Charlie Plays Model

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Steve has been encouraging me to start taking more pictures and get familiar with using a fancy camera. So he given me a fancy camera to play around with. Which basically means I move the dials around and around and hope that whatever I take looks somewhat decent. Super technical, huh?

Charlie seemed rather confused to see me and not Steve behind the camera, so he wiggled around and wouldn't sit still. Usually he's a much better model, but I had to use a lot of persuasion to get him to finally sit.

I did manage to get this great shot of Charlie and his friend Kang. Charlie has had Kang since February and so far has only made a few minor "modifications" to the top of Kang's head. In Charlie world, this is a vast improvement over his usual playing. Most fun toys don't make it a month in our house.

I don't plan on quitting my day job any time soon, but it's nice to have pictures that look better than what comes out of my point and shoot.

Honey Lavender Caramel & A Guessing Game

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The other weekend I had a container of heavy cream that needed to be used. I also had some dried culinary lavender just sitting around. So, voila! I decided to make some caramels and found this recipe for honey lavender caramel.

I've never made caramels before, I but I figured it was pretty straightforward. My favorite part was steeping the milk, heavy cream and lavender. It smelled absolutely amazing. It also looked gorgeous...I don't think my picture does it justice, but on the flip side, I don't consider myself a photographer.

I don't have any pictures of me making the actual caramel, as it's a hot and sticky process - no place for a camera. Things were going pretty well, though, as I waited around for the mixture to reach 240° F. Once it hit that point, I was to stir furiously until it reached 248° F.

Needless to say, things got interesting when the digital readout on my candy thermometer went insane. It started flashing, displaying wacky temps and then no temps. At that point, it was at about 230° F so I knew I was close but exactly how close? No clue. I decided to stir and stir and then pull the caramel off the heat and add the vanilla extract and salt, per the instructions.

I then poured the caramel into my prepared pan. Take a look at the color of my caramel. Now take a look at the picture on The Gilded Fork's post. Hmm. Obviously mine was on the heat for a wee bit longer than theirs. In any event, I popped it into the fridge to firm up.

After an hour or so, I took the caramel out of the fridge and flipped it onto a cutting board. I started trying to cut it and it was IMPOSSIBLE. It actually cracked right in half. I assumed at that point I had royally screwed up the caramel. However, once it had warmed up to room temperature, it was much easier to slice right through.

So, I ended up with quite the collection of randomly shaped caramels (precision is not a strong point of mine). Also, there were a lot more than what you see in the picture below...I had to keep on "testing" the caramels to make sure they were edible for others.

The lavender was very, very subtle. If I didn't tell you they were honey lavender caramels, you probably wouldn't pick up on the lavender. But once you knew, you could definitely taste just a hint of lavender. I think, though, that if you try and make these and your thermometer doesn't die in the middle of the process, the end result might be better in both appearance and taste.

All-in-all this was a fun process. I made something new, I didn't end up with caramel spilled all over my kitchen, and Steve and I (and friends!) were able to devour a ton of caramel goodness.

Honey Lavender Caramels

Recipe from The Gilded Fork

Yields about 6 dozen 1-inch square caramels

1 cup milk (note: I used skim milk because that's all I had)1 ½ cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons dried lavender buds
¾ cup unsalted butter
¾ cup honey
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt

9 inch square pan or an 11×7 in rectangular pan
A large pot that holds at least 4 quarts
Candy thermometer (note: make sure yours works!)

Prepare your pan by greasing it with butter then lining the bottom with wax or parchment paper.

Place the milk, heavy cream and lavender buds in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once the liquid comes to a boil, turn off the heat and let the lavender steep for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, reserving the liquid. You may now discard the lavender. Measure the liquid; you should now have approximately 2 cups.

Combine all of the ingredients except the vanilla and salt in a deep saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture comes to a full boil. Using a pastry brush, brush down any sugar that has crept up the sides of the pan. When the mixture reads 240° F on the candy thermometer, begin stirring constantly until it registers 248° F, about 20 minutes total.

Immediately remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and the salt, and pour into the prepared baking pan. Cool the mixture completely until it is firm, at least 1-2 hours in the refrigerator. Invert the caramel onto a cutting board and turn glossy side up. Cut into 1 inch squares and store in an airtight container between layers of parchment paper. (Note: you may need to let the caramel come to room temperature in order to cut the caramel without having it crack into pieces).

Happy feet, happy me

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I've heard the phrase thrown around "Happy wife, happy life." I much more of a fan of "Happy feet, happy me." I guess that's why they call me Mrs. Stiletto.

Anyway, last summer I was on a hunt for nude pumps. I ended up buying a pair that I like and I've gotten a lot of wear out of them. They're pretty basic: rounded toe, medium heel height, go with everything. Fine, fine, fine.

This past weekend I was hunting furiously for a fun dress to wear out while in New York at the end of the month. I came across this gorgeous beauty from J. Crew and swooned so hard, I bought it immediately. Keep in mind that it's non-returnable and I had to completely guess on the size, since I don't shop at J. Crew very often. However, when I do shop at J. Crew I've been known to buy things on a hope and prayer that they'll fit.

This frock is currently with Mr. UPS on its way to me, but I'll keep you posted on just how fabulous it is in person. And, if it doesn't fit, I'll either be eating a lot or working out like crazy over the next two weeks.

So where was I? Ah yes, nude pumps. So after I bought the dress, I decided I needed some new shoes to go with it. Obviously. And they needed to have a bit of a vintage feel to go with the dress. Not finding what I wanted (more specifically, not finding what I wanted within budget), I checked out that blog post from last summer and remembered how much I loved the Daniblack "Jacky" with the sweet scallops. But I didn't love them enough at the $130 price tag.

One quick Google search later, I found that they were still listed on every web site at $130 except for, which always has fabulous deals! My eyes bugged out when I saw $46.74 plus shipping, available in my size. All I had to do was click a few buttons and these babies were mine.

Have you picked yourself up off the floor yet? If you have, get thee to and find yourself a swoon-worthy bargain*.

I bought these immediately on Saturday night (yes, this is what I did on Saturday night, don't judge) and now it's Tuesday afternoon and these babies just arrived and have found a loving home on my feet. The fit is amazing, they're incredibly comfortable, and they're a little bit sweet and a little bit sassy.

Say it with me this time: happy feet, happy me!

*Please note: did not sponsor this post in any way, shape or form. They just continue to amaze me with their super fantastic deals.

"No Eggs, No Problem" Cupcakes

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Last weekend for the 4th of July, I made a flag cake like I made last year to take to a party. Once again, the flag cake was a big hit! The cake is frosted with white chocolate buttercream, which is super yummy. Since I had some frosting leftover, I promised Steve I'd make him some cupcakes.

I started planning what I was going to make and was just about to start when I realized we were out of eggs. Trying to figure out if we were going to borrow some eggs from the neighbors or just forgo the idea of cupcakes completely, I realized we had everything we needed for some fabulous cupcakes.

A couple of years ago I had made these chocolate cupcakes. With no eggs or butter, I'm guessing these would be considered vegan, although I'm no expert on the subject. Since we had a box of Thin Mints sitting in the freezer (one of the perks of my job!), I crushed a few up and added them to the batter. At that point, these were officially not vegan! I frosted them with the white chocolate buttercream and garnished with a Thin Mint.

So, no eggs? No problem!

{Photo by Steve Koo}

Egg & Dairy Free Chocolate Cupcakes

from The Repressed Pastry Chef

3 cups flour
2/3 cups Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder (or brand of choice)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups cold water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon (pepper)mint extract
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350F

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt together. In a separate bowl whisk together the water, vegetable oil, vanilla extract, mint extract and vinegar.

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1/3 of the dry ingredients with 1/2 of the wet ingredients. After the mixture is thoroughly combined, add half of the remaining dry ingredients with the remaining wet ingredients. Combine thoroughly. Lastly add in the remaining dry ingredients.

Once the mixture is thoroughly combined, continue to mix for another 2-3 minutes. Pour into cupcake liners. Tap the pan against the counter to break any air bubbles that exist.

Bake for 20 minutes (cupcakes) or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool in pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Note: This recipe makes a very large quantity. I made a 1/3 batch and yielded 8 large cupcakes.

Better than a mug shot?

Friday, July 1, 2011

My work's office is moving over the weekend...which means out with the old work ID and in with the new.

I will no longer be walking around with an angry mug shot on my key chain. Why the sour face, you ask? Well, when the (not so) nice man in the building office took my picture for my ID on one of my first days on the job, he told me he would count to three.




Oh yes. He took the picture on two. Who does that to a woman?! I was completely unprepared. Right after two I was going to tilt my chin down and pretend I was happy. And, in keeping with my personality, I kept my mouth shut instead of asking for a re-do.

So, for the past year and a half, I've been unhappily carrying around an awful picture, trying to keep it hidden from public view as much as possible (if you think I'm joking, I'm not). However, for the purposes of blogging and the hope for better IDs the world over, I decided I must share the consequences of not counting to three. Be prepared people, be prepared.

For my new ID, I was prepared with my chin tilt and smile, and I think it shows. I mean, this new photo has to be better than the mug shot. Right?! Right.

Happy Fourth, everyone!