Thursday, March 26, 2009

Birthday Apple Cake

Today is my wonderful husband's birthday! So amazing to think that he has been alive for a quarter of a century... only for the next couple of months will he be alone in this feat, I'll be there soon enough. To celebrate his special day I've made his absolute favorite dessert: Apple Cake. I'm not going to lie to you, this is not as easy as the other recipes that I've posted, but it is the most amazing thing. I guarantee, you will want to try this in your own kitchen. This recipe comes from Judy Rosenberg's cookbook, Rosie's Bakery All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed No-Holds-Barred Baking Book (yeah, nothing in it is good for you).

Apple Cake


3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temp
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temp
4 cups apples (3-4 large apples), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar for topping

Good tip: To keep the apples from turning brown, let them soak in a mixture of water and some acidic liquid like orange juice, lemon juice, or pineapple juice.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 (340 works better in mine, play around with what you like). Lightly grease a 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom.
  2. Sift the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt into a small bowl.
  3. Cream the butter, oil, sugar, and vanilla in a medium-size mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until blended, about 2 minutes. Stop to scrape the bowl twice with a rubber spatula.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix on medium-low speed after each addition until blended, 10 seconds. Scrap the bowl each time. Once the eggs are added, mix again for 10 seconds.
  5. Add half the dry ingredients and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Scrap the bowl, add the rest of the dry ingredients, and mix on low speed until blended, about 5 seconds more.
  6. Add the apples with a few turns of the mixer.
  7. Spoon the batter into the pan and sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar over the top. Bake the cake on the center oven rack until the top is firm and golden and a toothpick inserted at the cake's highest point comes out dry, about 1 hour and 5 minutes.

So worth the effort...
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Flowers are on the way!

While I was admiring the huge hyacinth sprout filled with water I completely missed this little baby about to flower. It's about half the size as the other but the flower buds are looking very nice. I love the contrast between the leaves and the deep purple tips.

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Garden shots

April showers.... er, March showers?.... bring May flowers. Through all this rain, this day really is quite nice. It's edging on 50 degrees here and the garden is looking more and more green everyday.

I'm starting to have garden envy, everywhere I look I see little shows of purple crocuses, yet mine are yet to even show a flower bud.

Some of my hyacinths are looking a little bigger than others... at least I think that these are hyacinths. Not really sure of what the previous owners left for me. I'm just hopeful that they will look better this year than last years pathetic display.

My sedum are looking lovely as always, getting bigger and more beautiful every day.

You should compare this picture to the one I took on February 17th.
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Jackets

Have you ever bought a beloved accessory and then realized that you need to buy an outfit around it? I know, I know... it should be the other way around, but what can I say. I'm always finding myself in this predicament after a shoe or purse shopping expedition. My newest purchase happens to be a gorgeous yellow purse and my predicament is finding a new spring jacket... without breaking the bank. So, I've searched all over and have found an assortment of little beauties in all the price ranges. Can you pick out which ones are the deals?

  1.  $148.00 The Limited, Almost Plaid Trench
  2. $27.99 Target, Double Breasted Jacket, Navy
  3. $39.50 Old Navy, Bell-Sleeve Swing Jacket
  4. $158.00 The Limited, Safari Belted Jacket
  5. $49.50 Old Navy, Belted Trench Coat (comes in navy too!)
  6. $298.00 J. Crew, Icon Trench
  7. $148.00 The Limited, Zebra Print Trench
  8. $ 19.99 K-Mart, Modern Print Car Coat (I can't believe it either!)
I love these side by side comparisons! Pin It Now!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Holy moley it's Spring!

I just now realized that it officially became Spring as I was writing my first post today! Maybe I've been a little post-happy today but I can't miss this opportunity to share my exuberance for this time of year. I am so looking forward to the first blooms and watching little plantings grow and bloom throughout the year.

Ah.... memories....

Such cute little flowers, they grow so fast. Can you tell I don't have any children?

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Hanging artwork

I was thinking about my post earlier today and realized that I definitely don't have an interior design degree... can I pull off anything remotely similar to Courtney Giles lovely designs??? I know how to spot things which I like, how to put groupings together, and I know the basics of arranging, but I don't have a complete understanding of the rules and basics.

Is the eye-level rule good enough to pull me through?

When hanging my floor length curtains I had to look up how high to hang the rods in relation to the window frame and crown molding. Hanging artwork will definitely be no different for me, I need help!
I found these great tips at
  1. Will you mainly be standing in the room (as in an entryway or hallway)? If so, it may make sense to hang artwork a bit higher than the 60-65 inch center starting point –especially if the ceiling is tall.
  2. In a room where you generally sit down (a dining room, family room, or office), hang pictures a bit lower, so they can be enjoyed at a lower viewing angle. Sit in a chair and have someone hold the picture against the wall, moving it up and down so you can evaluate the look.
  3. Do you need to relate artwork to the furniture below it? Absolutely! A large framed piece over a sofa or sideboard relates more easily when hung so the bottom of the frame is positioned 6 to 12 inches above the top of the sofa back or tabletop. This won’t work, however, if your artwork is very small. In that case, consider hanging the piece in a group of other objects such as plates, mirrors, or decorative items.
  4. When working with a grouping of pictures or objects hung on a wall, think of the grouping as one large picture and relate the bottom of the entire grouping to the furniture underneath it.
  5. Does the center rule apply if you are hanging a tall vertical picture, panel, or poster? In this case, it may be better to think about placing the art so that the top one-third area of the picture is near eye level. However, the actual height of the piece will determine the best position on the wall. Again, have someone hold it lower and higher as you see what looks best.
  6. What about hanging small pictures? A small picture hung on a large wall can look out of balance. Look for narrow walls (such as the spaces between two doorways or windows) and consider hanging two or three small pictures in a vertical line. In this case, treat the center picture as the center of the grouping.
  7. If you’re hanging artwork by yourself, cut paper templates to size for each piece of art and attach the paper cutouts to the wall with painter’s tape. This will give you the option to stand back and see how the artwork’s size relates to your room and your furniture. Move the template up and down to find the perfect spot prior to hanging the picture.

To recap, the eye level rule you’ve heard about is just a general guideline, but can be helpful as you begin to look for places to hang your art. Always view artwork in relation to a room’s furnishings and try out various heights before you punch holes in the wall for picture hooks.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bright and Cheery Purses

I think that spring is absolutely the best time for purse shopping. All those gorgeous colors and fun designs make for the perfect purse shopping experience. The bright and cheery yellow purses are my newest favorite trend this spring. I bought this Tignanello one today:

Still makes an impact with the "maize" color but will look appropriate throughout the year.
Love it!

Here are some other beauties that I've had my eye on...
J. Crew

JuicyCouture... love the shape and details!

Another Tignanello from the newest collection.

Kate Spade

Holy moley, Jimmy Choo.... I can dream, right?

Ha ha... just for kicks.

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Monday, March 16, 2009


Ridiculously Easy Recipe!
Get ready for the most delicious and easy recipe for cornbread...

so easy I could pretty much tell it with pictures.


2 boxes Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
1 box Jiffy Yellow Cake mix
1 cup milk
3 large eggs
1/3 cup oil



Using a whisk (by hand), mix all ingredients together, except for cinnamon. Pour batter into 9x13 greased cake pan.

Sprinkle cinnamon and swirl in gently using whisk. Bake at 335 degrees F for 35 min.

Enjoy with some butter or how I like to eat it, with some syrup for breakfast.
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Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult, one of my favorite authors, has come out with a new book! When an author I love comes out with a new book it's like Christmas all over again for me. Her newest book is called Handle With Care. This snippit of info comes directly from a Goodreads Exclusive - Author Interview.

Jodi Picoult admits that her notoriously controversial books shouldn't sell. After all, she hand-picks incendiary topics such as the death penalty, organ harvest, and date rape, and she routinely drops her characters into gut-wrenching moral dilemmas. Despite the heavy material, Picoult's books, including
My Sister's Keeper, which is also an upcoming film starring Cameron Diaz, are perennial favorites on bestseller lists. Her newest book, Handle With Care, wades into the legal quagmire of wrongful birth lawsuits, in which parents declare under oath that they wish their disabled children had never been born. Picoult talked with Goodreads about the challenges of juggling motherhood and a full-time writing career.

: What inspired you to write about a wrongful birth lawsuit?

Jodi Picoult
: One morning in a New York hotel, I read this article in The New York Times Magazine about a woman who had sued for wrongful birth, and I had this immediate, knee-jerk reaction: "Oh my God, who would ever sue for wrongful birth? That's disgusting." I really didn't know a lot about the topic, but as I started to read this article I realized that this is such an amazing issue. It takes one of the big, knockdown, drag 'em out controversies in this country, which is abortion rights, and it takes it one step further. It is not even talking about abortion rights; it's asking, beyond that, who gets to decide what makes a valuable life? To me, that is a really interesting question, and it just seemed like the biggest, hottest mess.
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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Brown Butter Tortellini with Spinach & Ham

This is a good old standby meal for me, so easy and delicious. My mother-in-law tuned me in to the recipe from Pampered Chef. Here it is for you to enjoy....

Just be sure to pick up the correct kind of tortellini, I once accidentally bought the "Herb Chicken" kind and it was not a good experience!

Brown Butter Tortellini with Spinach & Ham

1 pkg (20 oz) refridgerated cheese-filled tortellini (found next to the cream cheese normally)
1 pkg (6 oz) fresh baby spinach
1 8-oz piece cooked ham steak (found next to the hotdogs usually)
1 large red bell pepper
1/4 cup butter (do not substitute margarine)

To cook tortellini, bring salted water to a boil in large pot; add tortellini and cook according to package directions (I found that it cooks perfectly in 4 min, not too overdone).

As tortellini cook, place spinach into large colander. Dice ham and finely slice bell pepper, chopping as desired. Place butter in large skillet and begin to brown at medium heat, swirling occasionally.

Drain tortellini over spinach in colander. Continue to brown butter until it is a deep brown color, be sure to continue swirling in skillet. Add bell pepper, reduce heat to low; add ham, tortellini and spinach. Gently toss to coat with butter. Continue cooking for a few more minutes to attain a nice brown tint to tortellini.
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Old Window Greenhouses

I've been poking around one of my favorite gardening sites, GardenWeb, this morning and found some really useful ideas for re-using old windows. I like re-using old things for new purposes and I REALLY like saving money! Here are just a couple of ideas for using old windows, I'm hoping to add some more later today when my internet connection gets a little faster (I loath Comcast).This is a very simple greenhouse from Mao Tse Mom from Ohio, no frills but gets the job done during the summer. It's completely made out of old windows, the same kind of windows in my house! This gives me even more inspiration to re-do our windows... if only I had a bigger back yard to build this adorable greenhouse. More pictures and details here.

This is my dream greenhouse! Wyndyacre from Ontario, Canada wrote this little snippit about it: "We used salvaged windows for the glass, salvaged doors, an old deck for 1/2 the floor and the other half is discounted paving stone. The walls that aren't glass are insulated and the north side of the roof is insulated and asphalt shingles. Several back and side windows open, I tie the doors open and there is an automatic venting window in the roof near the ridgeline."

Here's a simply-made coldframe she attached to the back of her greenhouse. You can find more photos and details about this greenhouse here.

Okay, so this one isn't using old windows but it is so beautiful I just couldn't resist putting some pictures up! PabloVerde from Atlanta, GA put these up on GardenWeb. I could see using re-furbished cedar boards from an old deck to build the shelving.
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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Carrot Orange Cupcakes

I've been marveling at a recipe posted on Sage Mommy's blog titled: "Super Moist Carrot Orange Cupcakes with Walnuts".The base for the recipe came from Ina Garten but I love how Sage Mommy adds in the zest of one orange. I made these yesterday and was little put off by how much orange flavor was in them but tried them again today, after being in the fridge all night, and was amazed at how well all the flavors melded together overnight. I would definitely recommend putting them in the fridge overnight before serving them, the icing had time to thicken up and the flavors really do taste much better after sitting together for a little while.


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots (less than 1 pound)
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Zest of one orange (or less)

For the frosting:

  • 3/4 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Beat the sugar, oil, and vanilla together in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts to the remaining flour, mix well, and add to the batter. Mix until just combined.
Line muffin pans with paper liners. Scoop the batter into 22 muffin cups until each is 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F and cook for a further 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.
***Mine took only 13 minutes to bake at 350, test with a toothepick!***
For the frosting, cream the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugar and beat until smooth.
When the cupcakes are cool, frost them generously and serve.
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Reusable shopping bags

I've made it my mission to stop throwing away plastic grocery bags. However, I'm not planning to carry all my groceries in my arms. I'll probably end up buying the cheapy weepy bags from my local grocery store but I couldn't help myself from looking at all the cute reusable bags available now.

These are from CYMA and look a lot like the bags available at the grocery store but don't have the blaring advertisements. The colors do a few favors for the overall appearance as well.

These adorable little balls by Flip and Tumble are easy to store anywhere for those unexpected trips to the grocery store.

Martha came out with this cute do-it-yourself idea, perfect for teachers or going to the library.

Kenneth Cole makes this statement bag. Reads: "Use Me, Again and again and again... (I'm used to it)" When I saw it at Macy's I just had to take a photo of it, too funny!

Anya Hindman's bags are so not plastic but are instead very trendy (which correlates to higher price as well). Pin It Now!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ricotta Stuffed Manicotti

A little while ago our good friends had us over for dinner and served up some delicious meat-stuffed manicotti. It was very tasty and the passed down family recipe seemed easy enough... it gave me the courage to take a stab at a similar recipe. I decided to make ricotta-stuffed manicotti with meat sauce. This recipe is many recipes put together the way I thought they might taste good. It turned out unbelievably tasty!
Ricotta Stuffed Manicotti
1 pkg. (8oz) manicotti
2 containers (15 oz) whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup (or less) freshly chopped basil
1 1/2 jars (1lb, 9 oz) spaghetti sauce, marinara or something plain
1 tube Italian Sausage (I used Bob Evan's)
1/2 cup water *helps to continue cooking undercooked pasta

1. Mix together ricotta, 1 cup parmesan, eggs, and seasonings, set aside (could be refrigerated for use later).

2. Boil manicotti until just barely al dente NOT FLOPPY (6 min for Barilla brand), drain and cool. It makes it easier to fill manicotti if it is undercooked, the extra 1/2 cup of water added to the sauce will continue the cooking process.

3. Brown meat and add to marinara sauce with 1/2 cup water, add thin layer to lightly BUTTERED 9x13 baking dish.

4. Good Tip: Using a large plastic baggie, spoon ricotta mixture in and snip off 1 corner. Use this to easily fill cooled manicotti.

5. Place manicotti into baking dish as you fill them, cover with remaining marinara/meat sauce, sprinkle with remaining parmesan.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes.
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Monday, March 9, 2009

Vanilla Lime scent

Fantastic scent! Just enough vanilla without being too overwhelming and a hint of lime without being too fruity. Reminds me of my favorite Bath and Body Work's soap, Coconut Lime Verbena. I now have a well scented path through the house, not planned I SWEAR.... Coconut Lime Verbena soap in the bathroom, Vanilla Lime candle in the living room, and delicious Buttercream Frosting candle in the kitchen. Too funny.

Just had to share, not really sure where this post is going... I'm going to stop now. ;)
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Sunday, March 8, 2009

Door trim

I was admiring some great pictures of a linen closet re-do from Sage Mommy's blog and thought about a project that Estevan did for our house (that's right, I'm not taking any credit for this... I love my handy husband). We have hollow-core, oak veneer doors all through our house. These things are so ugly, straight from the 70's. We decided to do something about them but didn't have the budget to buy new doors for our whole house. Good tip: By nailing on simple oak trim in the shape of a rectangle, about 5 inches from the edge of the door he created an authentic looking detail. He then primed and painted the doors all satin white so that you can't even tell that they were once nasty veneer. Beautiful...

Before and after

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