April 28, 2013

peanut butter banana smoothie

I'm having one of those months.  Sometimes I feel like no matter how fast I run I'm never going to get caught up.  I haven't come up for air for awhile which is why I haven't blogged in a bit either.  

I'm really grateful for my blog though.  Because it's kind of forced me to take stock of the small things, the small accomplishments that we normally forget.  But they're not small, they're important, because they keep us connected to the people and the activities we love.

This banana peanut butter smoothie for instance.  Mr. A came up with this recipe and made some for us last week.  It was a moment in time that made us both happy because it tasted great and we made it together (well, he made them and I mostly fretted about cleaning up.) :)

Here's the recipe!

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie
makes 2 large glasses

-2 frozen ripe bananas
-1 cup of all-natural peanut butter
-1 cup of milk (or more depending on how thick or runny you like your smoothie)

Peel the bananas (a trick to peel frozen bananas more easily is to run it under hot water for 30seconds before you attempt to peel them).  Combine the bananas, peanut butter and milk in a blender and pulse for about 1 minute until the bananas are completely smooth.

Pour into a glasses and enjoy!

April 21, 2013

decorator's tip

Pick up any home decor magazine and look at the pictures.  9 times out of 10 there are flowers somewhere in the room pictured.  It's a decorator's tip that I've never seen mentioned in any of the home decor magazines.  It must be a trade secret.

If you want to bring instant appeal/glamour to any room, just add flowers.  My favourites are white hydrangeas {smile}.  They're very voluminous and fairly inexpensive.  You can also pair them with any other flower to add a pop of colour:

Can you pick them out in our dining room below?

Have a great week!

April 16, 2013

make it into a shirt

I had this perfectly lovely dress I found on sale at Zara over a year ago.  Thing is, I only wore it once.  Why? you may ask.  Well, I can't put my finger on it but you know when you really like an article of clothing, but it doesn't look or feel quite right when you wear it?  Well that's what this was.

But I love the colour and the detail on the collar and the hem.  So I decided to shorten it and make it into a shirt.

Here's how I did it (it's really similar to the technique I used here to shorten a pair of jeans).

First, I started by trying it on and eyeballed how long/short I wanted the shirt to be.  I placed a couple of pins to mark it.

Once I did that, I placed the dress flat on the ground and measured from the shoulder down to where my pins were.   I noted the length, then I measured that length from both shoulder down, on the front and the back, and placed four pins in total to mark where the shirt would end, and made sure that it was even all the way around.

Then, because I wanted to preserve the detailed hem, I used the fold-over technique.  I divided the length of fabric that would be shortened by two and folded the fabric over by that amount (in my case 10 inches divided by 2 = 5 inches).  I measured this all the way around and pinned the fabric in place.

Next, I started sewing what I had pinned in place.

The key to this step was to sew as close to the original hem as possible:

Once I'd sewn it all the way around, I tried it on to make sure it looked ok.  At this point, if something looks wonky, you can still undo the stitches and start over.

It looked good when I tried it on, so I cut off the excess fabric.

And there you have it.  Let's hope I wear it now that it's a shirt. :)


April 13, 2013

baking essentials

Want to start baking? Here are the tools I'd say are a baker's essentials.

First, the hand tools:

measuring cups: a must because baking is a precise science
measuring spoons: ditto
large and small spatula: to scrape out all the good stuff
whisk: use to whisk dry ingredients, eggs, cream and more

The big tools:

muffin pan:  for muffins and cupcakes
loaf pan: for fast-baking breads like banana bread
mixing bowls: need small, medium and large. I got these ones at Williams Sonoma Outlet and I love them.

The flats:

baking sheet: for cookies, bark, scones and more. You probably already have one for roasting veggies.
wire rack: a key step is letting your baked goods cool when they come out of the oven. A wire rack allows the heat to reach all sides of your muffins, cookies, cupcakes etc.
silicon mat: so handy for cookies and scones.  They just slide right off of the mat so no sticking or scraping.

I got most of my tools at Crate&Barrel and as gifts.  I think I'll have them forever because they're all so great.  Definitely don't scrimp on the baking sheet.  Low quality ones tend to warp.

Do you have a baking tool you can't live without?  Leave a comment below and let me know what it is!

Happy weekend! and happy baking. :)

April 06, 2013

before midnight

Remember how I said I was a romantic film junkie?  Well, top of my list are Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.  So... I'm really excited for Before Midnight which hits theatres on May 24th!

I just found out that they released the trailer and I watched it right away. Check it out:

What do you think?  I'm excited and scared at the same time.  The first two movies were so romantic... Were the characters in love only because they created idealized images of each other based on their first night together?  Or do they truly have what it takes to stay in love for a lifetime?  Me, I think (and hope!) it's the latter. :)

Inspired by the locations of each movie, I'm going to post a recipe from each place (Austria, France, and Greece) over the next 2 months leading up to May 24th.  Do you have any suggestions?  Let me know!


April 01, 2013

lemony cupcakes

With spring here, I was inspired to make lemon cupcakes to bring to share with friends at our long-weekend luncheon.

You'll definitely need fresh lemons for these cupcakes.  Nothing can replace the aroma you get from the fresh lemon zest.  It's amazing.

At first, I thought I'd add a tiny drop of yellow food colouring to the icing, but the lemon zest added such a nice soft yellow colour that I didn't want to mess with.

Warning about the cake part of this recipe:  you have to let the cupcakes completely cool before you can peel the cupcake liner.  I tried pulling one of them off when the cupcake was hot, and the whole thing fell about in my hands.  Actually, come to think of it, I think this is a good rule for all cupcakes, not just these ones. :)

I love this trick for filling a piping bag: place the bag into a glass, and voila! it's ready to be easily filled with icing.

Here's the recipe!

Lemony Cupcakes
adapted from The Alchemist

1 stick of butter
1/4 fresh lemon juice
1/4 water
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup yogurt or sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large saucepan melt the butter with the lemon juice and water on medium high heat. When the butter is melted remove from heat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the yogurt, beaten egg, vanilla extract and lemon zest and whisk together. In a seperate bowl whisk the flour, salt and baking soda together, then whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. 

Prepare muffin pans with cupcake liners. Pour (or ladle) the batter in a measuring cup with a spout (or a similar vessel with a pouring spout) and pour the batter into the cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. 

Cool cupcakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting. 

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick of butter, room temperature
100g cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest from 1/2 lemon

Using a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer beat the butter and cream cheese together , about 1-2 mins. 

Add about half of the powdered sugar, the vanilla, lemon zest and juice, then beat well, but start off on low until the sugar is mixed in, so it doesn't go flying all over the kitchen. 

Once it is incorporated add the rest of the sugar, (start on low again) then increase to high speed and beat until very fluffy, about 3-5 mins.

Using a piping bag, frost the cupcakes once they're completely cooled down.