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Double Date...

2.28.2013


Last week I had the unexpected pleasure of having K and M drop by for some double date action right here in little old Ringwood! Imagine my surprise and delight when I got the text- "we're visiting the in-laws while on half term and could stop by on the way back to London?" Um, a big "YES PLEASE!!!" was all I could text back before I giddily danced around the room while hubs looked at me like I was crazy. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was about  seeing a pair of familiar faces again. Not to mention that had K announced to us that she was pregnant... literally the last time we saw her, just before we left London! And so I was even more excited to see how much this little London baby had grown and if there would be any signs of a baby bump yet.

On the day of our double date, we walked through the high street catching up briefly before having lunch. Hubs chose to take us all to The Old Cottage, a quaint and tiny restaurant located inside a cottage of course. To say this place was small is an understatement. For once in my life I felt really tall and as you can see by the pictures, M who's over 6 feet tall struggled getting around. Luckily for us, the place was empty and so we could easily (more or less) spread out. The food was absolutely delicious and the interior decor we decided made it feel like Christmas time... of course that could have also been due to the fact that it was particularly freezing that day! We talked baby talk... move talk... London talk... and just how much our lives seemed to be changing so suddenly. K was my very first friend in London way back when we were both American students, living abroad, and too smitten with our now hubby Brits to know what was good for us. The thought of missing out on this special part of her life makes me so sad but I know we'll always try and make it work. I've already self appointed myself as style auntie ;)

From there we wandered down to a local coffee shop, popping into a few charity shops along the way hoping for some treasure but had no luck. At the Boston Tea Party, we warmed up over lattes and hot chocolates in an industrial meets shabby chic hot spot. A vast contrast to our earlier location, but just as fun none the less. So fun in fact that I not so subtly tried to capture the fun in the moment but thanks to no flash and awkward lighting, some of the pictures came out a bit fuzzy. I also must admit that some of the above pictures may or may not have been posed ones... "quick pretend like your drinking and I just said something really funny... now hold that pose for like 20 seconds while I try to take your picture". Yep, I am guilty of that sort of behavior. Luckily for me those that love me and know me best are used to my nutty ways and just indulge me... thanks guys! A huge thanks to K and M for making my (and possibly hubs') day... please come visit us again... and soon!

***Today I am thankful for friends like K and M... possibly the best double date partners ever!***

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Recipe: Death By Dark Chocolate Cake

2.27.2013


The story behind the cake and my slightly devious birthday letter to hubs...

Once upon a time, a single girl in the city used to keep a stash of dark chocolate safely in the fridge for whenever the craving struck. Dark chocolate was her favorite, and not being much of a sweet tooth, the cravings didn't strike very often. Still, she liked the reassurance in knowing that if the feelings did arise, she had her heavenly goodness safely waiting.

That girl married a boy and moved to a new city. Many things changed, most of which she had anticipated and some which were a surprise. But out of all of the things that were different and new, none shocked her (or annoyed her) more than when one day a craving struck and she went to satisfy it, only to discover boy had eaten all of her dark chocolate! She couldn't decide which upset her more... the fact that she had an itch she couldn't scratch... that boy had eaten all of the chocolate despite claims of not liking dark chocolate... or the fact that he hadn't even replaced it and instead left the empty wrapper to deceive her! This story happened over and over in their first year together and girl didn't know what to do. It turns out that boy didn't originally like dark chocolate, but since that was all girl ever bought, he ate it anyways until too soon he also loved it... and loved in bar fulls! Gone were the days of a bar lasting up to a month... seriously, girl was that good at rationing. She even tried hiding bars in secret stashes, but once boy found out, he would eat them too! Plus it always made girl feel slightly guilty for hiding them from him.

Life went on like this until it was soon boy's birthday and girl had a plan! Oh if he liked dark chocolate so darn much, she would give the chocolatiest dark chocolate cake she could find and try and make him sick of it... a little devious she admits, but lack of chocolate makes a girl do crazy things sometimes. She found the perfect recipe... it used 17 ounces of dark chocolate between the cake and frosting alone (not to mention she would add more on top)... it even had the word death in it's title! And so girl set off to bake this cake of cakes... pouring all of her love and slight frustrations into it just to see what would happen. Well folks, the cake turned out delicious... and what's more, boy not only liked it, he LOVED IT!!!! He ate every last piece of that cake (ok, she may have helped a bit) and never grew tired or sick of dark chocolate. Her plan backfired and girl is back to drawing board on ways to solve her dark chocolate woes. As for boy, well he loved that cake so much he requested it again this year for his birthday and has since then declared it as his official birthday cake... because it's so chocolatey that once a year is more than enough... twice a year might just kill him!

Death By Dark Chocolate Cake (which I adjusted)

Ingredients
for cake  
  • 8 oz. dark chocolate (I used 75-80% but you can adjust to your likes)
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup vanilla sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 heaped tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp. sour cream
for frosting  
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 9 oz. semisweet chocolate
Directions
  • Grease two 10" cake tins (at least 3" high) with butter and line the bottoms with non stick paper, making sure to grease the top again. Set aside.
  •  In a bowl, brake the chocolate into small pieces and add the butter in. Place bowl in hot water to melt the two gradually, stirring as you go.
  • In a separate bowl, beat the eggs with the vanilla sugar. Add in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and vanilla extract.
  • Slowly fold in the melted butter and chocolate mixture, then add in the sour cream.
  • Pour half the mixture into one of the cake trays, and the other half into the other one. Smooth out the tops as best you can. 
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, rotating the cakes half way through. Cakes are done when you insert a toothpick in the center and they come out clean. Use this trick and make sure not to over cook the cakes!
  • When the cakes are done, cool them completely at room temperature in the tins (I left them overnight). 
  • Once they are cooled completely, refrigerate for 30 minutes before removing the tins. Cakes are extra sticky and cooling them helps a lot!
  • Cut off the top crusted tops and feel free to munch on them. I crumbled mine into some vanilla ice cream as a baking snack ;)
  • For the frosting, grate or finely chop 9 oz. of chocolate.
  • Heat up the heavy cream in a sauce pan and add in the the chocolate. Mix together until smooth.
  • Remove from heat and let it cool until it thickens (about 10 minutes), stirring throughout to keep smooth.
  • Use 1/3 of the frosting between the layers, and the rest to cover the top and sides. You can create cool textures or swirls with the frosting if you like. I chose to grate the rest of the bar not used in the frosting and sprinkled it (quite heavily) on the top and sides of the cake.
  • Refrigerate for an hour or longer to harden the frosting. A little tip, I inserted my candles at this point to make sure the frosting hardened around them.
  • Take out cake a few hours before serving, it tastes best at room temperature and washed down with a cold glass of milk... enjoy!
***Today I am thankful for dark chocolate... and (secretly) that it didn't kill hubs!***

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Tuesday Tunes: The Lumineers

2.26.2013

image from here

As I'm sat here trying to type this post out, hubs is playfully shouting out "hey" and "ho" at the wrong times while Hey Ho is on in the background. Gosh I love him for those silly acts of, well pure silliness really. Who else is going to belt out songs with me just for the sake of acting ridiculous? There is something hopeful and optimistic (not to mention insanely catchy) that lingers through most of The Lumineers' songs. Except of course for those few in the set that are dangerously sad... I'm talking cue the lights to dim with you perched solo at a sticky bar drowning your sorrows in a man's man kind of drink sad... but I save those songs for when I want to be dramatically blue. For now I'm twirling around to the overly cheery and happy beats and longing for a spring that I know realistically probably won't happen here in England... one because it's been snowing still on and off and two because there never really is a spring, or summer for that matter in this neck of the woods. But with The Lumineers, the sounds of their drums and strums of mandolins, I know that a promise of spring is in the horizon... in a sunny land called California!

p.s.- at the end of this I asked hubs what he thought of The Lumineers... to which he responded with "I don't even know who those guys are"... and yet another reason why I love this man!

a few of my fave...
*click through to the blog to view actual music player...

***Today I am thankful for the way music can really sway my moods... right now I'm happy***

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Print Mixing...

2.25.2013

sweater: madewell | button down: madewell | dress: boutique in brooklyn | tights: m&s | flats: lucky brand via tj maxx | earrings: urban outfitters | pink bracelet: swarovski | thin bracelet: mint julep | coral bracelet: anthropologie | lipstick: m.a.c.

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A Lovely Week 2.22.13

2.22.2013

1. the man behind the lens 2. love in my milk 3. remnants of valentines 4. a healthy snack 5. rare sighting of my shadow 6. by any other name... 7. roast sundays 8. reworking some stuff 9. first run in a while 10. silhouette of a runner 11. dark chocolate shavings 12. icing fun 13. turning this many 14. death by dark chocolate cake 15. for the whiskey lover 16. happy birthday lover! 17. floral & bold 18. this is ringwood 19. little treasures 20. run with the bearded man

Awkward-
Getting back into running... but you already knew that from previous rants hu? Oh but wait, there's more... getting back into running when you are ridiculously unfit because you never quite got out of the drinking and eating all kinds of crap mood that came with the holiday festivities... yes it's been going on since Xmas! Getting back into running when you are ridiculously unfit and gasping for air... and that air is freezing cold beyond belief... I'm talking frost bite potential guys.... And for the grand old cherry on top... getting back into running when you are ridiculously unfit, it's freezing cold, and having the fact that once we skip over the pond we will be in L.A. (land of the gorgeously fit) ready for bikini season looming over me... kill me now please...

Awesome-
Having back to back festivities with Valentines Day and hub's birthday... another excuse to bake? Yes please! Having so many sweet tooth's in this home that for once all of my sweets and treats get eaten... and I'm talking in the blink of an eye quickly... In a weird masochist kind of way, running... but you already knew that from previous delirious post running rants... But running through the forest on a cushioned trail of pine needles next the stream as the sun sets kind of awesome guys... so awesome I almost didn't notice my hands had gone completely numb and purple... fingerless gloves I tell you... Double dates with K & M who came to visit us from London... and that date was in a tiny cottage that for once made me look normal size and poor M (6ft something) look like a giant! He had keep hunched over while walking just to get around... post on that is definitely coming soon...

***Today I am thankful for my long grey socks that are keeping my tootsies warm***

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My Funny Valentine...

2.21.2013

 not sure why I'm making that face...

My funny Valentine took me on a romantic stroll this year. The air was crisp and cold, the day was grey and wet... in true England fashion of course. We strolled through the woods holding slightly frozen hands (we both forgot gloves) and stopped for runny nosed kisses here and there. We avoided puddles, of which there were many, and stopped to gaze at the gently rolling streams. We may have stopped to do a style shoot or two (you're so excited I'm sure!) and even had our date crashed by a furry four legged friend... who splashed into the icy stream to happily dig up... a rock?! Then my funny Valentine led our walk to a warm and cozy pub. Together we defrosted by the fire over a shared platter of fishy and fried delights, washed down with equally tasty beverages. He chose a vintage whiskey, I chose a local beer. We talked about our future plans and what life will be like once we are finally state side... we talked about our individual goals and things we hoped to accomplish before 30. We talked and talked for hours by that fire in that cozy pub... and it was perfect. Thank you for the perfect date my funny Valentine.

***Today I am thankful for my funny valentine hubs, he is the funniest really***

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The Bearded Man...

2.19.2013


To the bearded man (with a lampshade on his head),

Happy Birthday dear hubs... beard and all. Thank you for being the most lovable and playful partner a girl could've asked for. As we near our thirties and you still insist on wearing lamp shades on your head, I am assured that a future with with you will always be an adventure. As per your request, today I shall once again try to kill you with my Death By Dark Chocolate Cake... which you can wash down with your favorite whiskey of course! 

Love,

The Wife.

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Recipe: Heart Sugar Cookies

2.18.2013


I may have gotten a little carried away with my baking and heart obsessing this Valentines. With so many inspiring recipes and ideas on pintrest, it was really hard narrowing down my projects. And with so many eager sweet tooth's around this joint, I knew excess goodies was not going to be a problem. Sugar cookies are always such a well received treat and these were no exception! I decided to keep these simple with a light coating of sugar and a few stamped cookies in the mix... you know, let the taste take the lime light!

Food Network Recipe (which I adjusted), makes 30 cookies

Ingredients
for cookies  
  • 3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tbsp. milk
for topping  
  • 4 tbsp. sugar, (colored of flavored if you like)
Directions
  • Combine the sifted cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light in color. Add in the milk and combine well.
  • With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the flour mixture and beat until it begins pull away from the side of the bowl.
  • Divide the dough in half, wrap in baking paper, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. I actually made my dough the day before so feel free to refrigerate up to 48 hrs.
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and let the dough soften a bit for easier rolling. You can leave the other half of the dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
  • On a lightly flour sprinkled surface (I like using a wooden cutting board) start rolling out the dough into 1/4" thickness.
  •  Use a heart shape cookie cutter and stamper to cut out the dough. 
  • Put the 4 tbsp. of sugar onto a small dish and place each cut out cookie onto it to coat with sugar. Lightly press down on the back with your fingers to help the sugar stick.
  • Place sugared cookies on a baking tray lined with baking paper, about 1" apart.
  • I like to place each tray back in the refrigerator for 2 minutes to help the dough harden slightly before baking but you can step this step if you like.
  • Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden around the edges, rotating the tray halfway through. Baking time may vary depending on the size of your cookies. My bigger hearts were about 4" and the smaller ones were about 3".
  • Let your cookies cool down for 5 minutes on just the paper before transferring them to wire racks. Let cookies cool completely and then dig in... enjoy!

***Today I am thankful for left over Valentine cookies... delicious and going fast!***

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Recipe: Red Velvet Cake

2.16.2013


Red velvet cake is one of the few cakes that I absolutely love! I know, I'm a little bit weird and not really into cakes and sweets... but I sure do love baking them! Growing up I remember the puzzled look on my parents faces when year after year I refused to eat my birthday cake... just wasn't interested. What kind of child does that anyways?!? It wasn't until much later when they introduced ice cream cake into my birthdays that I finally started having a slice... and truth be told, I would pick out the cake and just eat the ice cream! I think what I like most about a good, moist red velvet cake is the fact that it's not as sweet due to the cocoa powder. Oh and let's not forget the cream cheese frosting... I'm a sucker for anything cream cheese. So naturally Valentines day was the perfect opportunity to introduce this gem of a cake the British family... can you believe it's not big over here?!? They are missing out!

 Gimmie Some Oven Recipe (which I adjusted), makes 12 mini cupcakes & a cake

Ingredients
for cake
  • 2 1/2 cake flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tube red gel food color (.35 oz.)
  • 1 bottle red food coloring (1 oz.)
  •  1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • mini silicone cupcake holders
for frosting
  • 2 blocks of cream cheese (1 lb.)
  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Directions
for cake 
  • Combine the sifted cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix well and set aside.
  • In a smaller bowl, mix together the food coloring, the gel, and the cocoa powder until a thin paste is formed without any lumps. Set aside.
  • In a third bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes.
  • Add in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla, and lastly the red cocoa paste. Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl and mix everything well.
  • Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat well. Add in half of the buttermilk mixture, making sure to beat well.
  • Add in another 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining half of the buttermilk. Beat well.
  • Lastly, finish by adding the final 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until everything is combined and smooth. Don't forget to scrape the sides of the bowl in too!
  • In a fourth small bowl, mix together the vinegar and baking soda and then add it into the cake batter mixture. Stir well to combine.
  • Line the silicone mini cupcake holders on a baking tray and fill about 3/4 full with a the help of a tiny spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for 11 minutes, rotating the tray halfway. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick is inserted in the center comes out clean. Try a few to be on the safe side.
  • Fill remaining batter in cake tins, I used two thin ones to stack. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes and the same toothpick trick can be used here.
  • Cool both cupcakes and cakes on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from tins (not the silicone). Let them cool completely before frosting.
for frosting
  • Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on a medium-high speed until combined smoothly, 2-3 minutes. 
  • Add in the vanilla extract and mix well.
  • Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until it is completely incorporated.
  • Increase the speed and beat until nice and smooth.
  • I used a spoon the frost both my cupcakes and cake but feel free to use what ever is easiest for you... enjoy!

***Today I am thankful for cream cheese frosting... simply delicious! ***

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Recipe: Heart Sugar Cubes

2.15.2013


While scouring the web for fun Valentine ideas, I came across this sweet and simple recipe for making your own heart shaped sugar cubes... I mean cute or what?!? It's the perfect way to brighten anyone's day... simply pop one in your coffee or tea and I dare you to have a bad day after that... dare you! To spruce things up a little, I decided double the recipe and make both red and pink ones... fancy, I know! But on a serious note, these little guys took so little effort to make, I can see them quickly becoming a staple around here.

Jojo & Eloise Recipe (which I adjusted), makes 25 heart sugar cubes

Ingredients
  • silicone heart tray (make sure it's microwave safe!)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • red or pink food coloring

Directions
  • Combine the sugar, water, and food coloring in a bowl and mix well. Add more or less drops of food coloring to get desired color.
  • Spoon into the silicon tray, smoothing out the tops. You should fit roughly 1 tsp. of sugar per heart.
  • Microwave for 50 seconds in 10 second increments, gently smoothing out and patting down the sugar as it's melting.
  • About half way through, you can either leave as is (the sugar would have melted down) or you can add about 1/2 tsp. more to each heart to reach the top again. I did both so I ended up with some shorter and some taller hearts.
  • Smooth out the tops after last microwave session and let cool for 10 minutes before popping them out... enjoy! 
***Today i am thankful for my little heart sugar cube... it totally brought a smile to my day!***
 

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