Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quick Pics

This is it. The final week for me to gather all my application materials and submit them to the grad schools.  I'm so happy to say that I've applied to two of the three schools that I had planned on! I can't say it's necessarily been easy. The hardest and most stressful part is writing my personal statements. When it comes to writing academically or professionally, I can tend to be somewhat of a perfectionist. I strive to find the perfect words and to state things the right way (The nerd in me secretly finds this fun). I'm pretty satisfied with what I have. It's the result of many late nights and large mugs of tea. It may not be the most ideal time, but it's the only time that I've ever found to be the best time for me to be able to focus and write. It's been that way since high school and if something works, then you gotta just go with it, right?

[An extra shot of that crazy fog we had]
[Lemon-lime lolly!]
Once all the school stuff is squared away, I can start focusing on more laid-back things like baking, planning trips, and figuring out Valentine's Day stuff. I have no idea what to get Chris. All I know is that we're going out for hibachi that night and I can't wait!

[Ninja kitty!]
[Rediscovering books that I bought but never read]
Our anniversary is in March and we're in the middle of planning a trip to Pennsylvania. Neither of us have never been to Philadelphia, Hershey, Amish Country, or Gettysburg so we're going to try to cram them all into one weekend excursion! I'm also going to Florida in March with my parents. I keep thinking about outfits that I want to wear, but it's hard to narrow it down to only what I need for each one. I like options! What if I think of an outfit while I'm there, but don't have the clothes with me? These are the things that plague my mind...

[Having fun with layers]
[An original t-shirt designed by Chris especially for me. It was a gift last year! :)]
This weekend we're celebrating my cousin's birthday. I'm making her a cake! I'm sure you'll be seeing it on here sometime next week. :) 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies

I love chai and I love sugar cookies, so when I found this recipe I knew I had to try it. My love for chai is more recent. I tried chai tea for the first time this past fall and have loved it ever since. I also have a newfound love for french vanilla tea. I have an obsession with tea, if you haven't noticed. I think I love it a little more than one should love a beverage. Sometimes the best part of my day is when I can sit down and enjoy a hot cup of tea.  Anyway...cookies. We're talking about cookies, here.


These cookies are packed with delicious and wonderful-smelling spices. Perfect for fall and winter! I love mixing all the different spices together. It makes me feel like some sort of wizard or scientist.



Chai Spiced Sugar Cookies


2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl combine sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, allspice and black pepper. Remove 1/4 cup of the sugar-spice mixture, set aside to reserve for rolling the cookies.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or in a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar-spice mixture until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla extract, combine until fully incorporated. Slowly blend in dry ingredients mixing until just combined.

Using a small scoop (2 teaspoons) roll dough into balls and then into the reserved sugar-spice mixture. Place dough balls on prepared baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand on baking sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Getting Dressed

I mentioned in one of my recent posts how sometimes I just sort of sit on the ground and stare at my wardrobe trying to figure out how to put things together when I'm getting dressed. It got me wondering about how other people organize their wardrobes and create outfits. Do you separate by seasons? Colors? Seasonal colors?


Dress: Forever 21//Collared Dress (layered under): H&M//Sweater: Forever 21//Tights: Simply Vera by Vera Wang//Shoes: Angelo Luzio, thifted//Belt: Forever 21
I have a very small space to work with. I have two small closets and a dresser full of drawers, and I still have a lot of my older clothes in storage in the attic or garage. I organize my dresses, tights, and sweaters by color and the stuff in my drawers I just organize by clothing type. All my shirts are together, all my pants are together, and all my skirts are together. Having stuff in drawers really makes it hard to see what I have to work with. I long for the day that I can have a giant walk-in closet or have enough space to set up clothing racks, at least.




When I'm trying to put an outfit together, I usually start with an article of clothing that I want to wear and go through the colors in rainbow order in my head to determine what colors would go good with it and what articles of clothing I have in those colors. Other times when I'm feeling more rambunctious, I just grab a bunch of things and try to mix and match and make something of it. Most of the time, I'm laying in bed trying to fall asleep and running through all my clothes in my head, trying to think up an outfit.




I recently downloaded an app called Stylebook, which is supposed to function as a wardrobe organizer. You take individual pictures of each piece of your wardrobe (you can edit out the background) so that eventually you can virtually put outfits together with your own wardrobe. It's like being able to create a mini Polyvore board strictly with items that you own! I haven't gotten around to being able to do this yet, though. I've only taken pictures of a couple of dresses, but I plan to keep at it. It's going to take some time to get everything photographed.




I'm curious as to how you all go about outfit-planning and wardrobe organizing. Feel free to comment! By the are some shots of Chris's that I wanted to share. Of course he is the man behind the camera for my outfit shots, but he enjoys shooting lots of different subjects too! I'm so glad that I can share this passion and hobby with him. :)




[My baby! :)]

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Three Year Blogiversary!

Three years ago today, I started Swing The Day Away. I was 20 years old, in my junior year of college, and taking outfit pictures in my backyard while my parents weren't home so that I didn't feel awkward. I was posting only on Chictopia before I made the decision to start my own blog. It was all the awesome fashion bloggers I saw there who inspired me to make my own blog. I've always loved to write and over the years, fashion and photography became strong passions for me. It just felt natural for me to combine the three. It was definitely a moment of revelation. One that I am so glad I had.


I've come a long way in different aspects since I started my blog. I went from a little Canon PowerShot, to a Leica D-Lux 4 to a Canon Rebel T3i and have learned more about photography. I graduated college with a degree in psychology and am now applying to grad school to pursue library science. I upgraded to taking outfit pictures in public places and not just in my yard. My style has grown, and I learned more about mixing colors, patterns, and textures. I have learned a lot about myself, mostly in regards to what I want to do with my life and what matters most to me.


I feel sort of weird celebrating this blogiversary when I stopped blogging for over a year out of these three years. From the end of September 2010 to April 2012 I didn't blog at all. I was a senior in college and super stressed out about things and couldn't really put any effort into my blog. After I stopped for a while, it took some time to get back into it. I think it needed to happen. I think that break allowed me to be able to be as dedicated as I am today to this blog. I needed to wait for the right time for me. I still get anxious sometimes that I'm going to lose touch with it again or not be able to post as much as other bloggers do, but I think that one of the things I learned over the years is that it doesn't matter what everyone else is doing. You need to do what works for you.


Thank you to all of you who keep coming back and being so supportive of me. I've (virtually) met so many amazing people and new friends because of this blog and I'm really grateful for it. This community is such a positive and inspiring one to be a part of and I'm so happy that I found my way here. :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Adventure Time BMO Cake

Does anyone else love Adventure Time? It's probably one of my favorite cartoons, up there with Spongebob and Futurama. One of my best friends' birthday was last Saturday and I surprised her with this BMO cake. BMO is her favorite character from Adventure Time...and coincidentally he is mine too! I had a lot of fun decorating this cake and watching it all come together. The cake is just my go-to white vanilla cake that I found the recipe for last year and had used for my mom's birthday cake. It's the best white cake....EVER. For the decorations, I had to get a little more creative!

I made some buttercream frosting and used Wilton's Icing Colors in teal to dye it. To make it lighter for his face, I just separated some of the frosting beforehand and didn't mix as much coloring into it. I also took a bit of the blue frosting and put some black dye into it for his disc slot. The dark blue buttons/slots are berry Mike and Ikes, the green button is a Spree, and the blue triangle button is the corner of an Airhead that I cut out. The red and yellow buttons are just decorative writing icing that I drew on by hand. His eyes and mouth are just store-bought black decorative icing. I applied the eyes with toothpicks so that I could better shape them. You can use whatever you want for the decorations (fondant, other types of candys, just icing, etc.), but I just tried to work with what was cheapest and easiest. I don't work with fondant often, so I didn't want to get a whole box of it and then let it go to waste.

She was so surprised and thrilled when I unveiled the cake at her party. I am a huge fan of surprising people, so it was definitely very rewarding to see her reaction when I gave her the cake. She picked it up and held it like a

BMO Cake (Fluffy Vanilla Cake)
Source: Sweetapolita, modified by me!


For the Cake:
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
2 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes

For the Buttercream Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lb. powdered sugar
1-3 teaspoons milk (depending on how creamy you like your frosting)
Wilton's Icing Colors, in teal and black

For Decoration:
1 package of Sprees (I would try to get the smallest package possible since you only need 1 green one!)
1 blue raspberry Airhead
1 package of Mike and Ikes
Wilton's Icing Writers, in red and yellow
Black decorative icing (I used Betty Crocker's Decorating Icing)


For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease the pan and set aside. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the egg whites, 1/4 cup of milk, and the vanilla. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir the dry ingredients together on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.

Pour the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly. Bake 25-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes clean when inserted into the center. Be so careful to not over-bake. Check cake at 20 minutes, but not before, and once you feel it's almost ready, set the timer for 2 minute intervals. If you're going to take the cake out of the pan, let it cool on a rack for 10 minutes before loosening the sides with a small metal spatula, and invert onto greased wire racks. Gently turn the cake back up, so the top is up. If you want to leave the cake in the pan, then just set it on a potholder or rack and allow it to cool. Let it cool completely before frosting it.

If you plan on baking ahead of time, wrap the cake tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. It is best eaten the same day as baked.

For the Buttercream Frosting:

Using a mixer, cream softened butter and vanilla until smooth. Add sugar gradually, allowing butter and sugar to cream together before adding more.

If you want your frosting a little creamier, add a teaspoon of milk at a time and beat on high until you get the right texture. Separate a small portion of the frosting to use for BMO's face. Use teal icing color to tint the frosting, making the smaller portion lighter than the rest.

Making BMO:

Start by frosting a little more than half of the cake with the darker teal frosting. I use a thin, angled spatula to frost my cakes. The width of my spatula was perfect for the border around BMO's face. Use the darker teal frosting to frost around the edges of the cake, leaving a blank square of cake for BMO's face. 

Using the lighter teal frosting, start to fill in the blank square of cake. I found that it was hard to get the edges where the two colors meet properly coated, so I used a toothpick at the edges and then carefully smoothed it over with the spatula.

Once the cake is frosted, you can start making BMO's face! I started with his eyes. Squeeze out some of the black decorative icing onto a napkin and use a toothpick to paint it onto the cake. Place the eyes evenly onto the lighter teal square. Use the toothpick to shape the two dots into nice, round circles. For the mouth, just squeeze the black decorative icing in the shape of a smile! I practiced on a paper towel first.

Now that the face is done, you can move onto the body. BMO has a dark green slot for discs. Since I couldn't get the right color for that, I just used black. Take some of the teal icing and use black icing color to dye it black. Use this to paint into a long rectangular strip for the slot. I used the end of the angled spatula and then used a toothpick to shape it and smooth it out.

Using yellow icing writer, paint on the D-pad (the cross-shaped button). Again, I practiced on a paper towel first. Use the red icing writer to draw on the large circular button.

Now for the easier part... Take two dark blue Mike and Ikes and press them lightly into the frosting for the two controller slots. Cut the end off of a third one and use it for his power button. Cut a corner off of the blue Airhead so that you end up with a triangle. Trim it slightly to get it a little thinner if it comes out too wide. Press the triangle into the frosting above the red circle. Take a green Spree and press it into the frosting next to the triangle and red circle. Shmowzow! You have a cute and totally math BMO cake! :)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Into The Mist

I've never really thought much about fog. I mean...who is sitting around thinking "You know what's awesome? Fog." or "How about that fog?! Yeah!". Usually when experiencing fog, I'm driving somewhere in the morning and can't see two feet in front of me. But last weekend we had a super foggy day, and it lasted pretty much the whole day. I happened to pick my favorite park to go to to take pictures and when we got there, I realized how cool and spooky it looked with such a dense fog encompassing it.


This weekend I'm helping out a friend by being in a music video for her friend's song. I'm pretty nervous since I always feel like I'm awkward on video. Seriously...point a video camera at me and I sort of freeze up and don't know what to do. But since it's a music video, I don't have to talk. That part soothes me a bit. It's something I'd really like to get over, anyhow. I guess it's not so much being on video than it is being put on the spot. I've done videos for the company I work for and a little bit of voiceover work too (even though I hate my voice). I have no problem being on stage in a play. I'm ok if I have lines or directions, but if I have to make things up on the spot, I'm awful. I'm terrible at improvisation!


I've been feeling more creative lately with outfits. I've actually been spending time with my closet trying to mix and match different pieces. It's definitely a struggle sometimes to create winter outfits. Sometimes I just don't like the way a dress looks with a cardigan and I just want to wear it by itself. Sometimes I can't find a cardigan that looks right. Sometimes I sit on my floor in my underwear staring between my closet and drawer of tights trying to make sense of things. And that's how some of my outfits come to be.

Dress: ASOS//Tights: Simply Vera by Vera  Wang//Cardigan: H&M//Wedges: Jessica Simpson//Belt: Forever 21



I love my Christmas dress so much that I just couldn't wait to remix it. I just want to wear it all the time! It's so comfy and the perfect shape and color. :) I think forest green is the color I like to wear most in winter. I try to buy holiday dresses that I know I'll wear again and aren't too fancy or impractical. That way I don't have to wait for some special occasion to wear them!





I really love playing with manual focus. I'd like to get a macro lens someday because I love getting super close-up shots of nature and the like. ::sigh::...Photography is such an expensive hobby.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gingerbread Cookies

I know I may be late for the gingerbread train, but I just had to share these. Gingerbread cookies are a once a year specialty for me. I only make them for Christmas. I used to just use the recipe in my mom's Betty Crocker cookbook, but this year I decided to try a recipe from one of the trusty baking blogs on the Interwebz. I'm so glad I did because these were the best gingerbread cookies I've ever had.

[I bake cookies in my PJs]
Gingerbread men cookies are probably my favorite to decorate, mostly because I spend hours amusing myself with all the silly faces and outfits I give my gingerbread men (and sometimes women, zombies, monsters, etc.). Sometimes I actually like when some of them fall apart, because then I can decorate them in a fitting manner, such as this...

I have store-bought decorative icing that I use to decorate these, but you can use anything you want! You can make your own royal icing or regular frosting. Whatever you prefer!

[Chris said this one would be me if I were]

Gingerbread Cookies
Source: Crepes of Wrath, italicized notes by me!


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup molasses
1 egg, room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 tablespoons crystallized ginger, minced (don’t pack the ginger into, a light or “barely there” 1/4 cup is sufficient) [Note: I omitted this and they came out fine!]


Beat the butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add in the molasses and beat until well combined. Beat in the egg until combined.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Whisk until combined, then gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, a bit at a time, mixing until well combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you work.

Mince the ginger and fold it into the dough (Again, I omitted this). Carefully wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours. The dough is pretty sticky at this point, so I found it easiest to lay out a sheet of plastic wrap and dump the dough directly onto that from the bowl instead of handling it too much with my hands.

After the dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Generously flour your work surface, then take half of your dough and place it down. Generously flour your hands and your rolling pin, then roll the dough out to your desired thickness (mine was about half an inch thick). Carefully move the cookies to a lined and/or greased baking sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cookies have risen. Allow to cool completely before moving to another surface to decorate. Makes 30-35 cookies.