Things I Love Thursday: Birthday Crushes

gilded_arrow_bangleMy birthday is coming up next week, so I thought it would be fun to use this week’s TILT post to show you some things I’m crushing on right now.  Plus, what’s more fun than putting together a dream wish list?

Right now I seem to be all about bracelets.  There’s such a fun selection of bangles available right now, probably due largely to the “arm party” trend.  And I’m so happy to see gold making a comeback.  I absolutely adore the arrow bracelet from Stella & Dot.  There’s just something so simple about it.  Makes me think of Katniss, Cupid, and my imagined alter ego who excels at archery.

My wishlists always seem to have something of the practical side to them too.  Lately, I’ve been keeping a running tally of things I need rather than want – shorts, sandals, bras…basic stuff.  So many things that are falling apart or don’t fit.  One of the things that’s become a bit dire of late is that I’ve completely run out of perfume.  I know – #firstworldproblems – but, I’ve even gone rummaging through my bathroom cabinets in the hopes of finding some of those little freebie tester perfumes.  No dice.  So, a bottle of perfume falls more into a necessity than a pure want, but I had to include it anyway. At the top of my list of perfume wants is Lady Gaga’s Fame.  It’s black, which tickles my little Goth heart so much, and it smells delicious.  It’s described as “Enriched with tears of belladonna, a black veil of incense, and pulverized apricot, this fragrance may cause illicit fits of extravagance, unrivaled rushes of adoration, and prolonged moments of ecstasy and rapture.”  How could I not want this?

Fame

You may recall last year, when I decided that my birthday really needed to be an extravagant, Marie Antoinette-inspired, and fun?  I’m absolutely going to continue that tradition this year.  So, I’m thinking macarons are a must.  Because, why not?  It appears that there are a few bakeries in Dallas that are now offering macarons, so you know I will be scoping them out.

macarons2

I have been seriously wanting a maxi dress for- I don’t know -ever.  I’ve yet to own one and lately my interest has been rekindled by some IG photos of some lovely ladies who purchased this maxi from Target.  It’s a steal at $29.99 and I love it.  The kimono-style sleeves, the chevron print.  Gimme.

Maxi dress

And back to the bracelets.  I’ve been really wanting a mint link bracelet, but since Fall seems to be quickly approaching, this tortoiseshell link bracelet from T+J Designs is killing me.  Gorgeous!Tortoise Chain Bracelet

And you know my continued love affair with all things Kate Spade.  This KSNY Twist and Shout bracelet brings a smile to my face.  It reminds me of my sweet German friend, and of course sharing a pretzel with my darling husband.

Twist and Shout Bangle

I’m also thinking forward to my springtime travel and realizing that I still don’t have a good camera bag.  I’ve been looking at these Kelly Moore bags for a while now, and I really like the look of them.  The B-Hobo bag looks roomy enough to carry what I need plus it has both a zipper and the flap to keep everything inside safe.  I’d like to be able to try one out and see what I think in person, just have to see if someone in town carries them.  But I really adore this mustard color.

Kelly Moore B-Hobo Mustard

The best gift I’m giving myself for my birthday this year – a week of vacation.  I have been working so much this year and such crazy hours that I know I need some time to relax and regroup, plus time with my family.  I intend to do some fun things like going to see the first Mortal Instruments movie with a friend, a fabric shopping day with a friend and maybe catching up on some of my reading or DVR’d shows.

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March in Photos

March in Photos

Something crazy has been going on with my blog and/or WordPress over the past week.  I keep trying to come in and do a new blog post and haven’t been able to!  So, finally here is March in photos.

March was kind of a month of indulgences.  Between the Mozartkugeln from Germany, the yummy homemade pizza, a good book and some nail polish, I was kind of on a roll!  Really, I think a good part of it was a bit of escapism from some stuff that hasn’t been so fun to deal with this month.

One of the best things this month was going to the Dallas Quilt Show with a friend.  I haven’t been to the quilt show in years, and it was such a fabulous day full of inspiration and even a little shopping.  And the inspiration hasn’t left yet.  I’ve been itching to sew!!  Once I finished my Kate Spain quilt in February, I was dying to get back to my Kiss Kiss quilt.  In March, I managed to get all of the cutting finished and also got all of my pieced blocks sewn together.  Next up is starting to assemble the rows.  I can’t wait to see this beauty come together!  And I finished up a hexy pincushion for a friend’s birthday and sent it on its way.  And a beautiful little thank you card came in the mail for the birthday gift I’d sent to another friend last month.  Isn’t that little bird with the blue and white bowls adorable?

Some days it really started to feel like Spring, and the trees were blooming with glorious color.  But we keep getting days of temps dipping back into the 30s and 40s, so I indulged in a little Mexican hot chocolate in the evening.

In family life, my boys are getting so big!  They are a year old and we are feeling so fortunate to have them in our lives.  Their daily shenanigans really keep us on our toes!!  In June it will mark one year that we’ve had them, which I find hard to believe!!

As always, I appreciate you stopping by!  I’m really enjoying sharing some of what’s going on in my world here.

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Honoring Her

Easter never used to be more than a holiday for me.  As I mentioned in my last post, over the past few years it has been made more special by spending our honeymoon in Rome for Easter.  Eric’s love of family and traditions has also changed my perception of it, and we celebrate with a special meal and his special cake.  But, this year things seemed to all fall into place to change me at some deep level, to focus on the true meaning of the days leading up to Easter.

On Good Friday, Eric’s grandmother passed away.  And suddenly, we were faced with mourning this amazing woman who had helped to shape Eric into the man he is today.  The past few years have been so full of loss, but somehow this was different.  In the midst of our sadness and grief, we were presented with the message of Easter and for me at least, it brought some comfort.

While I had intended to make Eric’s special cassata cake for him, because of the tradition his Grandmother started, once we got the news on Friday I knew that making Easter special this year was something we both needed.  When I did my last post and posted the photo of my dining room table decorated for the holiday, it reminded me that other than Christmas, I have done zero holiday decorating in several years.  So, I decided that I wanted to make this Easter as special as possible for both of us.  So, on Saturday, while Eric was gone I dug through my holiday decorations and did a little decorating around the house.  Just a few touches, since I knew it wouldn’t be up for very long.  I was so happy to see our dining room all dressed up for Spring.

I especially love my little glass bunnies.  I think I got them from Williams Sonoma years and years ago.  But, aren’t they cute?

And I’m glad I managed to get a photo of how pretty everything looked before the hoodlums got up on the table and ran off with an egg ornament in their mouths and proceeded to bat them around the house.

After I got the decorating finished, I got started on making the cassata cake.  My recipe reminded me that it’s good to make the pound cake a day ahead so that it is completely cooled before I try to put the filling between the layers and frosting it.

On Sunday morning, I got started on finishing the cake.  I made the filling and popped it in the fridge to chill so that it was easier to spread.  Then I got started on making the whipped cream frosting.  Homemade whipped cream is just the best, isn’t it?  Reminded me of my chocolate bread pudding – I need to make that sometime soon.

Once I had my filling and frosting made, I cut my poundcake into layers and then brushed them with rum.  I have actually forgotten this step before, so this time I made sure that I noted it on my recipe ingredients.

Once I had the cake assembled, into the fridge it went so that the ricotta filling and the whipped cream frosting could set up.  Then it was time to make dinner.  Eric made the fabulous Moroccan lamb burgers we’d agreed on for Easter dinner, from a recipe courtesy of our friends in Rhode Island.  We opened a bottle of Barefoot Moscato for dinner and it was a delicious counterpoint to the spices in the burgers.  Everything was so good!

And after dinner we dove into dessert.  I sprinkled the top of the cake with some semi-sweet chocolate shavings.  I loved the finishing touch it added.

Here’s a little view of the cake once we’d sliced into it.  So so good!  And don’t you love the little bees on the table runner?

It was a beautiful Easter Sunday, made all the more special because I felt like we were honoring Grandma’s life by celebrating with a wonderful meal, a beautiful table, and time with each other.  She will be truly missed.

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Preparing for Easter

Egg Tree
This time of year is always special for Eric and I.  Our wedding anniversary is at the beginning of April and we spent our honeymoon in Rome over that Easter weekend.  It was the first Easter Mass for Pope Benedict XVI.  With this Easter being the first for the newly elected Pope, it brings back some memories for us.  Eric and I have also been watching The Bible on The History Channel, and it’s been an excellent conversation topic for us in these weeks leading up to Passover and Easter.

I haven’t been very inspired to do any holiday decorating around the house since Christmas, and the two boys with their kitten antics make me think twice about what I put out.  But, after looking through some old photos, I found the one above of our Easter table and decided I would really like to have a special table setting for our Easter dinner.

And one of the traditions that we have is  preparing a special Italian cake for Easter.  Eric’s grandmother used to bring a cassata cake from the Italian bakery for Easter every year when he was growing up.  When Eric and I got married, I decided that I wanted to recreate this cake from Eric’s past for him.  Not as easy as it sounds.  Cassata cake, I’ve found, can be interpreted in several different ways.  So, over a series of Easters and birthdays, I tried out a number of recipes.

One of the first I tried was for a Sicilian cake that seemed to be similar to a cassata cake.

It was a two layer sponge cake with ladyfingers around the edges, and topped with walnuts, chocolate chips and candied cherries.  Pretty good, but not anywhere close to Eric’s memories.  Plus, with the ladyfingers and the topping, it was a rather labor intensive cake to make.

So, we refined our definition of what he remembered and I ended up cobbling several recipes together to try for my next attempt.  Eric had told me that the cake of his dreams was a loaf cake, like a pound cake.  So, I took a Martha Stewart pound cake recipe and started with that.

Notice the yummy vanilla that Eric’s mom brought us from Mexico?  Love that stuff!  Anyway, the Martha recipe was a total bust.  There was so much butter in this batter that when it was cooking, you could see the cake swimming in a sea of butter.  I’m all for butter, but this was ridiculous.  And the cake itself was not soft and moist, but surprisingly crunchy.

Eric also remembered that the filling between the layers was a lot like cannoli filling.  So, I borrowed a recipe for cannoli filling (ricotta, chocolate chips, etc.).  That, at least, was pretty straightforward.  I used the mini chocolate chips and mixed them in with the ricotta filling.

And then we got to the frosting for the cake.  Eric said it was pretty close to the frosting his mom uses on his usual birthday cake, which is a whipped cream frosting (icing?).  I hit her up again for her recipe and this also was pretty straightforward.  I think it’s just heavy cream, sugar, cream of tartar.  And it makes a ton!

And the final product Eric deemed pretty darn close to his memory.  So, I made several notes, including a note to self to try a different pound cake recipe because the Martha recipe was a big yuck.

And when I made that very first Sicilian cake, it called for brushing the layers of spongecake with rum.  So I added that in this attempt as well.  It adds a little extra depth of flavor in the cake.

I’ve made the cake a couple more times since this initial try and refined it over the last few years.  I’ve changed to a pound cake recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, which is very good.  And I’ve started making the cake itself the day before, and it makes it a little easier to assemble the next day.  I’ve also cut the filling and frosting recipes in half, because I seriously ended up with enough for a second cake.  I’ll be making cassata cake for Easter Sunday this weekend, and I’m looking forward to it since I haven’t made it in a while.  I’ll be sure to share how it turns out!

We’re also planning on having our Moroccan Lamb Burgers on Easter as well, because Eric knows that’s about the only way I will eat lamb.  So, I’m looking forward to those – something else we haven’t had in awhile.  Sounds like I’ll have a busy next few days getting everything ready for Easter, but I’m looking forward to it.  And as always, it’s such a special time for us as a precursor to our anniversary, so it deserves to be done right!

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First Days of Spring

Oscar Red Carpet
With the first day of Spring this week, my thoughts turn to clear sunny days and soft colors.  Although this morning is full of thunderstorms and chilly winds.  But, I can indulge in my little piece of Spring right here!  Lately I’ve been catching up on my DVR’d shows, which includes several hours of Red Carpet watching.  Seems the days are gone when I can actually watch things live.  But, what surprised me about this year’s Oscar Red Carpet was the overall softness of the colors.  There were very few bright colors, particularly the emerald green I was expecting to see everywhere.   But there was no lack of gorgeous dresses to choose from, as you can see above.  One of my favorites was Jessica Chastain in that amazing coppery beaded Armani Prive gown.  So many subtle shades.

And Chanel has released their lovely Spring collection of nail lacquers, Printemps Precieux.  You know I normally go in for the dark, vampy colors like Accessoire, but I’m really drawn to Emprise, which is a rosy beige.  Perfect almost nude nail that would go perfectly with a brighter wardobe.  And Fracas, who can resist a pretty, bright pink?  This one will most definitely transition into the summer months.

Chanel Spring 2013
Even Starbucks is celebrating Spring in Japan with their new Sakura line. It even includes cherry blossom macarons (which you know I can’t resist).  It’s too bad that this lovely pink deliciousness won’t be available in the States, but from what I hear the taste (not cherry at all) might not translate to the American palate.  But what fun a pink latte would be (as long as it’s not strawberry, since I’m allergic!).

starbucks-japan-sakura-drinks-2013
And I saw a photo on Instagram the other day of the new Coach handbags in Mint.  I can’t resist, such a gorgeous color for Spring.  Too too tempting. Alas, I am on a new handbag hiatus, so no Coach bag for me. But look at those fun tassels too.  Gah!

Coach Bag in Mint
I did have to indulge in my own version of that luxurious mint color though. How do you like my Essie Mint Candy Apple mani this week?  Perfect, huh?  Such a fun color.  I’ve really enjoyed wearing it.

Mint Candy Apple
And how can I resist anything in a bright pretty yellow?  (I can’t) Of course, the J Crew bubble necklaces are almost everywhere these days, but I just love it in yellow.  A fun bright pop of color against a subtle colored top?  Love.  It.

Bubble Necklace

What’s bringing thoughts of Spring to you this week?

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February in Pictures

February Mosiac

I can hardly believe another month has come and gone.  February was a rough month for me.  It marked the one-year mark of losing my dad.  It still feels fresh, and he was on my mind a lot this month.  Work was also very intense this month, but I did manage to take a couple of days off in order to have a long weekend at the beginning of the month.  And while January is always very peaceful and quiet, full of new potential…February for me is the first burst of color and seeing progress on new projects.

This February I found myself drawn to pretty spring colors, visually feasting on dreams of Paris and macarons.  I found time on my days off to finish some crafty projects – one a gift for a friend and one a quilt I’d started two Thanksgivings ago.  It feels so good to be able to focus on some fun things I wanted to do.  And it seemed that Lana Del Rey’s music was my personal soundtrack throughout the month (still is – I can’t get enough of it).

Eric and I celebrated Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras with a King Cake and dinner out.  It’s been several years since I made a King Cake (this one was bought)…maybe next year?  I managed to spend an afternoon with a good friend (much-needed girl time) and wrapped up the month with a very delicious work dinner.

Despite the memories February brought with it, and despite the craziness at work, it was a good month and I’m so pleased to have been so productive and even steal a little time for myself!

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January in Pictures

January 2013

For 2013 I thought it would be fun to start a new tradition at the end of each month and share some photos from the previous month – just as a little look back into my days.

January was definitely a month for refocusing and it seemed to spark my creativity too, since I spent a lot of time working on some crafty projects.  I took a day off work at the beginning of the month to spend with Eric and my niece and go see the Trains at Northpark.  We, of course, had to stop for gelato.  Work has been extra difficult this month, so there were several nights I came home in need of comfort food – like the grilled cheese sandwich Eric made for me.  I did try to take time for myself though, by leaving early one Friday afternoon and going to the quilt shop to pick up my Hex on the Beach kit and a few fabrics I fell in love with.  And we even had snow!  Last Saturday morning I had a couple of hours to kill between my hair appointment and my eyebrow appointment, and I spent that time curled up in a comfy chair, sipping Starbucks and reading.  Decadent!

My last mani of the month was the perfect transition into February – Essie All Tied Up with an accent nail of OPI Berry Berry Broadway.

Looking forward to seeing what February brings!

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A Birthday in Photos

Disco Bicuit mani

An amazing dinner with Eric at Ziziki’s.  I wore a pretty dress.

Pink Pankcakes

A gift of vintage coupe glasses from J.

Starting a new quilt

Afternoon at the movies with Eric seeing Snow White & The Huntsman

Toasting with Rose Regale

Birthday cupcakes from the girls (day of laughter included)

Teal and red earrings made just for me by A.

And also from A. – A Bundt!

It was a fantastic birthday – the best I remember.  I’ll have to remember to take my own advice next year.

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Things I Love Thursday: Getting Together

This past weekend I was invited to a local get together and I got to catch up with a couple of friends, meet a few in person that I’d only talked to online and also be introduced to some others for the very first time.  Nerve-wracking to be sure.  But, I was so completely honored to have been invited and so glad that I was able to go.  We had a couple of ladies from Canada, one from California, two from Nashville, and so on.

I had a fantastic time and there was so much amazing food (see the Pavlova our hostess made above – photo courtesy of one of the other attendees).  We had some planned shopping outings as well as dinner out each night.  I mostly behaved myself on the shopping!  But, as you can see on my previous post, I had lots of inspiration going on, so there will probably be polish shopping and swatching going on here soon!

It really is so amazing to get together with women who share the same interests and be able to share, laugh, support and inspire each other.  And I loved floating between conversations and also sitting still and just listening to the flow go on around me.

So, that’s what I’m loving this week – getting together and enjoying the company of other women.

And I thought I’d spend a few minutes and list some other things I’m grateful for this week:

  • Pretty polish on my nails
  • Coca Cola in a bottle (Mexican Coke!)
  • Listening to A Little Crazy on my iPod that I’d forgotten was on there
  • Meeting someone that was so helpful and kind to my dad
  • Ramses and Thutmose sleeping with us at night
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Six

Our anniversary fell on the same day as Easter this year, which is always kind of fun.  It makes me think of spending Easter in Rome on our honeymoon.  Eric bought me a beautiful bouquet of roses.  Even though he does it every year, it still surprises me and makes me feel so special.  And I love the white roses especially, since he works so hard to get them.

Each year I try to follow the list of traditional anniversary gifts as a guide for what to do for my sweet husband.  For the six anniversary, the tradition is sugar or iron.  I came up with the perfect idea.  I called up the bakery that made our wedding cake and ordered a small anniversary cake.

We had an Italian Cream cake with buttercream frosting.  It was exactly what I wanted!  I asked them to make it look like a wedding cake top and they did a fantastic job!  It turned out so pretty!

I was excited when I picked it up and brought it home to give my gift to Eric.  So much fun.  And he loved the surprise (of course it’s cake, so what’s not to love?!).  We decided to save cutting into it until after our special dinner.  We planned to go to dinner on Saturday night, and he took me to Ziziki’s (also where we went for my birthday), and it was fabulous as usual.

After dinner we came home and cut into our cake.  Eric decided that it warranted a cup of espresso too.  So, out came the espresso maker.

The cake was just as delicious as I remember it and I’m so glad that we were able to enjoy it for our anniversary.  On Easter Sunday, we exchanged cards and had a lovely, relaxing day.

It’s hard to believe it’s been six years!  I’m looking forward to the next six and seeing what new adventures unfold for us.  Plus, I’m hoping so see our wedding vase filled with a single white rose for many years to come.

 

 

 

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