March 27, 2015

FIVE FOR FRIDAY

Fridays in our house are called Mommy Days.  Which is pretty funny considering I feel like all day every day is Mommy Day.  But Wells goes to pre-school for a few hours on Monday-Thursday and Tagg on Tuesdays & Thursdays so Friday is officially the day when the three of us are left to our own devices all day long.  I actually love this time with them all snuggled up on the sofa and being lazy.  Of course what I really mean is me in the middle while they fight over who gets the iPad and who gets to pick the show on netflix on the tv.  Good parenting right here.  But we are all snuggled up in a sort of hug for least an hour or so.  And I get to drink my coffee in a fair amount of peace with two warm baby bodies snuggled up under my arms while I play on instagram or browse blogs.  Our mornings like this are numbered.  Truth.

Anyway, it's the freaking weekend around here my friends and I've got my five of the week for you!

1.  White x-backs chairs in my kitchen.  Yet another decision I just can't seem to make easy!


 My neighbor friend is selling five of her white x-back chairs for a song and I really want to buy them.  I love the style and I absolutely love how easy they are to keep clean.  She let me borrow one last week to test out in my kitchen.  I throw together three other white chairs I have (that won't work for various reasons) to get a visual idea of what all white chairs would look like in here.  I've been sitting on this decision for days.  I like it a lot.  But do I love it?  Am I being lured in by a price too good to pass up and a chance for matching chairs that will clean up with a clorox wipe?  I'm worried I'm going to regret my decision and still lust over cafe chairs.

2.  Easter Table Setting


I'm just loving the simple elegance of this pretty Easter Table.  My mom is hosting Easter dinner at their house on Easter Sunday but I still want to make a pretty table for breakfast at our house.  My in-laws will be staying with us that weekend so we'll have a nice dinner at home Saturday night as well.  Check out more of my Easter ideas in my new Spring | Easter folder here.

3. Easter Basket Cake


I've found my next pinterest idea to try to re-create in an allergy-friendly way.  This gorgeous Easter Basket cake is just the cutest and looks super easy!  I'm going to have to start giving away these sweet treats because no one in my house needs me to bake another cake this weekend.  Watch out neighbors!

4.  Arhaus Pinterest Contest to win a $1000, $500, or $250 gift card.


I posted a few weeks ago about the pretty outdoor furniture I found at Arhaus recently and went to check it out in person.  It's located upstairs right across from Nordstrom at Short Pump for any Richmond locals who might find yourself wandering around the mall with an extra 15 minutes to kill like I did.  I was daydreaming and snapping some pictures of one of the outdoor scenes when a salesperson came over to help me.  I mentioned that I was already familiar with that set as I had just blogged about it and wanted to see it in person and she was sweet enough to let me know of an online contest they were hosting.  I thought y'all might want to enter! It's really simple and you only need a pinterest account and an imagination.   Go here for details.

5. Knit Maxi Dress


I'm still loving this knit maxi dress in both the coral and the black!  I can't think of any easier style to wear than a maxi.  And at just $38, it's hard to pass up.  This floral is a killer too!

March 26, 2015

Easter Bunny Cake Tutorial (Vegan/Allergy Friendly)

I have a really awesome Easter Bunny Cake tutorial for y'all today!  I made it yesterday as a test-run for Easter and I just love how it turned out!  It's not the most professional looking cake I've ever seen but I'm having the best time in my new foray into baking.  I love learning to be creative in the kitchen.  I just don't know what I've been waiting for!


I used a yummy vegan chocolate cake recipe that I swear you will love even if you don't have food restrictions!  And since there is no egg you can lick the bowl as much as you want totally guilt-free! 

But seriously, how cute is this sweet little bunny cake?  It's not perfect but I can tell you there were four kids in my kitchen yesterday afternoon super excited and ready to take a bite!  I wanted to practice before making this to bring to my parent's house on Easter Sunday.  


The food allergies I have to work around have really caused me to change the entire way I look at food.  Obsessively reading food labels will change your life.  I would never have considered making anything from scratch, even box mix felt a bit intimidating.  But knowing and understanding everything that you're putting into your body is such an incredible gift.  And with a few stock items I swear it takes maybe five more minutes than the box stuff. 

Okay, so off my soapbox and on to full disclosure.  I used a tub of pre-made vanilla flavored icing with this cake.  It's full of chemical names I can neither understand nor pronounce.  But it's free of egg and dairy and peanut so on the cake it went.  I want to spend some time trying out various homemade recipes for this type of cake icing soon to replace this component as well.  I'll keep you posted on my progress!  But until then, use that cake mix and tub of icing if that's your thing.  No judgement here!


Chocolate Bunny Cake (Vegan, Egg-free, dairy-free, peanut-free)
1 1/4 cup of flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup of cocoa powder
1 tsp of baking soda
1/2 tsp of salt
1 cup of warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
1 tsp distilled vinegar (white or apple cider)

Mix all of the dry ingredients (using a sift) directly into a round 8x8 baking dish and then mix in the wet ingredients. Whisk until smooth and creamy.

 Bake at 350' for about 30 minutes.

Place on a cooling rack and allow to fully cool.  Cut the cake in half and squirt some icing onto the top of one side. I  used the same icing in a bag technique that I mentioned in my sugar cookies recipe only with a much larger tip.  Place the other side on top and allow to sit as long as you have patience to stand.  I did ten minutes but it could have used more.  The icing will act as glue to help hold it together.  I think placing it in the refrigerator at this step could also help to firm things up a bit. 

Next, get out your cake stand and squirt another thick line down the center and place the sandwiched cake halves on their side right on top of that line.  I then went back and piped another thick line of icing right down the back of the bunny to help keep the two halves together.  Then I ran a line down the perimeter of everything creating a big giant white icing outline.  Let this sit for another few minutes.  I then cut out a little section of the top to create a neck of sorts for the bunny.  I used the technique demonstrated by Jenny of Everyday Occasions.  Then just start icing the rest of the cake like your normally do.  I didn't worry too much about being too smooth since a few swirls look like fur!

For the ears, I just out the shape from some computer paper and used the kids watercolors to pain on the middle pink.  I mixed a bit of red food coloring and water and dipped a little marshmallow in that to get a pink nose.


I think it's just adorable.  Once I find a good yellow or white vegan cake recipe I'll probably switch to that.  Maybe I'll get spirited and find one by next week.  I had to use a tooth pick to get out sections of dark brown cake that mixed in with the icing because they were popping up when I applied the icing and that annoyed me.  You can still see through the icing to some darker spots but that doesn't bother me.  Either way, I can't wait to make this again for Easter Sunday!  I know all the littles in my family will just love it!

March 25, 2015

Work Dress by MBMJ + Family Attractions in Pittsburgh

We're going to a wedding in a few weeks in Pittsburgh and I've been a little stumped on what to wear.  It's in the middle of April but I've been told the weather will feel more like winter and there might very well be snow on the ground.  It's not black tie but a summer sundress would be inappropriate.  I think I found a top contender in a dress I had previously dubbed more work appropriate.  Love a good outfit that can pull double duty like that though.

Speaking of Pittsburgh, anyone have any suggestions for things to do with kids?  It's a family wedding so they'll be coming with us for the weekend.  We have Friday afternoon and all day Saturday to keep them entertained.  I've been researching the area and the Zoo, Children's Museum, and the Incline all seem like a lot of fun.  Do you have anything else you'd recommend?

They'll happily be staying behind Saturday night with a babysitter.  She's a family friend of my husband's aunt and uncle but we've never used a stranger before so that's a whole other can of worms for me emotionally.  The only people to ever watch the kids are my parents, my in-laws, and my cousin in nursing school.  I never meant for that to be the case, I just really never needed to hire anyone we hadn't met before.  And then with Tagg's allergies escalating it never felt safe to introduce someone new to that scenario.


It's a cotton and silk fit & flare Marc Jacobs dress with a fun graphic black and white pattern like a modern take on gingham.  Once again, it has pockets which is just so awesome that I can hardly wear clothes without them anymore.  I'm 5'9 so the length should work on just about anyone.


The dress is straighter than it appears and has a more generous fit in the middle than you might expect.  I'm sometimes on the fence with dress sizes and originally ordered the larger size.  Thankfully Nordstrom does free shipping even on returns because I had to send it back and size down.  That's always a fun surprise especially when it doesn't cost you anything to fix.

I've selected a few more of my favorites from the Marc by Marc Jacobs line at Nordstrom for you below.  Lots of good workhorses mixed in.



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This post was sponsored by Nordstrom.  All selections and opinions are strictly my own. 

March 24, 2015

Powder Room Progress...Finally

I had four long paragraphs written about painting our powder room.  And it's just primer.  That's ridiculous so I went back and deleted it all and figured I would save you the drama and just let you see for yourself how I have finally finished priming our downstairs hall bath.  hallelujah.  The before and after is striking so I'll just let you take it all in for a minute and enjoy the impact along with me this morning.


In that first long and wordy post I had ready for you I talked about all that still needs to be done but you can see for yourself what's on that to-do list.  It's way more fun to keep the light at the end of the tunnel burning with some pretty inspiration pictures so let's just jump on it to that!


 I can't even believe my bathroom could possibly resemble one of these when we're done.  But this morning I'm feeling optimistic.  We are so much closer!  Of course there is always the option of doing something crazy and bold instead of the more simple spaces above.


 At this point I can honestly say I have no idea which way I'll go.  I'm guessing there might be a two phase project in the works.  Something along the lines of the first three powder rooms for phase one.  Get that mess painted and cleaned up and something simple on the windows.  Phase two: new sink, new floors and consider a pretty paper for the walls.  I just love them all!

March 23, 2015

Meal Planning Made Simple: Week 24

Happy Monday everyone!  I know I'm probably feeling more relaxed than I usually do at the start of a new week. After a whole weekend at home with just my husband I can honestly say I feel refreshed and ready for today! There is seriously nothing like enjoying your home and your "normal" routine without your kids every once in a while.  Of course Matthew and I had an awesome time going to celebrate our Anniversary.  Yummy food we neither cooked nor cleaned up and uninterrupted conversation.  I couldn't ask for more.

On Saturday morning I tried to sleep in but that's just not in the cards for me anymore I think.  But I was downstairs laying on the sofa drinking a cappuccino and catching up on Grey's Anatomy and Nashville for at least two hours before Matthew got up.  HEAVEN.  Anyone else still watching Grey's? Can we talk about the Derek+Meredith plot line?  Is history repeating itself?  Ahh!  I can't believe this might be going full circle.  And how crazy am I that I kind of want it to?  It's been so boring for so long and this really made me want to tune back in on Thursday.  Does it even still air on Thursdays?  I watch everything but Bravo onDemand.  And I'm loving Nashville. 

And now on to some yummy meals for y'all.  Hopefully you'll find at least one or two that you can make for your family this week!


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March 20, 2015

Spring Dresses

Happy Friday!  Matthew and I are celebrating our 6th Anniversary on Saturday!  Crazy how the times flies by yet I can't believe all that's happened in six short years.  It's so nice to get this time to focus on each other.  The kids are going to my parents for the weekend and I plan on donning lots of pretty dresses and heels.  For going out to dinner as well as hanging out around the house.  How fun will that be to dress like an actual grown-up in dry-clean only clothes for a few days.

I know with the weather turning warmer and the days getting longer everyone has Spring dresses on their mind!  I found a really fun dress that is both ladylike and a little bit edgy.  Annnnd it's not white jeans or a gray top.  I'm really pushing the envelope on myself here people!

I've learned what cuts are most flattering on my body and I tend to stick those silhouettes.  I love a mid-century slim fit with a nipped in waist and fuller skirt.  Pockets are always a bonus; they hide a cell phone or lip gloss.  It's harder to find a fit and flare style dress in a modern fabric that isn't super short.  I prefer a more modest length but don't want to look too matronly so I was really excited to find this Marc by Marc Jacobs dress.  A pretty good twist on a classic.



The Marc by Marc Jacobs line is anything but boring and is actually more edgy than I typically go but it's fun to take some risks sometimes instead of just sticking to the basics.  The unexpected pastel marbleized fabric reminds me of a fancy Easter Egg.  It has a fun tie-back detail as well.


Check out a few more of my favorite picks from the MBMJ Spring collection at Nordstrom below.  As always, there are lots of great finds!  I also have to note how crazy fast the shipping was for this outfit.  I ordered it on Monday and they noted that only standard shipping was available at checkout with a delivery date by next Wednesday.  It arrived yesterday so I may get to sneak in another wear before Easter.  Holla!




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This post was sponsored by Nordstrom.  All opinions and statements are all my own.



March 19, 2015

Vegan Sugar Cookies

I can't even begin to tell y'all how empowered I felt yesterday afternoon baking these delicious and beautiful cookies.  You know for the few years I have been slowly but surely trying to step up my cooking game but I had never really attempted much baking.  Mostly because the idea of learning to bake didn't interest me and trying to accommodate recipes for two and then still one child with severe food allergies seemed daunting.  Truth be told, pretty pastries look hard y'all.  But armed with the confidence of a a few recipes and the determination to make something special and safe for my little man I dove in head first.  And I think I've found a not only a delicious cookie recipe that is allergy friendly (dairy free, egg free, and peanut free) but I may have just discovered a new passion in the kitchen! 

Vegan Sugar Cookies
(These are peanut-free, dairy-free, and egg-free)



VEGAN SUGAR COOKIES
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup of vegan buttery spread (make sure you use the sticks not the tub) room temperature
1/4 cup vanilla soymilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar

 
 In your electric mixer bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar,  softened vegan butter sticks, 1/4 cup of soy milk, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and beat on medium until combined.  Using a sift, add in flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and cream of tartar until well blended.

Place on a sheet of parchment paper and wrap up.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.



Remove from paper and place on a well floured surface.  Roll with a floured rolling pin until about 1/4 inch thickness.  Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and place on a cookie sheet also covered in parchment paper.

Bake on 375' for 7-9 minutes or until edges are slightly golden brown.  Remove from the cookie sheet and allow to cool on a rack until no longer hot to the touch.  



 VEGAN SUGAR COOKIE ICING
4 cups of powdered sugar
4 tablespoons of vanilla soymilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


I made the whole batch of icing in a mixing bowl and then separated out a portion into two smaller bowls in order to make three different colors.  I dyed one orange using four drops of yellow food coloring and one drop of red.  The other bowl was tinted with three drops of green dye.  Obviously the white for the bunnies didn't need to be tinted at all.

I placed a plastic bag in a clean bowl and spooned my icing in.  I then lifted the bag out, tied a knot, and clipped a tiny hole in the end to create a piping bag.  I did this with all three colors.


Begin icing by tracing an outline of the area you want to fill.  Immediately fill in the center using a zigzag pattern similar to when you use glue.  Careful not to fill in the entire area or you will have incing melting all over the place and running off the cookie.  Use a toothpick to guide the icing and fill in the entire area.  It helps if you ice the cookies while they are still slightly hot.  This technique is a game changer!



 Sit back and admire your work!  Enjoy!  I bought carrot and bunny cookie cutters obviously to practice this recipe in time for Easter.  You could also just roll your dough into a log and slice for round cookies.  I can't wait to start scheming different cookies for the next holiday!  This was just too much fun!

And no, I didn't create this recipe through hours of countless guessing and measuring and science experimenting in the kitchen.  I found it the new-fashioned way, online.  Click here for the original recipe.

March 18, 2015

Thoughts on Blue & White : Love It or Leave It

Over the past year or so I've started to collect blue and white pieces.  Nothing crazy, just a piece here and there.   Yesterday I picked two more ginger jars with lids at an estate like sale.  I can't wait to find them a home!  It sounds like I also got a great deal on them which is awesome!  I honestly didn't really see myself as a blue person but as I look around my house it's evident that I am turning into one.


My mom and her sisters have always been really into blue and white.  Like, really into it.   So is my sister.  I've always been the one that was much more into neutral.  Or pinks and green.  But more and more I find myself gravitating towards all shades of blues.  In small doses, it adds that extra layer to the creams and tans and white and gray I love.  And by adding in just a few accessories around my house, like a planter or ginger jar,  it's really helping to tie in our navy den.  Yes, I painted an entire room navy even though I didn't consider myself that into blue.  Hmmmm.


 I also love how navy or more true blues really elevate the little bit of turquoise I have sprinkled around my house as well.  I've always struggled with one dimensional decorating and this is changing that for the better.  It's really fun how blue and white can swing from traditional to beachy and it's timeless and fresh all at the same time. That is really my style all wrapped up.


Tell me your thoughts on blue and white.  Too traditional?  To predictable?  Too much like your mom's house?  Or do you love it.  Just a few touches here and there or full on blue and white rooms?