Monday, February 27, 2012

February Reading

After my baking frenzy finally ceased, I was able to lounge on the couch this weekend with a cup of coffee and a book.

I started our new book club pick - "Fifty Shades of Grey."

My "12 in 12" pick for February was "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield.

I also read "The Reader" and "How to Raise the Perfect Dog." Of course, you all know by now that I'm an expert dog trainer, but a refresher course doesn't hurt every now and then.

(In this picture here, I must have asked Colby to go fetch the toilet paper roll from the trashcan.)

So here's what I have to say about the books....

1. The Reader did not win me over. It was a quick read with a somewhat dark plot, but nothing too memorable for me. I am disappointed that this was an Oprah's Book Club selection.

2. Fifty Shades of Grey. Oh my. I'm somewhat speechless. This book has quite the cult following, and actually got it's start as "Twilight Fan Fiction." I'm almost finished with this book and have been compelled to do a little research on both the book itself and the book's main subject. Probably the best article I've found about "Fifty Shades" is this: Fifty Things about Fifty Shades.

I agree that this book is "like crack"- bad but irresistible. (Please note that I have no personal experience with crack usage.) It's also been reviewed as "Pornography for Mommies" and I'd say that's a pretty accurate description. To say that this book is heavy on sex, the F word, and stereotypical fetishes would be the understatement of the decade!

This book is no longer in print, so unless you have access to a Nook or Kindle, good luck finding a copy!

3. How to Raise the Perfect Dog is what I expected from Cesar - sound and solid advice. The only thing that surprised me was that Cesar advocates buying a high-cost dog from a reliable breeder. While he supports rescuing dogs from shelters, he repeatedly harps on the advantages of having a knowledgeable, experienced, trustworthy breeder. I have, until now, been wholeheartedly convinced that I would never purchase a dog that wasn't from an animal shelter. In keeping an open mind, I can see Cesar's arguments and respect the decision of people who go the breeder route.

4. The Success Principles was disappointing. First of all, this book is enormous! I found myself skimming through many of the success points. I also felt that the author, Jack Canfield, came across as arrogant. He must have mentioned his success with the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book over a hundred times! After reading "How to Win Friends...," this book was a drag.

Have you read anything good lately? If so, let me know! I'm always on the lookout for a good book!

Daisy Cookies

Friday, February 24, 2012

M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E

I would be thrilled to do absolutely nothing this weekend. Thrilled.

I have a feeling that won't be the case.

My to-do list is rapidly growing.

I've been busy this week making cakes, and I am very thankful for that.

I made this Mickey Mouse cake around midnight last night.

I had to freehand the Mickey Mouse drawing, which unsuccessful.
Brian made fun of my Mickey.
I usually print an image and trace it onto the cake with some parchment paper and piping gel, or I will do the buttercream transfer.
Our printer at home is broken, so I printed out an image at work. Then I left my printed Mickey image at the restaurant where I ate dinner. Along with my debit card.
Long story short, I'm losing my mind.

Here's the cake....

Oh, and do you want to know something really exciting?

I'm getting business cards!!!!

But not just any business cards.....

The cutest business cards you have ever seen!!!

I owe a huge "thank you!" to my friend over at Empowered Designs. Ben is awesome, and I was super impressed with the work.

In the meantime, however, I was able to print my own temporary business cards.

It's almost like I'm a professional.


I'll unveil my new business cards sometime next week. You will die when you see them.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Baby Shower Cake

Stayed up past my 9pm bedtime last night to make this cake.

One of the finance groups at Duke is having a baby shower today. Two co-workers are having children, one's having a boy and one's having girl.

I'm hoping there will be leftovers from the party, so I can snag myself piece!

I used a different buttercream recipe, and I am psyched to try it out. I wanted to cut down on the sweetness of my icing, just to try something new.

Brian was my taste-tester last night, because I had already brushed my teeth before I started baking.

Fingers crossed it turned out good!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Remember the beautiful tulips I was boasting about last week?

They don't look like tulips anymore.

But they still look beautiful!

I cut off the flowers and stems, placed them in a vase, and then ventured out into the rain/wintry mix on Sunday to plant the tulip bulbs.

I used a kitchen utensil as my shovel, and I planted the bulbs in the mud.

I should probably stick to baking. I'm definitely lacking a green thumb.

I will not be blogging as much this week, as I have been really busy, but I will try to post my baking pictures. I have a cake to make for a baby shower tomorrow, and then more cookies to bake for a Duke Lung Transplant Fundraiser on Saturday night. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Owl Cupcakes

These are owl cupcakes that I made for a baby shower this weekend.

For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to rotate these pictures. They're correctly oriented on my saved file, but when I "Add Selected Images" to Blogger, they flip the wrong way.

It doesn't help the situation that I'm technologically impaired.

Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting. Oreos for the eyes, Junior Mints for the eyeballs, and a Reese Peices for the beak.

Simple, adorable, and tasty.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Rambling #noblogideas

My parents gave me a really awesome Valentine's Day gift...tulip bulbs! #imadork

I wish I would've done a better job documenting their growth. They started out all green with no blossoms. You'll just have to imagine it, since I have no pictures of that first day.

Before they bloomed, Brian asked me why my parents had given me a vase of radishes. #mastersdegree

I'm not really a big fan of social networking, but my brain has now (unfortunately) been wired to think in hashtags.

My two favorite teenagers (Lauren and Taylor) introduced me to hashtags last summer. I was thoroughly confused, but then I eventually caught on to this awful trend.

Though in some ways, using hashtags makes me feel giddy.
Probably similar to the excitement my parents feel when they use abbreviations in a text message.
Or the way my grandma feels when she successfully sends an email. #notoften

I noticed my brain thinking in hashtags last night during the Duke vs. NC State basketball game. All of these hashtags just started entering my brain, usually in the form of insults.

(Oh, and just for the record, the only rivalry that I truly care about is that of Duke vs.UNC. But damn if that win against NC State didn't feel good.)





You get the drift. 

Alright, all for now.

I have to go type up a blog preliminary for my parents today, or else my mom will read this post and then text me "WTF?"


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sugar Cookies

Truth be told, I'm not much of a cake person. 

I'm more of an ice cream, key lime pie, and candy person.

Yes, I've had my fair share of candy hearts this season. I started eating them post-Christmas and have yet to stop. I did, however, opt for the portion-controlled boxes this time. Remember October's candy stash? That bag was gone in a matter of tummy aches.

I was also not much of a cookie person, until I discovered these sugar cookies with royal icing. I really love decorating sugar cookies, and I think they are so adorable!

And unlike decorating a cake, if you mess up on the decorating, you can simply eat the cookie.

Sometimes I mess up on purpose.

Sometimes my pile of cookie misfits is bigger than my pile of perfection.

I documented a little of my Minnie Mouse Sugar Cookie decorating to share with you:


Forgive me for showing you sugar cookies this early in the morning.

I've heard that if you eat a Nutri-Grain bar, the rest of your day will be filled with healthy decisions.  

I don't have a Nutri-Grain bar, but I do have a banana.

This is happening at my desk right now:

It's a shame I can't wear stretch pants to work.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Last year on Valentine's Day, I posted this picture:

Despite his best efforts, he still hasn't managed to get rid of me.

Happy Valentine’s Day! 
You're still the man of my dreams.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Choosing Love

Actions speak louder than words. (Truer words have never been spoken).

I'll never forget a conversation I had once with my sister. I was venting about my relationship frustrations and finally, in desperation, sighed "What do you think I should do?"

She thought for a moment, and then she responded "Every day you wake up, you have to choose to love him." She went on to explain that our pastor at church had made that statement one Sunday morning.

Love is a verb; therefore, it's a choice.

Some days Brian is easy to love. Some days he's not.
The same goes for me, as well. (Brian has admittedly contemplated suffocating me with a pillow).

Every day I must make the conscious choice to love him and to demonstrate that I love him through my actions.

Choosing love isn't always easy, but it's usually well worth it in the end.

I have to thank my sister for giving me that simple reminder.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Frozen Buttercream Transfer

This weekend was the first time I attempted a frozen buttercream transfer. I will definitely be adding this decorating method to my repertoire. This tutorial from a Wilton instructor gave me step-by-step instructions.

Step 1: I printed my desired image, flipped over the picture, and traced the outline on the back of the paper. It's important to make the mirror-image of your design, as it will be flipped over onto the cake at the end. I laid a sheet of wax paper of the top of the drawing and taped it down onto a small cutting board (any flat surface will work).

Step 2: All of the details need to be done in reverse order. Remember that the top of the image will actually be the bottom layer of your buttercream transfer.

Step 3: Continue filling in your image with buttercream frosting.

 Step 4: (not shown) I covered the entire buttercream Minnie Mouse with a thick layer of white icing. A thicker image will be less likely to break apart than a thin one when you are transferring it onto the cake at the end.

Step 5: Place the buttercream image in the freezer for a few hours. I left mine in the freezer overnight.

Step 6: When ready, carefully flip the image onto your cake and slowly peel away the wax paper. 

Easy as pie cake!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Where the Magic Happens....


I'm going to be spending  a lot of time in the kitchen this weekend!

I thought I'd give you the tour.....

We may have the world's smallest kitchen, but it's not without it's charm.

There you have it! 

Not much, but it gets the job done.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Letting Go of Expectations

After dating for what feels like an eternity, there are some things I've had to learn the hard way. I think my biggest relationship lesson has been learning to let go of expectations.

Movies, television, magazines, friends, past experiences, parents, websites, blogs - all of these things tell us what our relationships should look like. We're bombarded with images of picture-perfect couples. We see our best friends experiencing relationship bliss. We see Facebook statuses (or is it stati?) that read:

Hubby woke up early, cleaned the house, made me heart-shaped pancakes, filled my car with gas, took the kids to school, told me to go back to bed, then ran me a hot bath!

I now expect Brian to get out of bed, make me some pancakes, update his Facebook status, and tell everyone how beautiful I am.

Then I'll Instagram it and the world will be jealous.

Breakfast in Bed!!!! Best Boyfriend EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fortunately for Brian's sake, I have a firm grip on reality.

Reality rained down on me once.

It was sometime during our first weeks of dating. We were going out with friends in downtown Raleigh and it was raining outside. Of course, I figured Brian would drop me off at the door, but he didn't make that offer and I never spoke up. So we parked a half-marathon away from the restaurant, and I walked there in my high heels. No umbrella. In the rain. And since Brian wasn't wearing high heels, he thought it best he sprint to the door.

It wasn't one of his shining moments.

You can predict how the rest of the evening played out.

But if nothing else, it was a lesson learned.  
Be vocal about what you want instead of silently expecting it. I can't begin to count how many times I've stomped around the house in anger, given him the silent treatment for twenty minutes, or loudly sighed in frustration, and gotten absolutely zero response from Brian in return.

I've gotten much better results by saying "Brian, I'm mad about ______. Here's what you can do to fix it."

That night I spent in downtown Raleigh with frizzy hair, wet clothes, and a bad mood could have easily been avoided. I could have said, "Brian, drop me off at the front door please." Instead, I expected him to be a gentleman, then I was mad at him when he wasn't.

Stop expecting anything in the first place. There was a time when I thought my boyfriend would eventually give up his late nights of drinking, playing pool, and hanging out at the same bar every Friday and Saturday. When the weekend would roll around, I would get extremely frustrated to hear his plans and realize that they didn't involve me. After a year of this constant struggle, I finally resolved not to expect anything different. It changed my attitude entirely, and I became a much happier person because of it.
Hold yourself to your own standard of expectations. There's no doubt that you should have expectations when it comes to specific aspects of the relationship, such as treating each other with respect. It's also true that you get what you give. I've tried to turn the focus inward and hold myself accountable to my own standard of expectations. When I do this, things always seem to fall into place. When I make Brian a priority, he's more inclined to make me a priority. When I give a compliment, I usually get a compliment in return. When I don't nag, I usually don't get nagged. If we focus on improving ourselves, the people around us will naturally do the same. 

I don't ever try to make my relationship appear to be something it's not. It's not romantic, sappy, or Facebook worthy. 

You want to know what my relationship is?

A lot of hard work.

And I'll never expect anything less.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Being a Late Bloomer

When I was in 8th grade, I used to pray every night that I would start having my period. All of my friends were talking about PMS, tampons, and cramps, and I couldn't relate. My body was late to mature. It was embarrassing.

God eventually answered that prayer.

When I was in high school, I used to pray for bigger boobs. All of my friends had developed their curves suddenly overnight. They started talking about B cups and C cups, and I couldn't relate. It was embarrassing.

I'm still waiting for God to answer that prayer.

When I was in college, I used to pray for a boyfriend. I had never previously dated anyone, but surrounded by three thousand guys, I figured odds were good. I remained basically single for four years and graduated sans relationship. It was embarrassing.

As a late-bloomer, I constantly felt awkward, insecure, and inexperienced.

Only now, with my menstrual cycles, my boyfriend, and my push-up bra, am I able to see those late-blooming years for what they really were—blessings.

Many of those curvy girls are now battling the bulge. After all my years of pining for a more feminine physique, perhaps I’ll get the last laugh.

Being a late-bloomer in the dating department allowed me to enter my first relationship with no ex-boyfriend baggage. The way I see it, I was able to avoid years of turmoil and the on-again-off-again relationships that are typical of high school and college. I was fiercely independent and had grown accustomed to doing my own thing. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

I’ve only lived for a quarter of a century, so there are hopefully many more milestones to go.

I can’t be sure, but I have a feeling I may always be arriving late.

Fashionably, of course.

Friday, February 3, 2012

How to: Super Bowl Party on a Budget

Super Bowl by the Numbers

Number of Americans Expected to Buy a New Television for Game Day = 5.1 million

Cheapest Super Bowl Ticket Price = $2,247.00

Amount Americans will spend on Game Day Food and Merchandise = $11 billion

Amount Kelly plans to spend on her Super Bowl party = $30.00

Tips for Hosting the Big Game on a Budget

Did you know that Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest party occasion of the year?! It even tops New Year's Eve!

For me, Super Bowl festivities are about three things: football, food, and beer. This allows the party to be casual, relaxed, and fun, without being too costly.

Since I've set a lofty savings account goal for this year, I'm making every effort to host our 3rd Annual Super Bowl gathering for under $30.

Tip #1: Forgo the Frills 
When it comes to decorations, you really don't need any. Balloons, streamers, and table cloths will make the house look prettier, but Super Bowl parties are typically catered to the guys. And the guys won't care about your decorations, or lack thereof.

A clean home always makes the biggest impression.

Instead of burning through your wallet, try burning some extra calories by vacuuming your floors, wiping down your countertops, and dusting your lampshades.

It's also easy to be tempted by Super Bowl-themed plates, napkins, etc. We already have an abundance of Solo cups, paper plates, and plastic utensils in our pantry. So what if they're black and orange plates leftover from Halloween?! 

Tip #2: Look for Coupons & Freebies
Hostess with the Mostess offers free printable labels, cupcake toppers, etc. There are some great budget-friendly ideas on this website.

Tip #3: Stick to One Main Dish
It's better to make one thing really well rather than several things that are just average. Let your crockpot be your best friend. This is the one time of year that Brian likes to make BBQ. It can feed a large crowd for a relatively low cost. Throw it together in the morning and let it cook all day. VoilĂ !

This year I'm sticking to only one dessert: Sugar Cookies. Nothing fancy.

Do-it-yourself fruit and veggie trays are always a good option. Buy the items that are in season, or else you will end up spending a fortune!

Most people will also ask what they can contribute to the party. Don't hesitate to delegate! This will mean less stress and less spending for you.

Tip #4: BYOB. 
I bought one caffeine-free soda for our pregnant friend, but there's no doubt that everyone else will be drinking beer. I also saw several great recipes for beer punch. It looks fairly cheap and easy, if you're looking for something a little different.

Tip #5: Prioritize
You will be spending a fun evening with your friends. That's all that matters.

Enjoy yourself and have a good time. Remember that nobody will care if you didn't make the mile-high nachos or the seven-layer cake.

Save your money for the important stuff...the gambling!!!!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

I wanted to make decorated sugar cookies from scratch at Halloween.
I never got around to it.
I also never got around to making them at Christmas or New Year's Eve.

I finally made them last weekend for the baby shower! The cookies were so easy and they turned out so cute. I just might have to make them again this weekend for the Super Bowl!

The tutorial from Brown Eyed Baker was my crutch. These step-by-step instructions assisted me throughout the entire process. It's definitely an all day process, but mostly due to the long waiting periods between each step.

The All-Occasion Sugar Cookie recipe, also found on the tutorial, was amazing! In the past, using cookie cutters always resulted in cookies that would spread out when baking in the oven. It always ruined the shape of the cookie.

This recipe did not spread at all! The cookies came out of the oven looking like butterflies, instead of oddly shaped blobs.

Patience is key. I have a tendency to learn that the hard way.

I was running late to the baby shower and had to decorate all of the cookies within a matter of  minutes.

Give yourself a lot of time to make, bake, and decorate. It's worth it in the end!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Baby Shower Butterfly Cake

I had a request to make a butterfly theme cake for a baby shower last weekend.

I knew I wanted to go fairly simple with this cake.

Though it has a somewhat plain exterior, there were six layers of cake, alternated pink and white, on the inside. It was lovely!

I found glittery butterflies at Michael's craft store for $1 each. To insert them into the cake, I used Christmas ornament hangers. Paper clips would've also worked. I straightened out the hangers, and attached them with the clip.

I used pink and yellow sparkles for the finishing touch.

I placed the butterflies strategically, so that it would look like they just landed on the cake!

Overall, I think it turned out great! I loved this cake and it was super easy to make!