it was perfect for her designer gown. She looked amazing....and cool as a cucumber, despite the rest of us wilting in the heat and humidity of Rhode Island.  Definitely a shock to the system for a couple of Coloradans!

The third treat was spending a couple extra days playing tourist with my daughter.  Hey. as long as we were in Rhode Island, we had to take in some sights, right?

I planned a day of pampering the day after the wedding with a wonderful brunch and massage at the Castle Hill Inn to start the day.  We took in the ten mile ocean drive and a bit of the harbor shops, followed by a sunset sail cruise and dinner on the wharf.  We enjoyed visiting several of the mansions (buy the 5 mansion ticket, even if you don't see all 5....it's so much more economical),  and the cliff walk as well.

It was a truly wonderful long weekend in every aspect....thank you Murphy and Larisa for letting me be a part of your special day.    Best Wishes for a long and happy marriage!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

PRIVACY WALL FOR BACKYARD PATIO

I have been so looking forward to having this project completed!  This is my new privacy wall for our patio (we have one more board to add to the bottom, but I couldn't wait to share).


You may recall last year, I posted about the outdoor curtains I had made for my patio.   Unfortunately, they didn't work out quite like I had planned.  While they definitely could provide a little privacy to my patio, that only worked when it wasn't breezy.  Despite the weights I had placed in the hem, we get quite a few breezy days up here, so the curtains though pretty....weren't functional.   Bummer, since both me and my husband put work into that project.

I really liked my little sanctuary, so I was anxious to find another solution.  One night I was taking a walk around the neighborhood and I got really pumped when I saw a home which had what looked like a wall of wooden blinds for their patio.  They didn't move like blinds, but they had the angled look of blinds.   I thought it was genius actually, so I got up the nerve to introduce myself to this neighbor (after many walks in which I kept ogling their patio).   He took me out back and we chatted about the construction and how it was working since he put it in place.


Of course, I promptly ran home and told my husband I had a new solution for the patio.

Not only did I see this providing privacy, but it would also provide a bit of a wind break from the North.  I had learned from the neighbor that Home Depot carried the pre-made supports with the angles already cut into them.   So, we ordered those and painted the two which attached to the patio support and the house to match the house trim color.   As for the slats, I really liked the idea of natural boards, so my husband simply finished those with a weather protectant, no stain.  Same thing for the middle support....that was left the natural wood color as well.

My husband gets all the credit for this one.  I merely provided the cheerleading and encouragement along the way.  I'm so looking forward to spending time out here again.  It really was like sitting in a fishbowl without it....several of the neighbor's bedroom windows look right onto our patio, and their trampoline is now hidden as well.

I bought a new umbrella and cushions to replace the worn, torn and faded ones which were purchased many years ago and we're good to go!  This is going to be awesome!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

CRANBERRIED LEMON YOGURT BREAD

I always have a huge bag of craisins in the house...I mean the large bag from Costco.  I put them on my salads, and flavor lots of other dishes with them.  I did recently get a noticeably less fresh bag and after working my way through about 3/4 of the bag, I decided the rest would make for a good baked item.
So I went straight to the source for a recipe.  This is from the people from Ocean Spray....and it's a truly yummy bread!  The texture is great and it's got a combination of tangy lemon and cranberry in every bite.

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ cup butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup lowfat plain yogurt
2 eggs 
¼ cup lemon juice
1 heaping cup of craisins

Glaze:
½ cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon juice

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan.  

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl; set aside.  Using an electric mixer, beat butter or margarine and sugar in a medium mixing bowl, until light and fluffy.  Add yogurt, eggs and lemon juice; mix well.   Stir in cranberries.  Add to dry ingredients.  Stir until dry ingredients are moistened.

Bake for approximately 50 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool.  In the meantime, prepare the glaze.  Once the loaf is cool, drizzle over the top of the loaf.

Enjoy!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

SHORT RECEPTION DRESS

I had the pleasure of making a short reception dress for a bride recently; a first for me.  She wanted to change into a sassy little number afer the first dances were finished in order to fully enjoy her reception.    She had a pretty good idea of what she was looking for, having spotted something online.
In this case, I added a few custom touches which allows me to have some fun creatively, and for the bride she then has a dress that is truly one-of-a-kind!

I found a beautiful lace online in a diamond white color for the outer layer, and found a matching crepe for the underlayer.
The  neckline, sleeves and hemline were finished with a 1½ inch alencon eyelash lace that I found locally.  It had some pearls and sequin embellishments which gave it some sparkle!

I changed up the shape of the underlayer in the back making it a curve and instead of the simple double lapped center back zipper on the original, I chose to add a lapped zipper with some satin covered buttons for a more polished look.

To match the tulle at the hemline, I chose to add a small tulle peek-a-boo at the hem of the 3/4 sleeves; not all the way around, just enough to add some fun!

So cute!!  Thank you Tara for letting me be a part of your special day.


Friday, June 23, 2017

RE-STYLED WEDDING GOWN

I had a bride contact me since she wanted to wear her Mom's wedding gown and veil on her special day, but wanted to update them a bit and wondered if I could/would do it for her.   Since I've always wanted to work on a project like this, it was a resounding YES!   I was excited to be a part of the transformation.
The gown was in amazingly good shape....a little staining on the lace on the hemline, but other than that it looked great.  As for the fit, both Mom and daughter were very similar in size and height, so I really didn't have to worry about alterations.  

The bride knew that she wanted a deep "v" in the back of the dress, removing the zipper from the top of the neckline to the waistline seam. Other than that, she was open to ideas to make it more current.
The bell sleeves were so unique and are certainly current again, so those absolutely had to stay. But, the high collar in the front was definitely going to have to go!
I discussed a simple, yet classic "v" neckline for the front as well.  I also suggested the vertical bands of lace on the front and back bodice should be removed, making the gown more classic and simple. The train was very wide and long making it a definite keeper. A "one button" bustle swept it up nicely!

The veil was very dated with a typical "juliet cap" from the '70s/'80s. I suggested a simple lace trimmed elbow length veil to allow the beautiful sleeves of the gown to shine through and also showcase the clean neckline.

We chose to use the lace that was on Mom's veil for the new veil, as well as using pieces of it on the garter set. I even had enough leftover so she could give some to her florist for her bouquet.

The bride will be changing out of this gown after the first dance to a sassy little reception dress I made for her.  I'll be sharing that next!

Friday, June 16, 2017

PORK TENDERLOIN WITH CRANBERRY CHUTNEY

I loved the flavor of this dish!   My sides to go along with the meat were asparagus and roasted potatoes.  Yum!!!
I reviewed a number of recipes online and chose to combine elements from several of those I found.

INGREDIENTS:

ROAST
*2 ½ lb. pork loin roast or pork tenderloin 
2 Tbsp. Herbs de Provence
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. lemon juice 

CHUTNEY
1 (16 oz.) can whole cranberry sauce
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup diced onion
1 clove garlic minced

Mince onions and garlic and brown in an olive oil and butter mixture in a medium skillet on medium high heat.  Remove from heat and drain on paper towel.  

In a medium bowl blend the cranberry sauce, lemon juice and browned garlic/onion mixture until well incorporated.  Cover and set aside until ready to serve.  

In a small bowl, mix together the herbs, onion powder, brown sugar, olive oil and lemon juice. Season both sides of the meat with salt and pepper.   Rub the olive oil mixture over the (top side) meat.   Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil.  Sear the meat on all sides using tongs to flip the meat from side-to-side.   Slide the skillet into a 450 degree oven for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until the internal temp is 155-160 degrees.   Let rest approximately 5-10 minutes; serve with some chutney mixture spooned over the top.  Guests can add additional chutney as desired. 

Enjoy!

*  I went with two pork tenderloin versus the roast.  Also, if you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can roast the meat in the oven at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes per pound.  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

WALTZ LENGTH VEIL

A waltz length veil is truly a unique length and it may be one of my favorites.  Perfect when you're looking for elegant, but maybe not too formal.  It can also work well when the train of a gown is elaborate and long and you want a statement veil but one that doesn't compete with the train.

This particular bride is wearing a true ivory lace gown (with a champagne underlay).  In searching for the perfect lace, I stumbled on a shop in Latvia with an absolutely exquiste lace that was labeled as ivory.   When I received it, it was clearly an off-white, not a true ivory.....but the lace was gorgeous. So, I went about dying the lace in a tea bath.  I have to tell you I had never done so before, so I was a bit nervous.   I used a minimal amount of tea and hovered over the bowl the entire time it was bathing in the steeped tea.  I probably squealed like a pig when I took it out of the bath and realized how well it worked.   It is a beautiful match to the gown!


I think the pictures below show the original color and the finished product pretty well.  And as you can see from the picture above, it looks awesome with the gown.
A waltz length hits right about the back of the knee.

Due to the plunging back and beautiful covered buttons on the back of the gown, I went with light gathers at the comb allowing all the beauty of the gown to shine through.

Erin also had me make her a keepsake garter.  I chose to continue the lace theme from her dress and veil and make her a one-of-a-kind garter with some remnants from other projects I had worked on.

Thank you so much for letting me be a part of your special day.

Best Wishes to you and Devin!











Sunday, June 4, 2017

CATHEDRAL VEIL WITH APPLIQUES

What a treat to work with beautiful Kylynn!  Knowing that she wanted me to create her veil, she invited me to meet her at the bridal salon during one of her fittings.   Being able to see the gown's style, silhouette and embellishments allowed me to determine what might look best for the cathedral length veil she had her heart set on.

It was just the inspiration I needed to create the perfect veil to accompany her gown!  Based upon the fact that her gown had a number of lace appliques on it, I chose to use matching appliques for the veil (with a little extra sparkle in the way of pearls and sequins).
I knew I didn't want the veil to get completely lost in the train and/or compete with the gown, so I chose to make it a bit longer, and extra wide.  This picture shows the beauty of both the gown and the veil.....and of course, the love of this sweet couple just after they were married!


The veil has a total of 12 appliques around the perimeter of the train, as well as one on each side at about the knee.

When creating a custom veil, especially one like this, it can take me a good couple of hours cutting the appliques in different sizes and shapes and placing them on the veil to create just the right design.  I pin, move, pin again, and so on until it feels and looks just right.
I love the process....and when I land on the design, it's magical! Then it's hours of handstitching the appliques to the tulle.   Kylynn's veil is truly a one-of-a-kind, which is exactly what custom made is all about.  The beautiful picture to the upper right is from Kylynn's boudoir shoot.  No doubt, one of my veils has never looked so sexy!
I also made a garter set for Kylynn, that she also wore in her boudoir shoot.  Once again, she told me she wanted some bling and then gave me the creative license to design something for her.

Thank you Kylynn for making my designs look fabulous and for being such a peach to work with!

Best wishes to you and Mario on a long and happy marriage!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

KEY LIME PIE PARFAIT

If you're looking for a little lighter dessert, this may be the ticket.  I enjoyed this one, but recommend you might try it in smaller servings given the response I got from my guests.
As you can see I chose to use wine glasses, but my guests couldn't finish it, because it was so sweet. Me, on the other hand I was able to finish mine no problem!   If you choose the wine glasses, you'll get about 4 servings from this recipe.  However, smaller glasses would yield 6 easily.

INGREDIENTS:

1 8oz. pkg. cream cheese softened (I used the 1/3 less fat variety)
1 14oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup graham crackers ground into fine crumbs
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. melted butter
whipped cream (optional)
*The juice of 3-4 key limes, or more if you like it extra tart.

1.  In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on high until smooth.  Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in the condensed milk and beat on low until completely incorporated.

2.  Roll limes on a clean cutting board to loosen juice and cut, squeeze juice into a separate bowl and beat on low as you add the juice to the cream cheese mixture.

3.  Pulse graham cracker crumbs in a food processor (you can also use the rolling pin method with a large plastic bag).  Add the sugar and butter and mix until it resembles wet sand.

4.  Add a layer of graham cracker crumbs to the bottom of the glass, spoon the filling on the top and repeat with another layer of each.  

5.  Top with whipped cream and a lime wedge for serving.

**this was the first time I had worked with key limes.  Mine were very small; smaller than a golf ball.  So I used six for the juice, personally I feel like I could have used a couple more for the right flavor. 

Enjoy!

recipe adapted from: www.cookcraftlove.com

Monday, May 8, 2017

PENNE WITH SAUSAGE, EGGPLANT AND FETA

This is a super easy atypical pasta recipe with a wonderful flavor.  It has a unique combination of ingredients that you may not generally consider putting together, but it works!

It's hard to believe, this was the first time I've eaten eggplant!
This recipe makes a generous amount of pasta; 4 servings (@ 2 cups per serving)...or smaller portions and leftovers!

INGREDIENTS:

½ cup cubed, peeled eggplant (about 1 pound)
1 lb. bulk pork breakfast sausage
2-4 garlic cloves (the number is based upon your liking)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
6 cups hot cooked pasta (about 10 oz. raw)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

DIRECTIONS:

1.  Cook eggplant, sausage, and garlic in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for approximately 5-8 minutes or until the sausage is browned and the eggplant is tender.  In the meantime, you can begin preparing the pasta.

2.  Add tomato paste, and the next three ingredients (through tomatoes); cook over medium high heat approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

3.  Once pasta has been drained; place in a large bowl.  Add tomato mixture, cheese and parsley; toss well. 

Enjoy!

recipe c/o:  adapted from my recipes.com

Saturday, April 29, 2017

SWITCHPLATES

So I have a thing about boring white switchplates staring at me.  I know, it's odd....but when it came to my studio, I thought I can really have some fun with this.
While we've used wood, brushed nickel, and other specialty plates in our homes before.  I was looking for something a bit splashier.  So it came to me that I could take advantage of the many varieties of washi tape out there these days and make something really fun!


There was a particular variety out there that caught my attention since it not only had some of the color theme I have going on in my studio, but it had a watercolor feel to it.....and I'm a sucker for abstract water color.

It really was easy, just a means of cutting strips of the tape, using an exacto knife to slit the tape to expose the light switch rectangles and then brushing on mod podge for a protective finish.  I used two coats of mod podge, letting it thoroughly dry in between the two coats.

Most of the washi tape comes 2-3 complimentary colors in one package, so you have some variety.    In fact, if you head to Hobby Lobby, Michael's or other stores that carry craft items, they have a crazy amount to choose from. There are even some really fun ones out there that would work well in kid's bedooms or play areas.

For the switchplate at the bottom of the stairwell as you enter my studio I went with a gold foil polka dot with a striped foil for the border.  I was really starting to get into it.....but alas, I only have the three.  So I chose to cover two in the  watercolor pattern and the other is gold foil.

So fun!



Saturday, April 22, 2017

BAKED FRENCH TOAST CASSEROLE

Okay people....watch out....this recipe could be very dangerous!  It is so delicious, you may need to designate a loved one to assist you with portion control.

This dish was the "sweet" that I chose for my Easter brunch.  It makes a huge panful, and even though I had seven people at brunch I ended up with half of a 9x13 pan of leftovers.   That could also have to do with the fact that I had a lot of food....none-the-less....if you want to feed more like 2-4 people, be sure to cut the recipe in half.
I made this the day of, but it can be made the night before and baked in the morning.  Unlike many recipes, the streusel amount is very generous, offering a thick layer of crunch topping.   Personally, I loved the proportion of streusel to casserole.


INGREDIENTS:

Streusel
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
½ cup salted butter (sliced into 8 pieces)
4 tsp. ground cinnamon

Casserole
12-13 cups cubed, hearty bread (I bought two bakery style loves; 1 sourdough and 1 wheat)
8 large eggs
3 cups whole milk
½ cup white sugar  (I went a little light on this since the topping has so much sugar)
½ tsp. vanilla extract
*pure maple syrup for serving


DIRECTIONS:

Make the streusel.  Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well using your hands until it resembles chunky, damp sand.  Cover and keep in fridge to chill until you finish assembling the casserole. 

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray (sides and bottom).  Place the 12 cups of bread cubes in the dish.  In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla whisking thoroughly to incorporate.  Pour egg mixture evenly and slowly over the bread cubes.  Gently toss to ensure even coating of all bread cubes.  If there seems to be too much excess liquid, add another cup of bread cubes until liquid seems mostly absorbed (there will be a thin layer of excess liquid at the bottom).

If making the night before, cover and place in fridge.  Gently toss the bread cubes again before baking.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Sprinkle chilled streusel evenly over the top of the casserole.  Bake for 45-60 minutes or until topping is nicely browned and bubbly.  If it starts to look too browned at the 45 minute mark, loosely tent with foil and continue baking as needed.  (Mine was perfect at 60 minutes)

Allow to cool about 10-15 minutes and serve with warm maple syrup.  

Enjoy!
recipe c/o: www.chewoutloud.com