April 2015 archive

a picnic in duke gardens

A few weekends ago, a few of my friends and I went on a picnic in the beautiful Sarah P. Duke Gardens.  It was beautiful when we set out and found our spot under a magnolia tree.  As the day went on, the sun stayed out but it started raining.  We found a bench sheltered by a big tree and waited it out until the rain let up.  We then made our way across the gardens to an open field where kids, adults and college students were playing games and hanging out.  When we crossed the path from the main gardens into the field, it stopped raining.  Separated by only a few yards, the rain that showered the gardens never touched the field.  It was like walking into another land (think Narnia or Platform 9 3/4 -crazy!).

I had a great time catching up with these two beauties and exploring the gardens a bit.  Duke Gardens are so vast and we only made it to a few sections this time around.  I guess that just means we will have to do it again :)

Get ready for a ton of pictures!

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My beautiful friends!  And isn’t this little garden house the cutest?

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Duke Gardens 20Until next time, Duke Gardens!

 

cookie dough momofuku funfetti birthday cake

I have seven friends who have celebrated birthdays in the last week (including me!).  I thought, what better time to make an over-the-top cake than a week-long birthday celebration?!  And just look at that title.  Cookie dough Momofuku funfetti birthday cake.  What!!!????

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This cake was a labor of love (and sometimes disdain).  There are a lot of parts and a ton of steps.  But, never fear!  The end result is absolutely DELICIOUS!

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I was really excited to make this recipe.  The Momofuku Milk Bar birthday cake is widely praised across the internet and, while I knew it would be a more difficult recipe, I wanted to overcome the challenge.  I have a hard time trying recipes without including my own additions.  After trying a new treat, Will always asks, “so, what is in this and what did you add to the recipe?”  Another well known fact in our house is that I love cookie dough.  I love making it, I love eating it, I love baking it into cookies.  Before we started dating, Will actually referred to me as “Cookie Girl,” because I would bring homemade cookies to school whenever I had the chance (which was always).  Since this recipe was already covered in sprinkles, I decided to create a layer of eggless funfetti cookie dough that could be eaten safely without any time in the oven.  Spoiler: it was a great idea, if I do say so myself.

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link love

Today is a good day. Today is my birthday!  Will made sure to remind me yesterday by blasting Taylor Swift’s “22” all evening, since it is now inapplicable.

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22 was a big year.  I graduated from college, saw my brother graduate from high school, got married, traveled, was featured in a magazine, got a full-time adult job, made new friends, started this little blog and learned so much about myself.  I’m so excited to see what this next year brings!

To celebrate, here are some of my favorite links from the week ;)

Let’s start out with some baking science.  Have you ever noticed that most recipes call for a 350 degree F oven?  Why is that?  What happens at 350? (hint: chemical reactions, phase changes and other things that excite baking nerds like me :) )

I’ve been getting the travel bug lately, itching to get on the road or outside.  I think it is the nice weather and the anticipation of vacations nudging me.  Traveling lets me learning about new places and new cultures.  It is an awesome opportunity to soak in new surroundings and different ways of living.  This is an interesting article about how millennials are changing travel.

Speaking of travel, did you know that there are people who are constantly painting the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco?  I think this is so interesting but would be a terrifying job.

On a different note, I don’t have a Fitbit, and I don’t really want one.  It’s not that I don’t want to walk more or stay hydrated, I just fear the control the Fitbit can have on our lives.  The band tells us to enter the food we eat, tracks our exercise, tells us to take more steps, to drink more water.  Those are all helpful and can keep us accountable, but are people prisoners to the electronic health tracker?  David Sedaris’s article about the Fitbit is great.  As usual, he is hilarious.

Jeni of Jeni’s Ice Cream gives great advice.  Work hard.

My office doesn’t have a window.  It has a door, which is a step up from a cubicle, but is nothing compared to this office.  This is the office I aspire to have as my home.  In fact, it is so wonderful that it deserves pictures.  Oh gosh, I love it so much.  You’re welcome.

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That’s all for this time.  See you on the other side of 23! :)

the striped shift

I love stripes.  I believe a closet can never have too many stripes.  They are such a classic pattern.  So simple, but unbeknownst to most, also complex.

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(This picture was from our time in Boston on our honeymoon last year.  Stripes, for the win!)

You have the Breton stripe, the rugby stripe, the awning stripe, the jail stripe, the pinstripe, the repp stripe, and on and on and on.  There is a striped pattern for every style.

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The classic Breton stripe is probably my favorite.  This stripe is sometimes referred to as the mariner’s stripe or the sailor’s stripe.  Introduced in France in 1858, the navy and white striped shirts became the French Navy’s uniform, as the pattern was easy to spot on the water.  The official shirt was designed with 20 stripes, one for each of Napoleon’s victories.  Coco Chanel picked up the style years later and since then, the navy stripes have become iconic and associated with Parisian fashion (and my closet).

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As the weather becomes warmer and it is acceptable to wear dresses without tights again, I’m so excited about all of the striped shifts that are in style.  Here are some of my favorites for the season (links to the sites are below):

Striped Dresses with Numbers noncrop1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

peanut butter and jelly cookies

Did you grow up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in your school lunches?

PBJ Cookies 3 I was more of a plain peanut butter sandwich girl myself.  Actually, I didn’t really like jelly until about high school.  I think it was the texture and the typical grape and strawberry flavors that turned me off to the sweet addition.  Now I love the classic combination, but I much prefer jam or preserves over jelly. Including parts of the fruit just makes it seem a little more natural than just the plain jiggly spread.

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This weekend I went on a picnic with some friends and wanted to include the pb&j combo without the school lunch sandwich.  Since I am pretty much a cookie fanatic and I already had my favorite preserves on hand from another baking adventure, I took it as a sign that raspberry pb&j cookies must be the answer.

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Raspberry preserves are the more sophisticated, more mature cousin of regular strawberry jelly.  They transform the classic combination to a more upscale duo, while keeping the nostalgia warranted by any pb&j.

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Cookies are also the perfect picnic dessert.  They are individual, hand-held and not too messy.  Everyone can have their own without having to cut off a slice with a flimsy plastic knife or trying to balance a paper plate on their lap while their dessert teeter-totters under their fork.  You know what I’m talking about.

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And really, when are cookies ever a bad idea?  Never.

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These are soft, chewy and a bit gooey where the cookie meets the preserves.  Unlike the typical thumbprint cookies that just have jelly spooned on top, these have preserves marbleized throughout them.  The perfect nostalgia snack.  While I used raspberry preserves, your favorite jam or jelly would work just as well (I think blackberry or fig would be great).  Now let’s dig in to the tasty throwback!

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Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies
makes about 18 cookies

½ cup butter
½ cup creamy peanut butter (not natural, the oil will separate and change the consistency of the dough)
2/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cup flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
your favorite jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Mix in the flour, baking soda and salt until just until the dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough forms.

Place small balls of dough on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet. Gently press a thumbprint into the dough balls and spoon a small amount of jam in the indention. Crumble additional dough on top of the cookies, completely covering the jam. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are golden brown.

(Usually I take cookies out of the oven before the tops are brown, since they keep cooking on the tray. These cookies fall apart easily if they are undercooked and are just as soft when they are fully cooked, so be sure to leave them in until the tops turn golden.)

Cookies loosely adapted from here.

link love

4-14-2015 1 editIsn’t April wonderful?  I think so.  Let’s all give a round of applause for April – you go April, you go.  This picture is from our date night to Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day this week.  Will had the classic Chocolate Therapy and I tried their new flavor, The Tonight Dough.  Thanks, B&J!

The internet has been a great place to be this week.  Here are a few of the links that have enthralled me.

This artist paints and sketches her way through her travels in moleskine sketchbooks.  What a fun way to capture trips!

I’m also loving these watercolor outfits.  I’ll have all of the stripes, please.

Speaking of art, who said well-styled food had to be fancy?  Not this chef.  Chef Jacques LaMerde plates high class foods like corn dogs, Bugles and Poptarts with smears of purple Go-Gurt and baby carrot Ranch puree.  Looks nice, probably tastes gross.

Since the 19th century researchers have hypothesised that the act of smiling makes us happier.  Modern research has supported this and shown that our facial expression changes how we view the world.  So turn that frown upside down :)

Another experiment that studied children and lying habits found that kids as young as five-years-old understand that lying is sometimes nicer than telling the truth.  Developmental psychiatry at work.

This Pennsylvania store combats the gender wage gap by charging women 76% of what men pay for the products, mirroring the pay gap in the state.  (In Pennsylvania, women earn $0.76 to each $1.00 a man earns.)  They sell textiles, art and other goods made by women artists and entrepreneurs.  The Pay What You’re Paid idea is pretty brazen, but it is a definite way to garner attention around the issue.

Nike recently figured out that not everyone in their customer base actually enjoys working out.  Yeah, it’s good for us, and sometimes we feel good after an exercise class or a run, but during the workout, we hate that hill, that plank, that lunge.  Am I the only one who has yelled at Jillian Michaels through the tv screen?  Nike’s new ad campaign nails these feelings on the head and I love it.  Their new ads target women and replace their traditional “Just Do It” slogan with “Better For It.”  My personal favorite is the “Far Enough” video.  So funny.

Happy Friday!

 

colonial williamsburg

Over Easter weekend, our family took a trip to Colonial Williamsburg.  Throughout the years of visiting our grandmother in Williamsburg, we have well-traversed the garden mazes and shops of Merchant’s Square.  We have our favorite routes and stores (can’t miss the Peanut Shoppe!), but there is always something new going on.

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This time, the sheep were out!  More specifically, Leicester Longwool Sheep.  These sheep are an 18th-century breed and part of Colonial Williamsburg’s Rare Breeds Program.  They were added to the program to honor George Washington’s affection for raising sheep.  According to information in Colonial Williamsburg, our first president raised 600-900 sheep each year at Mount Vernon.  Who knew?

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We saw mama ewes, little lambs and adolescent sheep.  We were enthralled by them, they didn’t even notice us.  We stood at the fence, ushering them to come over, some in our group trying to feed them.  They were neither impressed nor interested.  Eventually we moved on to see the rest of CW (as the locals call it), but on our way back to the car this little guy posed in the shade, just waiting for the cameras.  What a cutie.

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Colonial Williamsburg is filled with beautiful gardens and homes.  I have been in these gardens before but am always unsure of which are private and which are open to the public.  The ongoing struggle.

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I love the little street-side market across from Bruton Parish Church, full of flowers, honey and of course, bonnets.  The baskets and terra cotta make me want to start a potted garden of my own.

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The flowers, the pots and baskets, the many levels and layers of plants, I just want to recreate it all.

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It is about a 6 hour drive for my sister to travel from school to be with the family on Easter weekend.  With classes on Good Friday and Easter Monday, it might not always be possible, but it’s such a treat when she can make the trek.  After three months of being in different states, it was great to be reunited for the weekend :)

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When we were leaving Merchant’s Square I caught this sweet picture of my grandmother and my younger brother, arm in arm.  It was a great end to a wonderful day in the colonial capital.  Until next time, CW.

blondies from a blondie

A recipe is always good when it starts with chocolate.

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Especially three kinds of chocolate.

Blondies 3Most people think of blondies as brownie’s younger sister.  I disagree.  They are really more like cousins.  Yes, they are both baked and cut into bars, and they usually both contain chocolate, but that is where the similarities end.

I was a bit disappointed the first time I tried a blondie.  With all of the comparison I had heard, I was expecting a vanilla brownie.  Wrong.  Blondies have a taste all their own, one that is sweet and caramelly.  In this recipe, I set out to create a blondie so full of chocolate that good old brownie would be proud to claim her as a sister.  I mean, I’m a bit biased, but who wouldn’t want a blondie as their sister ;)

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These blondies perfectly convey the iconic butterscotch flavor that comes from the brown sugar, butter and vanilla.  Chocolate oozes out of the undeniable soft, gooey treat.  The flavor is complex, but the recipe is so simple.

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I was so tempted to throw in walnuts or toasted pecans, but I refrained to let the chocolate have the chance to shine.  That is one great thing about these blondies – they are so easily adaptable.  Want an even richer flavor?  Use dark brown sugar instead of the usual light variety.  If you are feeling adventurous, throw in some nuts, some caramel, some chopped up candy (I know you still have some of that chocolate Easter bunny lying around somewhere, or perhaps some mini Cadbury eggs).  Maybe you like butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, white chocolate?  Throw them in!  I believe you can never have too many add-ins.

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So gooey.  So chocolatey.  So delicious.  So easy.

Blondies 7If you can microwave butter, you can make these blondies.  So what are you waiting for?  All of the chocolate and a big glass of milk are calling your name.

Blondies
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
a pinch of salt
1 cup flour
½ cup dark chocolate and bittersweet chocolate chunks
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8×8-inch pan with nonstick spray (or butter the pan).

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and the brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and the vanilla until all ingredients are combined.

Add the pinch of salt and the flour and blend. Fold in the chocolate chips and chunks until the pieces are evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle. Cool in the pan before cutting into bars.

Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

link love

floral bike

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The flowers are blooming, the weather is warm, pollen clouds are in the air….wait, pollen clouds?  Yes.  Pollen clouds.  Welcome to the land of the long leaf pines, where pollen producing trees grow in abundance and a coating of yellow dust reappears five minutes after you wipe the allergy inducing stuff off of your picnic table.  But don’t it get you down!  Spring is still my favorite season by far.

This week, I stumbled upon these interesting links around the web:

Watch this calligrapher recreate logos by hand!  I’m constantly amazed by calligraphy.

As we come off the tail-end of a stellar basketball season for Duke, the Duke-UNC rivalry is clear in Chapel Hill.  Duke had a great team this year and a record-breaking coach, who deserves respect for all he has accomplished.  However, there is still a strong community bond in the hatred of Duke, and one player in particular.

Now that basketball season is over, we move on to The Masters.  Need a guide to the top contenders in this year’s tournament?  The New Yorker has you covered.  The front-runner, Jordan Spieth is only 21-years old.  I’ll stick to putt-putt, thank you.

As an advertising major, this infographic of the best social media usage of equipment brands in the PGA tour means way more to me than the number swings taken at one hole.  TaylorMade is the top brand in overall reach, mentions and user engagement, while Nike, Under Armour and Titleist didn’t make the top three.  That may change if aforementioned frontrunner Jordan Spieth, who is sponsored by both the latter two brands, wins the coveted green jacket.

If you know me, you know how much I love almonds.  California produces 80 percent of the world’s supply of almonds.  Cool, right?  Except that the Golden State is now in one of the worst droughts on record and 80 percent of it’s water is used for farming.  According to this article, it takes 1.1 gallons of water to grow ONE almond.  But that’s nothing compared to walnuts.  Those thirsty little buggers gulp down 4.9 gallons PER NUT!  Not to mention the thousands of gallons it takes to get meat to your plate.  This put’s that leaky faucet into perspective.  Forget oil pipelines, send water!

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather!

an easter picture update

Over the weekend, Will and I traveled to Virginia to celebrate Easter with my family.  As I shared in the last post, the weekend was full of food, fun, travel, church and family.  These are some of our pictures from a chilly Easter morning.

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This was our first Easter with three generations of married couples!  Such wonderful, loving role models we have in our family.

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And, of course, cousin pictures!  Look at all of those dashing North Carolinians.

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So much love :)

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What a wonderful Easter we had with this group.  We may have outgrown the egg hunt, but we will never be too old for the meaning of Easter or the family that surrounds us.

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