Thursday, August 30, 2012

Vegetable Garden Cake

I forgot to post about the cake I made for my Grandma's birthday at the beginning of the month! The cake wasn't anything too fancy...just a white cake with dyed buttercream frosting. But I decided I was going to decorate it like a fruit/vegetable garden since her and my Grandpa like to garden.

I was trying to brainstorm what I could use to make vegetables out of. I decided that Mike and Ikes would do for a few different ones. I used them to make carrots, cucumbers, and corn and used some decorating icing to add the details.

My grandparents are growing their own grapes this year, so I thought it'd be a nice personal touch to represent those on the cake. I used grape Nerds to make them and used white decorating icing to make the arbor.

I knew I was going to make tomatoes, and decided that peanut M&Ms would do. I wasn't sure what to make for the final vegetable. I looked at all the candy I bought and figured I could use brown peanut M&Ms to make potatoes. Unfortunately, the pack of peanut M&Ms I bought didn't have enough brown ones in it. Luckily, we had some almonds on hand, so I used those to make the potatoes. I love how the stems came out on the tomatoes.

I crushed up Oreos to make the soil and graham crackers for the dirt paths. I know it doesn't look super professional or anything, but I was proud and excited when it was done. I think it came out pretty cute and my family loved it, so it was a success! :)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gingham and Raspberries

Finally, after two failed attempts, I got to pick raspberries! Victory! My friend Nadia and I picked them together and I assigned Chris as our photographer for the day. This time, there were plenty of raspberries and they were so delicious and ripe.

They gave us these cute little buckets with rope straps to use while picking the berries. It was so adorable. We wore them like a purse! I kind of wish we could've kept them. I'm not sure what I'd do with it if I did, but I just liked the idea of it.

We also expressed our excitement with some jumping and high-fiving...

I picked up this shirt on somewhat of a whim in Goodwill a couple of weeks ago. It's a large, but I really wanted a red gingham shirt to tie up with some shorts. I figured if I was just going to tie it, it wouldn't really matter what size it was. I like how the sleeves are a little puffy and the shirt itself is a little billowy.

[Shirt: Gap, thrifted from Goodwill
Shorts: Old Navy
Shoes: Rialto]
After we finished picking, we checked out the farm market to see if there were any yummy things we wanted to buy. We ended up doing a wine tasting. They had their own fresh sangria to try too, which was good. I'm not really much of a wine person, though. I love going to farm markets because they always have stuff that's made using the fruits that are right there on the farm, or made locally. And they also have things like apple butter, pumpkin butter, and apple syrup that you can't really find in a supermarket. That's the kind of stuff I love being around. I'm really just a country gal at heart. I'd love to have a lot of land someday when I have a house and grow my own fruits and vegetables and flowers. Maybe I'll even have my own little roadside fruit and veggie stand someday!

[The photographer and I :)]

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blueberry Coffee Cake

I made this cake with the fresh blueberries that I picked from the orchard. Or they would've been fresh if it didn't take me almost two weeks to decide what to make with them. That's right...the blueberries that I picked were sitting in my refrigerator for almost two weeks. There were just so many recipes to choose from! How does a girl pick between cookies, cakes, crisps, muffins, cupcakes, and more! Anyway...they kept pretty decently and didn't really go bad, so I still used them.

I ended up narrowing it down to cookies or coffee cake. I considered the cookies. For some reason, even though cookies are my favorite thing to make, I wasn't feeling the cookies. Maybe it's because I was using fruit. When I think baked goods with fruit, I think pies, crisps, and cakes. So I strayed from my beloved cookie route and ventured yonder into the realm of coffee cake.

[Pre-baking without crumble topping]
[Pre-baking with crumble topping]
I have to say, at first I wasn't very impressed with this coffee cake. Actually, it wasn't the cake. The cake itself was delightful, but the blueberries really threw me off. I felt deceived because I expected a sweeter taste than I got. Maybe I'm just not used to baked blueberries or maybe my taste buds were slightly burnt since I lack will power around fresh-out-of-the-oven goodies, because the next day I tried it when it was cooled, and it tasted so much better. I'd definitely make this again. It's a great summer dessert. And I bet you could substitute any berries in there too!

[Fresh out of the oven!]

Although I love making cookies, I have to say, it felt good to make something different for a change. I am about to embark on yet another baking extravaganza tonight. I planned a giant BBQ for all my friends this weekend, so I'm making a few different treats for the occasion. Four different treats, to be exact...and only one of them is cookies! I'll be sharing them soon. :)

Blueberry Cake Recipe
Source: Joy of Baking


Cake Batter:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries

Streusel Topping:

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, an 8 inch square baking pan.

Streusel Topping: In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and ground cinnamon. With a pastry blender, two knives, or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour mixture, until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Cake Batter: In a separate bowl whisk together the flour with the baking powder and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add the flour mixture (in three additions), alternately with the milk (in two additions), and beat only until combined. Spread the batter onto the bottom of the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula.

Evenly arrange the blueberries on top of the cake batter and then sprinkle with the streusel topping.

Bake for about 40 - 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the cake just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sunflower Maze

Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers. How can you look at a bunch of sunflowers and not feel even the tiniest bit better about life? They're just so bright and sunny! Just seeing a patch of them in someone's yard makes me ooo and ahh as I drive by. Just imagine me in a field full of them. don't really have to imagine, because here I am in the middle of a sunflower field.


Yeah...happened. If it weren't for the hundreds of honey bees buzzing around in my ears, I would've gladly stayed in the maze for hours and possibly laid out a blanket and had a picnic. Chris was especially freaked out by the bees. I was tolerant, although that instant panic feeling I get when a bug buzzes by my ear unexpectedly isn't fun to have over and over again. But I was actually more distracted by the sunflowers. There were some that were as big as my head!

[The escapee. It was the only flower outside of the fence!]
This dress is so autumny. I know I keep talking about autumn, but I can't help it. This dress is the perfect shade of burnt orange. And even though I got it months ago, this was the first time I ever wore it! I was saving it for a special occasion, and walking through a field of sunflowers was definitely one.

[Dress: Modcloth
Shoes: Gap
Purse: Thrifted]
The sunflowers weren't the only attraction that I was looking forward to. The orchard was also hosting hot air balloon rides for the weekend. More reason to wear this awesome dress, right? Now. I've tried twice so far to go up in a hot air balloon. Both times were in Florida, and both times the weather and wind interfered and deterred my ballooning fun. This was try number three. It was only going to be five bucks to go up, and they were supposed to have it for 3 hours. Even though we got there an hour and a half before they were ending the rides, the minute we got there I heard the employees saying that they ran out of fuel and there would be no more rides that day. Disappoint. I made myself feel better by frolicking through the sunflowers and then sneaking some apples off the trees nearby.

To top it off, this was raspberry picking attempt number two, and it didn't end well. The raspberries were very scarce and we only managed to pick about ten. At that point, I decided to just give up and wait until the orchard that's closer to me began their raspberry season [spoiler alert: I just took raspberry crisp out of my oven ;)].

[A lone raspberry]
I wish I could've picked some of the sunflowers and taken them home with me, but I was just glad that I got to be surrounded by so many of them. One more thing to cross off my list this summer! :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Quick Pics & Summer To-Do List Update

I've been trying to get lots of things done on my summer to-do list, but I keep getting thwarted by random things, usually the weather or lack of gas due to having to travel somewhere for errands and not pleasure.

One of the errands I had to run was to get fitted for my bridesmaid dress for my brother's wedding. The shop was an hour away, so instead of travelling all that way for a 5 minute appointment, I decided to make more out of the trek. I planned to go to a state forest, but Chris and I ended up not being able to find it and there was potential for thunderstorms, so we decided we'd try another day. We did end up looking around this really cute antique shop where I got a couple of teacups and a heart-shaped wicker mirror. We also ended up going to Goodwill that day and I found a couple of good items.

[Teacup finds]
[Heart-shaped wicker mirror]
[Thrift finds]
What else have I been doing lately?'s a look:

[Carnival fun]

[I discovered the best cereal ever. It's like autumn in a box.]
[Found this little bit of nerd treasure at the library. :)]
[What I'd look like in the Futurama universe!]
[Chris and I went shopping and this happened]
[Some book finds at a local used bookstore. I got all these for $20!]
[We went through a sunflower maze at a local farm. More on that soon! ;)]
[Tea with friends]
[Got my hair trimmed up again! :)]
Here's my list reposted with the things crossed out that I've done:

1. Read more! Right now I'm reading Lucille Ball's autobiography. I'm not too far into it, but I'm enjoying it so far.
I'm working on this. I started reading The Lost World!
2. Attend some carnivals/fairs. Part of this is because I love the photographic opportunities they offer.
3. Find and explore some lighthouses
4. Go on a weekend getaway with friends
5. Take pictures in a vintage photobooth. An authentic one that prints in black and white!
6. Find more vintage stores and better thrift shops.
8. Go to a theme park
9. Plan a giant BBQ
This is happening next Saturday!
10. Visit historic/old-fashioned shopping districts.
11. Plant a sunflower. 
12. Play in a sunflower maze
13. Have a water gun fight
14. Go for a ride in a hot air balloon. This is pretty expensive, so I'm not sure I'll be able to do it yet.
15. Sell some stuff on eBay
16. Spend more time exploring the coast
17. Record music with Chris
18. Relearn/practice piano

Ok, so I haven't really done a lot yet. To be fair, I'm planning for a weekend camping getaway in September and I'm also planning to go to a vintage photobooth next week. I was supposed to go to a theme park at the end of the month, but the trip got cancelled. :\

To be honest, I'm focusing all of my planning energy and anticipation on autumn. I'm already creating a to-do list for it and a fall shopping wishlist. It's always hard to wait for it to arrive, but for some reason this year I'm extremely anticipant of it's arrival. Most of my Pinterest time (don't even get me started on how addictive this is) is spent looking at autumn-themed pins and boards. I have an entire list of about 30-40 autumn-specific recipes that I can't wait to bake. I'm already looking into when and where all the neat Halloween and autumn festivities are in the area this year and I'm already planning parties/events for the season. Honestly, I'm obsessing a little. Ok, fine. A lot. It can't come soon enough!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Failed Raspberry Picking Attempts

Well. As you all know, I've been trying to find a place to go raspberry picking. So Chris and I went to this fruit farm that supposedly has them. When I called, they said they were scarce, but still available for picking. Unfortunately when we got there, they changed their tune and said there's nothing really there to pick, then directed us to the blueberries. I was disappointed, but I had never picked blueberries before and we were already there, so we went for it.

My disappointment and preoccupation with the raspberries led to a decrease in my listening abilities. The girl at the store counter was telling me how to get to the blueberries, but the whole time I was thinking "What about the raspberries?! I don't care about the blueberries. Raspberries, raspberries, raspberries!". So once we left the little store, we ventured out into the orchard, but had no idea which way to go. We ended up by the apples (and ate one, of course) with no berries in sight.

There was an old woman in one of the rows of apple trees, pruning and clipping the branches. She had one of those little vehicles that you can drive around on uneven terrain and when I asked her how to get to the blueberries, she kindly offered us a ride over to them since it was a bit of a walk. So we got to ride around through the row of apple trees and down a hill to where the blueberry bushes were!

[View from the hill leading to the blueberry bushes]
She dropped us off right at the rows where we were supposed to pick and we ended up finding a lot of good berries. We picked a whole pint...and ate a few along the way as well. Usually, blueberries taste kind of bland to me, but these were very flavorful and sweet. It's most likely because I never really had fresh blueberries. They're always just thrown in the mix with a fruit salad and are probably bought at the supermarket or frozen. But the fresh ones right off the bushes are delicious!

I've been researching tons of recipes that involve blueberries. Because I found about 25, I'm having a lot of trouble deciding what to make. There are all kinds of choices between breads and muffins and cookies and even cupcakes! It's a bit overwhelming, which leads me to open all the recipes in different tabs, contemplate them for a few minutes, begin panicking because my brain starts to overload due to how delicious everything looks, and then I end up closing all the tabs and deciding I'll deal with it another day because I just can't choose right now. Chronic procrastination at its best.

[Top: Forever 21
Skirt: H&M
Shoes (even though you can't see them): Mudd]
Anyway...I'm in love with this top. I need more crop tops in my life, even though it's already halfway through August. I've only worn this top about three times, despite how obsessed I am with it. I think the problem is that I don't have much to choose from as far as high-waisted skirts and shorts go. I need some more of those in my life. A lot of the skirts I have would be too short for comfort if I wore them at my waist. I guess that's one thing I can put on my fall shopping wishlist.

[Taste test!]

Chris and I attempted to pick raspberries again this past weekend, but they were (once again) extremely scarce and we decided to give up. I am planning on trying a third time with my friend on Sunday at an orchard that actually just started their raspberry season, so I'm having good feelings about it. Be on the lookout for some yummy blueberry and raspberry treats soon! :)