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Monday, September 29, 2014

This Week's Menu & Fall Fun with Cousins

We had a fall fun-packed weekend with my Sister and her family in town.  In two and a half days we went to a pumpkin patch, a train station, we stumbled upon a parade, had a craft day at kaleidoscope, ran around in a hotel (since we don't have a house...) and went to the Fall Festival in our neighborhood.  I love this photo of the 5 of us at the pumpkin patch!

Here Emma and Sam are running for the Corn Maze.

And running through the Corn Maze.  Pink cowgirl boots, of course.


Emma in the tunnel, 2014, age 2

Kate in the tunnel, 2014, age 1

Flashback : Sam in a tunnel 3 years ago, 2011, age 1
*You might remember my post of Sam in a similar tunnel at a pumpkin patch and some Halloween gifts I made for friends - 3 years ago!

I love this photo from our neighborhood fall festival - Emma's 2nd horse ride of the weekend.  One of our friends took this photo of her daughter and caught Emma and me in the background : )

After being in survival mode for the last couple of weeks - packing, moving, unpacking, hosting family - we are settling into our new routine.  I still have some organizing to do this afternoon so I am no longer digger through boxes to access my work things, but we're feeling a little more settled.  The house is moving right along - the digging starts today!  I'm headed over this afternoon to look at the progress before I pick Emma up from school.  I'm a little cautious of exposing her to too much of the ugly part of the construction, because I don't want her to be worried about her house being torn apart.  I'll take her there more when the fun, building part of the process begins.

Here is my dinner plan for the week... I'm not really sure what order they will happen!

French Onion Soup & Salad

This is Emma's favorite soup... who would've guessed?!  I have to say it is one of mine, too.  I'll be making a really yummy salad with greens, chopped egg, bacon and veggies with buttermilk garlic dressing, too.

Roasted Beat & Vegetable Salad with Goat Cheese & Chicken

This will be a new recipe - sort of like the one pictured, but more of a salad, without olives or rosemary... so verry different, I guess.  My plan is to roast beets, carrots and brussel sprouts, along with chicken breasts.  Then cut into large pieces, toss with arugula and lemon shallot vinaigrette and add goat cheese.

Meatball Lasagna

If this doesn't happen on Wednesday, it will happen on Sunday.

Braised Short Ribs

A popular one!  Again, this might happen Sunday instead, we'll see how the week goes.  Sometimes by Thursday we are having Chinese takeout : )

Friday, September 26, 2014

Chestnut & Fig Candle | Autumn Sugar Cookies with Simple Butter Icing

Chestnut & Fig Candles and Acorn Copper Cookie Cutters are back!

Last year for Thanksgiving I offered this candle, Chestnut & Fig ($12.50-18.00), and I've been getting requests for it ever since.  This year I'm bringing it out a little early because it is the perfect Fall harvest scent - toasted chestnut, orange oil, clove, oak, cedar & fig.  The wax is tinted in a warm, butternut hue that is the perfect compliment to the harvest essential oils.

I've also created an accompanying Dish Soap ($8) in the same scent and coordinating creamy butternut color.  As all of you know, I love everyday luxuries - just little things that make normal day-to-day a little more special.  One of the things I look forward to doing every season is finding a dish soap that is perfectly suited for the time of year.  For this season, I've added a touch of the Chestnut & Fig harvest blend of essential oils to even make washing dishes seem like a fallish activity. 

On another store note, the very popular Acorn Copper Cookie Cutter is back in stock... just in time for my step-by-step decorating photos you'll find below.

I'm offering the Chestnut & Fig candles in a Gold Tin and my signature Mini Latte Bowl.  You can find them here.

On to the cookies, and more importantly our new old favorite - Butter Icing.

As promised, I'm sharing some step-by-step photos of how I decorated our Autumn Sugar Cookies this year.  You all know that sugar cookies are a seasonal staple at our house.  For a long time, I only used Royal Icing - especially when I was catering because it hardened nicely for packaging and looked shiny and professional.

Now that our cookies are mostly for eating and giving, I have switched back to my first love - butter icing.  It was what my Mom made when we were little and decorated cookies every Valentine's, Halloween & Christmas.  In the spring, I shared another version of a butter icing that was more of a glaze.  This is a little more buttery.  Not only does it have an amazing creamy flavor, but the butter keeps the cookies soft.  It is hardly a recipe, but here you go : )

Butter Icing

1 stick of butter
1/4 cup of milk
3-4 cups of confectioners sugar

Melt butter and milk together in the microwave.  Stir in confectioners sugar.  Add more milk to thin, or more confectioners sugar to thicken.

Here are our Acorn cookies ready for decorating.

Start with the tops - I used a dark green, but you can use the same color as the body of the acorn, too.

And, here I sort of skipped a step - do the Chocolate Sprinkles on the still wet tops, then fill in with the light brown on the bottom and stem.  I've packaged the Chocolate Sprinkles ($10) in my Large Glass Spice Jars, just as I have done for my other sugars and sprinkles.

For the pumpkin, I try to make the spreading lines follow that of a pumpkin to give it some natural looking texture.

The leaves are simple - I used a gold color, then piped on the same brown I used for the Acorns.

We invited some of Emma's friends over for cookie decorating in the afternoon, so we spent the morning rolling, cutting and and baking.

I set up the table for their decorating station.  I laid out parchment paper sheets to give them a work surface, and had all of the icings ready to go in bags for easy decorating and clean up.

Emma had to do a couple of samples before her friends arrived.

And taste a couple of samples.

You might remember her signature squiggle pile of icing from her birthday party!

So, are you a royal icing fan or a butter icing?  Our local bakery does a really soft and creamy cream cheese frosting on their sugar cookies... I think I'll have to try to recreate those too.  Hope you are all enjoying some beautiful mild weather.  We're heading to the pumpkin patch this morning with Emma's "Best Cousins" Sam and Kate.  Happy early weekend!  Let the Fall festivities begin : )


Products Featured :

Chestnut & Fig Candle ($12.50-18.00)
Chestnut & Fig Dish Soap ($8)
Autumn Copper Cookie Cutters $15
Chocolate Sprinkles $10
Parchment Paper Sheets $8
Disposable Pastry Bags $12.50
Cookie Boxes $10.50
Acorn Tags $6
Orange Linen Tea Towels 2 for $24

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Toffee Topped Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

In an effort to be 100% transparent, I used a cake mix to make these cupcakes.  I think it was a Duncan Hines Spice Cake Mix, to be exact.  If you have read this blog for a while, you know that I'm not afraid of or embarrassed by a cake mix.  I use them all of the time for shortcuts - especially when I'm making cupcakes.  Maybe it is just me, but I think that homemade cupcake batter can be a little finicky... it can roll over the sides, it can deflate, etc., and I wanted these to look just perfect in my new Gold Striped Cupcake Papers.  And it was easy.  I was really in the mood for a Fall-ish spice cake topped with creamy, cream cheese frosting and these were everything (and more!) than I had hoped.

People tend to not think about texture as much as they should.  I had a gourmet ice cream sundae at a fancy restaurant this summer, and the combination of textures was unbelievable.  I can still taste (feel it?) right now.  This cupcake combination of creamy frosting, moist cake and crunchy toffee has the same effect - in a very fall way.

Aren't these little Acorn Folded Tags so sweet?  I've been using them all month - attached to gifts as cards, as display signs (like this) and as place cards.

Even though I used a mix, I thought I should provide you with some sort of recipe if you want to make some from scratch.  Here is my favorite, very dense and delicious spice cake recipe.  If you are making them from a box like me, just follow the baking directions and the frosting instructions.  Enjoy!

Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Toffee
makes about 12 cupcakes

1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
2 eggs
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons of melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
4 ounces of cream cheese (1/2 block), room temperature
1 stick of butter
2 cups of powdered sugar (or more)
toffee candies (I used Werther's Original, which are caramel candies), chopped

In a mixer, combine sugar, flour, baking powder, soda, salt and spices.  Stir to combine.  Add egg, milk, melted butter and vanilla.  Mix on low until combined.  Beat for 1 minute on medium high. 

Scoop into cupcake papers, I used Gold Striped Papers ($6.50) for a little festive touch.  

Bake at 350 for 13-15 minutes, until tester comes out clean, or cupcakes spring back to touch.  

Because I used a box mix, I had enough to make 12 cupcakes and some loaf-style cakes, too, in my Kraft Loaf Pans for gifts.

For cream cheese frosting, combine cream cheese and butter in a mixer until blended together.  Add powdered sugar and mix for 3 minutes on low.  Frost using an 18" Piping Bag with the tip cut off.   I did a basic, easy swirl - you can just scrape it off and start over if you need some practice.  I try not to do toooo much frosting, just a good ratio.  

I used Werther's Original caramel candies, because my grocery store didn't have toffee, except with milk chocolate.  So, I just chopped up the candies with my knife - it worked great.  

These were so tasty and perfect for breakfast, I mean an afternoon snack with coffee.  What are your favorite Fall desserts?  The next on my list is soft pumpkin spice pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies with a cream cheese butter icing.  That will have to wait until next week... when I can find my rolling pin!

Products Used :

Orange Linen Tea Towel, 2 for $24
Gold Striped Cupcake Papers, 100 for $6.50
Kraft Loaf Pan, 10 for $12.50
Disposable Pastry Bags, 20 for $14.50
Acorn Folded Card, 10 for $6

Monday, September 22, 2014

Here We Go | House Project Week #1 | Demo Day

Here we go!

Whew!  After moving into this house almost two years ago, we are finally starting our project - officially, for real.  We spent the last three days packing it up and emptying it out.  That little sentence was short and sweet and hardly does justice to the physical labor that we, ok, mostly Mike ; ) endured.  As of midnight - it was ready.   We had a moment last night before we left, remembering being in the same empty house two years ago, painting the walls around midnight on a very similar September night dreaming of the possibilities of what we could do - some day.

It has taken the entire two years we have lived there to get our project started - from architectural delays, city reviews, finding the perfect contractor, we have finally made it.  It still doesn't seem real quite yet - until I arrived this morning and saw the dumpster in the driveway!

Left, photo of our little family just after moving in... and a visit to the pumpkin patch.  Look at that sweet Emma : )

The "site prep" team is there this morning getting everything dismantled and outta there.  Since most of the front of the house stays intact, they were carefully taking off doors, marking and labeling everything that will get reused.  

I am so glad that we are planning to use everything we can from the original house - we've been careful to not be too wasteful or have too much debris from our project.  While we were packing, we made a big effort to have a huge donation pile, a big recycling pile and a small trash pile.  Anything that is salvageable from the house (cabinets, mantles, lumber, etc.) will be donated to charity home stores.  The appliances will be saved for the new kitchen.  I am so glad to see that mantle go!

It wasn't original to the house and really wasn't my style... or the mauve faux stone tile that surrounded it that I painted white.  Also, gone now.  Goodbye!

Here is Emma at 10 months, 2 years ago right after we moved in.  You can find the house tour photos from that day, here.  In that post, I talk a lot about what we hope to do with the house - it is so exciting to actually see it beginning to happen today.

One a sad note, we had to take down a tree that was planted too closely to the curb and to make room for the new driveway.  I really hated to take it down - such a hard process.  We will be sure to replant several in the spring when we start our landscaping.  The good news is that Doug, our tree man, said that moving the current driveway off of our big giant oak tree will really help it in future... so there is some good news.  

He and his crew did an amazing job of taking it down and leaving the yard in great shape.  It was so impressive how fast they were!  Emma and I watched out the window and talked about what trees we would plant in the spring.  

I highly recommend there service to anyone in the area - Durbin Tree Service, (816) 356-1861.  He is one of Mike's parents' friends and was so helpful and knowledgable during the decision making process.  He recommended trees that we can replace it with and the proper areas they should be planted.

I have been so good about posting a weekly menu for the last month+ and today I'm dropping the ball.  Because I hardly have our toothbrushes unpacked (ok, I do have those unpacked, but that is about it...) the only thing I have planned for the week is tonight's roasted chicken (again) but with roasted root vegetables.   I think I might do carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and red onions roasted then tossed in a lemon thyme vinaigrette.   I will share the recipe later this week - along with those Spiced Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting & Toffee from last week.  

I hope you all are having a great monday morning.  We're spending the next 6 months at Mike's parents' house - they are so kind to have us.  I love their home.  It is so warm, cozy and with big generous rooms.  His Mom has done such a great job decorating it - I'll definitely share photos in the next couple of weeks to give you a visual of where we'll be.  I'll wait until she has her Fallizing done - no one does Fallizing like Joy Hobick! 

Happy Monday,

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