Thursday, March 31, 2011

devil's food (birthday) cake with whipped ganache

yes, for my birthday i made my own cake. yes, it took hours out of my day - but you know what? that's okay. i enjoy cooking and baking and i couldn't ask anyone else to spend hours making me this cake, so - i opted to do it myself.

my cake did not look nearly as beautiful when cut (or when not cut) but it was still delicious. it was extremely rich, but balanced by the chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream we had to accompany it, it was just right. i also wish it would have been a little more moist on the inside (the cake layers fell apart), but - it wasn't. i left it in for 20 minutes and it wasn't done, so 5 more minutes and...too much. bummer.

also, for the whipped ganache, i used peanut butter and had it whipped to what looked like the PERFECT consistency. i also didn't have the right chocolate cacao %'s, so i added some powdered sugar. i decided to throw in the last few tablespoons of heavy cream i had and - boom. too. much. whipping. ganache was grainy and stiff. total. total. bummer. i ended up heating it a little to make it more spreadable (actually worked) but only did this when applying the chocolate shards.

speaking of the shards. they really were not that hard to make. probably the easiest part of the whole cake, though a little time consuming.

you can grab the recipe from design*sponge here. definitely want to attempt to make this again and 1) not overbake 2) not overwhip and 3) use the correct chocolate cacao %'s.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

inbetween-time post

well, all, i'm back from jasper, indiana on a plant tour of Versteel, Inc. for work - feeling exhausted but totally revved up to sell their awesome product! today is filled with putting out fires (not literal fires, of course), catching up on emails and hopefully checking lots of things off my to-do list.

i have a few posts coming - sharing about my trip, sharing about my awesome birthday celebrations and cake - but they will have to wait until later.

i know i just posted about my sister's photography business on monday - but it turns out yesterday she put up a fun contest to win a portrait session with her - so i just wanted to encourage you Erieites or surrounding area folks to go check it out and enter!! comment here: SPRING IS COMING CONTEST or check out her Facebook or Twitter!

work trip means awesome cocktails!

Monday, March 28, 2011

blog love: Puremotif Photography

hey, all! i'm traveling to Jasper, Indiana today for work, so i thought i would just encourage you to take a look at my sister's photography/design blog. it's possible i'm a little biased because she's my sister, but i think she is just SO AMAZING at photographing weddings, families, couples, babies...OMG everything! check out her blog here and make sure you subscribe to stay up-to-date on all her awesome posts!

wedding season is coming up so she's sure to have some awesome wedding and engagement images to share!! don't forget to check out her facebook page and like her there as well!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

label help

so recently i've been really trying to pare down the labels i use on posts. i find that i tag things that i may never write about again and that no one would really ever search for. based on what i desire to write about and share, i feel that i should be able to create better focus in my posts (and hopefully better posts) by removing unnecessary labels.

i'm looking for advice here people. how do you categorize what you write about? do you tag posts specifically, like "momentum fabrics," or do you keep things more general like "fabrics?" i'm looking for advice!

i love have the labels column on my blog, but hate seeing a bunch of random tags that i may never blog about again.

what's your system?

Friday, March 25, 2011

fabric friday: 3-25-11: a whole hella vinyls

don't have time for anything crazy today - i have several deadlines and meetings plus i'm out of town for work (going to Jasper, Indiana) on Monday and Tuesday. and i couldn't do this post yesterday because i was spending all my creative juices redoing the blog and posting yesterday night.

here's what i've been working on: vinyls for a healthcare project!

we have a huge workstation right next to mine that is vacant other than spreading out fabrics, carpets, paints and finishes. AJ says - "this is where the magic happens." it's nice to be able to leave it out, come back and revise it whenever, without it taking up space on my desk or any common space we all use.

anyway, happy friday, people! i have a birthday filled weekend with awesome plans tonight with Kristen and Staci, possible plans tomorrow with Katie, definite plans tomorrow with my sister and dinner with Josh and plans with the family on Sunday. also, i'm making this cake on Sunday for my birthday. can't wait!

have a great weekend! anyone else have awesome plans?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

new design!

that's right! new design. it took me forever (okay, like 2 hours - not forever) to figure out the stupid sizing of my header. i'm just glad it is filling up the whole area now and i suppose i can just use this as a template if i change it again. yes! i was just ready for a fresh new look!!! thoughts??

CSN Store Review

so, i'd say it's about time i do a review of the products i received courtesy of CSN Stores! back in January i was asked if i wanted to do a review of CSN and of course i said yes!

i had a hard time deciding what i was going to spend my $35 gift card on - something for myself (shoes, purse...) or something for the house (wall art, rug, sheets...) or something for the kitchen (rachael ray goodies, kitchen gadgets, etc). i had my sights set on this cute pair of boots, but unfortunately they are out of stock and have been for several months. in fear of forgetting about my gift card and it expiring (3/31) while waiting for the boots to become available, i decided to look for something else to get.

back in December i broke my french press coffee pot, so i realized this was the perfect opportunity to get a new one! the cost was under $30 so i was able to get a Rachael Ray gadget and shipping all for under $35!

new bodum french press. love it!

i haven't been able to use the french press yet - it needs course ground coffee, which i don't have, or it can clog up the filter - so i'm waiting to get some of that. but, until then, i get to look at how fun it is sitting on my counter!

i also got this veggie peeler. used it tonight - it's great! (i figured it would be - i love all of my Rachael Ray kitchen goodies).

all in all the experience was mostly pleasant, other than the items i first wanted being out of stock or unavailable. the french press came within two or three days of ordering whereas the kitchen gadget took more time (it came from California). thanks, CSN Stores! definitely will keep them in mind for future purchases!

new software program

a few days ago we received a demo version of a new software add-on put out by 20-20 Technologies called Visual Impressions. i've been using the office products software - CAP Designer (for AutoCAD) and CAP Worksheet (spec + pricing software) for about six years now, so this is a very neat program that isn't hard to learn as it is more of a platform for Worksheet.

here are some of the things i've been working on!

private office


conference room

reception station

i love how you can add accessories like notebooks, pens and water bottles (not to mention plants, paintings, phones, books, computers...), but those need to be added in AutoCAD first and then they flip over into VI. doors, windows and ceiling fixtures are added in Visual Impressions as well as change the ceiling height, wall colors and dimensions and flooring. right now i can't change my room from a rectangle, but i've heard that could change. i'm excited to see what this product can do! plus it's so quick and easy to use, we could now do renderings for every job.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

amazing lemon + rosemary risotto

okay, i don't really have a recipe or very good pictures - after i plated my dinner and tasted i was too hungry for this deliciousness that i had to just eat it rather then attempting to find my camera.

this recipe is from my risotto book that i bought on clearance for $5 several years ago.

for some reason i've always been afraid to try lemon in savory dishes. i've always been hesitant to use it with chicken and usually didn't add it as a finishing touch on recipes that called for it. after i finally tried lemon in my chicken - i was hooked. so i knew this risotto was probably going to be quite amazing.

it's a pretty basic risotto recipe - onions sauteed in butter and oil (with some rosemary), add your rice, then your hot stock gradually until it forms the correct consistency and finishing off with a little more butter and parm cheese. the only difference is alternating adding lemon juice with the chicken stock. i probably used a total of a few tablespoons in my risotto, and i only used 1/3 cup of rice because i was making this for myself. anyway. amazing!

asparagus was cooked first (though i threw it back in the pan after the chicken was done cooking) - stove top with butter, S+P and a clove of garlic, smashed (but not chopped). chicken was cooked in the same pan (separately) with a little splash of lemon juice and some rosemary.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

showroom update

we recently updated our showroom at work, taking out some older furniture pieces and adding a new Knoll Reff system work station we had done for a mock up. here are some pics!

Knoll Template System work station

Tubular Brno chair by Mies, Saarinen side table
KI Kurv Bench

Knoll Reff System, Techwood (Medium Oak), Upstart Legs in Medium Grey
with Generation task chair and Moment side chairs

Friday, March 18, 2011

fabric friday: 3-18-11: new Momentum fabrics

i shared the new Arc|Com fabric collections last friday and today i'm going to share the new Momentum collection! the collection is called Spin Crypton Green®: a collection of bold textile designs available with the added benefits of Crypton Green finish. The collection boasts a large scale and bright, clear color. each pattern in the Spin collection has been designed for maximum impact. product info here.

three new fabrics of the SPIN collection:

spin: sweet tooth

spin: grey matter

heyday: studio brown

heyday: passion fruit

mensa: spire

mensa: tranquil
love all these new fabrics!!
images and information from Momentum's website.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

homemade burger buns

the other day i made another batch of homemade burger buns in hopes to get something as awesome as these brioche buns, but without all the calories. from what i could tell, the brioche buns were almost 250 calories per serving.

i didn't have any milk in the house so i was limited on what i could make, but i found this recipe from i'm not quite sure of the calories, but when i researched after making them, i found they they probably are around the same amount of calories as the brioche, fail on that part.

these buns were pretty tasty - i ended up eating one with just butter because i was dying to try them, and they are yummy! they were easy to make (didn't require including water in a pan in the oven for steaming). they were a little sweet, but we ate them with Rachael Ray Turkey Sloppy Joes (another post) which were perfect together!

one thing i love about making buns is that they seem to freeze pretty great, so we can eat burgers or sloppy joes without serious planning by pulling them out of the freezer (they defrost within an hour - less if you toast them).


Monday, March 14, 2011

craft project: ikea storage unit

so i actually got the idea to do this from one of today's posts at design*sponge : sneak peak: kate durkin. i saw that ikea storage unit that i have and thought - I CAN DO THIS! i had so horribly tried to make mine better years ago by painting it yellow, pink and blue (ick, what was i thinking!). back when i was living with my parents, i had a yellow bedspread and decided that cubes of color on the wall flanking my window would look cool. but i painted them blue and pink (and the walls yellow). didn't look so great.

anyway, this storage unit has stayed the same all those years and i had been contemplating painting out all white until i saw that post! we're going through some furniture at work and i might be ending up with a little storage supported work surface, so i think this revamped cabinet will look great on top!

unfortunately i don't have it's final resting place set up yet, but still - here's the finished product, and i don't even have to repaint the yellow!

(don't mind our delightful orange-brown shaggy carpet...)

(or the orange vinyl flooring...that i actually don't mind anymore, since i love orange!)

i used scrapbook paper i had leftover-that-was-actually-never-used from the wedding (and leftover that WAS used for the bridal shower) and affixed with rubber cement! i'm afraid that it actually isn't going to stay on too well, but the rubber cement was kinda old so it was pretty thick and it seemed to stick on pretty well. i traced the patterns with pencil and just cut out with scissors and a mini cutting board. also, the bottom drawer was bigger than the paper, so that one is doubled up - you can kind of see the difference where the two pieces meet, but i think it worked pretty well.

anyway, this was a first "crafty" project for me, and i must say i think i was slightly inspired by the fact that it was LIGHT OUT when i came home! that was pretty rockin. can't wait for this weather to warm up so i can paint our chairs and table!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

fabric friday: 3-11-11

i had two fabric reps in this week showing some awesome new products. Jen came in yesterday to show some fun new patterns from Arc|Com, one of my preferred fabric vendors. she also took me to lunch. she rocks. Arc|Com updated their website this past year, and it's awesome - so much easier to use, search through, etc. gotta love when vendors keep making things easier!

one of my favorite fabrics of the new collection is FIORE. it has a beautiful large scale pattern, is a Crypton, has 50,000 double rubs abrasion rating and is around $50/yard.

my favorite color is flamingo:

i also love "green tea" and this new option they have - to put the fabric on a piece of furniture, so you can really see what it looks like! except i don't really like that chair, i wish i could pick what it was going on...i know, i know - i praise and whine in the same breath.

Crypton is a great option for both residential and commercial environments. It is the only textile solution that offers permanent stain, moisture, mildew, bacteria and odor-resistant protection. Read more about Crypton.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

the cake pop escapade

so i'm not sure if i can really call this an "escapade," but according to the free dictionary online an escapade is - "An adventurous, unconventional act or undertaking."

and i would say cake pops are definitely an adventurous undertaking.

disclaimer: this post is about cake pops, but includes other (food) pics from my niece's party!

anyway, for my niece's first birthday, my sister decided to do some cake pops, kind of as favors and decorations. we had plenty of food and delicious cake, but we really wanted to try these cake pops.

rachel borrowed the cake pop book by bakerella that i got from a friend for Christmas. she did the baking by herself and the crumbling, frosting-adding and ball-rolling with her friend danielle. they also wrapped the Styrofoam in wrapping paper and punched all the holes for the sticks. rach and i dipped and decorated the cake pops the day before the party.

a few words of advice:
  • when bakerella says don't use "moist" cake mix - DON'T USE MOIST CAKE MIX. we aren't actually sure if rachel did, but the cake was kind of moist which made for difficulty in dipping. don't get me wrong - these cake pops still tasted AWESOME, plus she followed all the directions and even used less frosting to try to make it less moist. we kept alternating which tray was in the fridge/freezer to keep them hard so they didn't slip off the lollipop sticks, and that worked!
actually, i think that is my only word of advice. rach did the majority of the hard work, but these were still fun and tasted yummy! i want to attempt making them again, maybe for Josh's birthday next month.

cake balls - rolled w/ frosting, pre-dipped

dipping with sissy

(pic by Rach)

amazing cake by Betty's Cookie Korrell
rach did these super cute and quick cards for all the food

gotta love Mum's Magic Cookie Bars!

cute PB&J's made by Rach for the kiddos
Captain Bill (aka my dad) entertains the kids and the adults. Dad used to play at all our birthday parties (when we were younger). this brought back so many fun memories!

Friday, March 4, 2011

fabric friday: 3-4-11: what to wear when it's cold

i was kind of at a loss on what to do today's FABRIC FRIDAY post on. this week has been very busy at work and this morning i spent dipping cake pops and doing other fun party things with my sister for my niece's first birthday party tomorrow!

anyway, i did a few searches and found an interesting post on Real Simple's website (love it), all about what to wear when it's freezing and how to layer your clothes to make the most of what you've got on. being freezing at work is something i experience almost daily, as we work in a small office within a renovated barn in cold, dreary Erie. i hate dressing everyday with "what will keep me warm" on my mind.

anyway, Real Simple answered the question. Post was found here if you want to check it out for yourself.

QUESTION: What are the best fabrics to wear in freezing temperatures?

ANSWER: When temperatures drop below 32 degrees, layer smartly so that you can maximize the function of each piece of clothing. Here's how:
  • Base layer: The layer of clothing next to your skin should be soft and comfortable. It needs to prevent your body's warmth from escaping―but be sure that it doesn't retain moisture. One affordable and smart option: tops made out of extra-fine merino wool. This type of wool is made of highly concentrated lightweight fibers that create better insulation for the body.
  • Insulation layer: Next, build on your base layer by wearing a fleece shirt, which is made of synthetic fibers. Fleece best serves the two purposes necessary when it comes to insulating: warmth and moisture management. Cotton fabric, while good as a moisture absorber (so, good for towels), is not good for insulation.
  • Shell: The shell layer, otherwise known as your winter coat, should be able to block wind and keep you dry on cold, wet days. If your inner layers are substantial enough, then a lightweight nylon shell might suffice. But if you don't enjoy bundling up underneath, wear an insulated piece of outerwear. This usually comes in the form of a down or fleece-lined nylon jacket. 
although most of us can't wear fleece shirts to work (however i could...), i think even the first note of advice - the base layer - is helpful. i think i need more wool in my life for these cold winter months!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

birthday post (belated)

so, like i said days ago - happy birthday kristen!

last friday was my former roomie kristen, from andthenifound5dollars. kristen is a long time friend, the first K in "SKANK," a Penn State Behrend lover, wine connoisseur, shoe fiend and fashionista. i was so fortunate to spend two years living with her! we had a great time as roomies - making dinner together, watching and making fun of Rachael Ray, watching Seinfeld reruns, leaving for work at the same time...

alas, life moves on and she bought a house last year and i got married. kristen now lives in our old neighborhood with a super cute house that she did amazing job painting and decorating. i'm so proud of her success and joy in her career, buying her first home and owning her new doggie Daisy!

5th or 6th grade (can't remember which) - i'm on the far right, kristen is on the far left (stephanie is in the middle)

former roomies - on our way to the Erie Bayhawks game for Behrend students, alums and staff!

NYE 2007  

wedding days! 2010 - photo by Danielle Hartland

kristen - i hope you had a super awesome birthday! it was so great to spend it with you! thank you for being such a great friend and roomie. it has been a blessing to know you!