Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Seattle Bound







Dress: Xhilaration | Hat: Merona | Booties: Toms | Purse: Louis Vuitton Montaigne GM (similar bag here: Ted Baker) | Half Cuff Bracelet: Blushes and Gold | Bar Bracelet: Nadri | Ring: Nadri | Earrings: Nadri | Lip Pencil: MAC in Edge to Edge | Lip Color: Bare Minerals in Slay

We all know how much I love a good shift dress. Add in a scattered floral print and this dress is me to a "T"! I absolutely love the cold shoulder and lace details on the sleeves. I paired this navy number with a nude hat and booties. I love the way this hat is structured. The top has a fedora feel to it and the brim is a short floppy style that doesn't quite get in your face. It is a little late in the season for a wool hat but the shorter brim on this one will carry you through spring and into early summer. I picked up a new color of my favorite matte lippy. It is a light pink that is perfect for everyday wear and I am in love. 

Guess what!?! We are leaving for Seattle tomorrow and I couldn't be more excited. I have been craving a quick getaway so we booked it a week and a half ago. Neither of us have been to Seattle before, but we are really excited to just explore and go on dates every day. It will be a really nice escape from what has been a busier than usual off-season. We plan on seeing the sights in the city, heading up north to take a tour of the Boeing plant, and venturing inland a bit for some wine at Chateau Ste. Michelle. It should be a relaxing and rejuvenating time for us to just reconnect and enjoy each other. Any must-sees or must-eats while we are there? Any input is appreciated!!

Monday, February 20, 2017

My "Seal the Deal" Cake



You guys, this is a big deal. Let me tell you a little story. When Tony and I began dating we were both very focused on our careers and we had both just gotten out of relationships. We agreed early on to just date and not put labels on anything that way there were no expectations as we moved through this extremely busy season. Well three months down the road I had decided that I was done with that and I wanted to keep him (hehe) it also happened to be his birthday right around this time. So what did I do? I baked cupcakes using the recipe I am about to share with you, drove up to the LA County Fair and surprised him. One bite of those cupcakes and it sealed the deal. Here we are six and a half years later. What a sucker (just kidding babe). Anyways, the moral of the story is take this recipe, file it away somewhere special and break it out only when it is absolutely necessary or I mean whenever you feel like eating cake.

This cake is so moist and a little on the dense side which I love. The density makes it much richer than your typical vanilla birthday cake. When making it as a cake (versus cupcakes) I love filling in between the layers with custard and strawberries, so I have also included that recipe below. I typically bake the cake one day, wrap the layers in plastic wrap, refrigerate them overnight and then assemble the cake the following day. This makes the process much less daunting. The recipe below is for a 3-layer 8-inch round cake but is also great for a 13x9 inch sheet cake or cupcakes. In order to ada, t you will just need to change the bake time. This cake is always a crowd-pleaser and definitely worth the time. I hope you and yours enjoy it as much as me and mine do.

Cake Ingredients

- 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 salt
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
- 1 tsp almond extract
- 2 tsp imitation butter flavoring
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 1 1/3 cup water
- 2 Tbsp oil
- 1 cup sour cream
- 4 egg whites

Custard Ingredients
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup half and half
- 4 1/2 tsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups strawberries

Frosting Ingredients
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup shortening
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1 Tbsp vanilla
- 2 pound bag powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt

Cake Method

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare baking pans with cake release. I make my cake release using this recipe and it works great!

2. Using two bowls and a sifter, sift together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt four to five times. It is super important that these ingredients are very well integrated especially the cornstarch and flour.


3. Using a mixer combine vanilla, almond and butter flavorings, shortening, water, oil and sour cream. Mix until completely integrated.


4. With the mixer still going, add your egg whites one at a time. You may want to set three of your egg yolks aside for later if you are making the custard filling.

5. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Small lumps are ok. This is a large recipe so make sure you pulse your mixer on and off while beginning to mix in order to not have cake mix all over your kitchen.

6. Pour a third of your cake mix into your prepared pan and bake for 27-30 minutes or until the top of the cake is golden brown and doesn't sag in the middle when you open the oven.


7. Let cake cool for about five minutes in the pan and then remove to a wire rack to cool the rest of the way. Store in plastic wrap overnight or decorate after letting cool completely.

Custard Method

1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture has thickened to a pudding type consistency.


2. Remove into a bowl and continue to stir here and there as the mixture cools. You can store this for up to several days in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Frosting Method

1.Cream together butter, shortening and cream cheese until fluffy and fully integrated. You can overmix this as much as you want to make sure if it mixed plenty.

2. Add vanilla and salt and mix well to combine.


3. Slowly add powdered sugar and mix well after each addition until you have as stiff of a frosting as you would like. It varies from time to time and this last time I ended up mixing in about a half cup short of the full 2-pound bag of powdered sugar.

Decorating Method

1. Place the first layer of your cake on your serving surface. You may need to use a serrated knife to file away part of the top to make the cake level.

2. Place about 3/4 cup of custard on top of level cake and spread evenly.


3. Place thin slices of strawberries on top of custard to make an even layer.


4. Repeat steps 1-3 for the next layer.

5. Place your third layer of cake on top of the second layer of strawberries and then frost the top and sides using the cream cheese buttercream frosting as much or as little as you would like.

6. Decorate with lettering, berries or by piping more frosting on to the cake.

7. Enjoy!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Versatile and Transitional

1. Cardigan: Knox Rose (25% Off) | 2. Bag: Mossimo (50% Off) | 3. Dress: Lush (25% Off) | 4. Earrings: Target (40% Off) | 5. Bracelet: Treasure & Bond (50% Off) | 6. Sandals: Steve Madden (40% Off) 

Grey and Blue are great together and when I saw that this dress was on sale I knew I had to design a "Sale Alert" around it. This dress comes in several colors and was everywhere last spring and summer. I have it in a cobalt color and it is the comfiest. Since the weather has been so up and down here I figured it would be perfect to pair with a cardigan and the print on this one will carry you all the way into next fall. I have a similar pair of sandals that I love and they are pretty comfortable. I was so excited when I found this bracelet to round out this outfit. I have been so in love with mixed media jewelry lately. It is a really easy way to wear jewelry casually while still making a statement. 

Last night we went out for Tony's mom's birthday. His parents are several years apart in age, but only a week apart in date. She loves eating out and his dad loves eating at home so we usually have a party at home for him like we did last week and last night we took his mom out to George's at the Cove in La Jolla. There were 10 of us including kids and the babies did really well. It was a really great time. Today I am meeting up with one of my oldest friends. I'm talking, we were besties in grade school. She is now married and has a little cutie so I am really excited to catch up. We are going to one of my favorite cafes, which is a total must if you are ever in San Diego. Nutmeg is in the burbs near me and has fresh and locally sourced offerings for brunch and lunch. It is fantastic. 

I hope your day is as beautiful as you are!


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Coral and Floral







Kimono: Xhilaration | Top: Mossimo Supply Co. | Jeans: Joe's  | Booties: Seychelles | Bag: Louis Vuitton Montaigne GM (similar style: Ted Baker) | Lip Liner: MAC in Staunchly Stylish | Lipstick: MAC Peach Blossom | Bracelets: Blushes and Gold, Nadri | Earrings: Nadri | Ring: Nadri

Spring is right around the corner and the sun came out with force the other day, so I figured why not throw on a coral and floral combo? I love kimonos and this one is no exception. They are so easy to throw over just about any old tee or tank and completely transform it into a full blown outfit! For under $25 this one is a catch and Target has several others online to pick from. This racer back tank is so soft and comfortable. I think I will be heading back to pick it up in just about every color. I mean, why not at only $9 a pop? I paired this duo with my old faithful Joe's jeans and for the sake of this transitional weather some slatted black booties that I have worn all winter long (remember I live in SoCal). 

The end of last week and this weekend totally got away from me with having G, Miray and the twins in town and then our Valentine's day festivities. We had such a sweet time though, so sorry for my absence but it was totally worth it. Tony surprised me with a picnic on the beach on Sunday after church and then we went to the Balboa theater in downtown San Diego to watch a screening of Breakfast at Tiffany's. I love Audrey Hepburn and seeing that movie on the big screen was beyond romantic. That husband of mine has the biggest heart and I am so lucky to be loved by him. On Monday night we dressed up (of course I wore this red dress) and went downtown for drinks at Kettner Exchange and fresh pasta at Bencotto. Both of these places are a must if you are in San Diego or ever visiting and they are only about a block apart. How was your Valentine's Day?

I hope your day is as beautiful as you are!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Neutral Transitional Wear


1. Tote: Merona (65% Off) | 2. Necklace: Target (25% Off) | 3. Top: Lush (33% Off) | 4. Heels: Sam Edelman (30% Off) | 5. Earrings: Target (25% Off) | 6. Jeans: Mavi Jeans (40% Off)

I know, I love neutrals way too much but I can't resist, especially when it comes to transitional outfits. Having some good neutrals for transitional wear is super important because you can not only use this outfit to transition from winter to spring, but also from summer to fall. I featured this same top in my Nordstrom half yearly sale post and it is still going strong in several colors and sizes. I absolutely love open toed booties for this time of year. They definitely help those of us that need to transition slowly into warmer weather while still hanging on to the cold booty days. I also love a lighter colored jean for this time of year. All of these items are a great deal right now so pick them up while you can.

We had Tony's family over to celebrate his dad's 85th birthday last night and it was such a sweet time. There are 18 of us including kids with just Tony's siblings, their kids and his parents, so it was definitely a full house but so much fun. It was a really sweet time just enjoying everyone. We currently have five kids under the age of six in the family and it is really fun watching especially Tony's parents enjoy all of the little ones. Times like these are just such precious memories and I know we will look back on them someday and think, "those were the days".

I hope your day is as beautiful as you are!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Some Transitional Bells








Top: Pleione | Shoes: Merona | Jeans: DL 1961 (same jeans without rips) | Tote: Street Level | Bracelet (similar styles): Charming CharlieCharming Charlie | Earrings: Nadri | Lip Pencil: MAC in Edge to Edge | Lip Color: Bare Minerals in Juju

Last week it was in the mid to high 70's so naturally I got the itch to start into some transitional looks. I picked up these sandals the other day for $35 and they are totally a winner. They're very comfortable and they'll be so versatile for all kinds of outfits over the next several months. I love that bell sleeves are all the rage right now. This top is a great transitional piece because it is a little thicker of a knit and the three quarter length sleeve lends some added warmth. I paired it with white jeans because why not and I flipped the tote from this post inside out to expose the cognac color. I absolutely love cognac and black together and the added flare of white jeans in the off-season definitely makes this outfit one that gets some double takes (in a good way). 

We are celebrating Tony's dad's 85th birthday tomorrow. Yes, I said 85th! G and Miray are coming down from the Palm Springs area with the twins and the rest of the family here in San Diego will all be coming to our house for a little fiesta! It will be so nice to have everyone here for a laid back time together. A lot of times when we get Tony's immediate family together it is for a huge holiday or some other big event. Thursday will be quieter with more quality time to spend with our parents, brother, sisters, nieces and nephews. We are having a full Mexican menu with all different kinds of asada, margaritas, guac and salsa. Can't wait!

I hope your day is as beautiful as you are!


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

DIY Not-Quite-Floating Shelves

I woke up on Saturday morning NEEDING shelves for our guest bathroom. It has always bothered me that we don't have quite enough space in there, so I thought, why not create some? I took some measurements, spent a little time on Pinterest and off to Home Depot I went. I was inspired by this post from Sarah at Mommy Suite. They may not be floating shelves but they are way easier and for that simple fact I can totally live with a couple of brackets showing. I mean, 24 hours later I had custom shelves with minimal help from the hubs that match my wood floors perfectly. 


I used the following items:


1 - 2 in x 8 in x 10 ft piece of wood
1 - can of white spray paint
4 - 3 in L brackets
4 - 45-pound drywall anchors with screws
8 - 1 in wood screws
1 - small can of wood stain
1 - small can of wood stain prep
1 - pack of stain sponges
1 - pack of 110 sandpaper
1 - pack of 220 sandpaper
1 - pair of disposable gloves
1 - small drill bit for pilot holes
1 - drill bit for your anchors (see back of anchor package)
a drill
a hammer

*Notes about supplies:
- I didn't actually purchase wood because there was a piece in Home Depot's scrap pieces that was big enough for the cuts I needed and their scrap stuff is free so check there first.
- Ask nicely and the Home Depot guy will cut your wood for you as many times as you need.
- The spray paint is to spray your L brackets so use whatever color will match your space best.
- Make sure the size of your wood screws is compatible with your L brackets.

Let's get started:

1. Cover your work area for stain and paint.

2. Spray paint one side of your L brackets and once they are dry flip them and spray the other side.


3. While your L brackets are drying, start sanding your wood. First, with the 110 grit and finish it with the 220 grit.


4. Wipe your wood down with a clean cloth to rid it of any loose dust from sanding.

5. Use one of your stain sponges to wipe your wood with the stain prep on top and all four sides. Give that side about fifteen minutes to soak in and then wipe any leftover prep from the area and repeat this step for the opposite side of the wood.


6. Put your gloves on.

7. Once your wood is completely prepped, use a clean stain sponge to wipe the stain from one end to the other of the face of your wood and all four sides following the grain. Allow to dry for 15 minutes and then wipe excess stain with a clean dry cloth. Flip wood to other side and repeat this step for the face of that side only.

8. Allow to dry overnight.

9. Using the edge of your workspace line up your L brackets about 4 inches from each edge and mark a tiny hole in the center or the holes.


10. Use a drill and small drill bit to drill a pilot hole into your wood so you don't split your wood when you place your screw. Change your drill bit and use your pilot holes to screw your L Bracket into your wood.There should be two holes, Make sure to use both of them for stability. Repeat this step for the other end of your wood. Depending on the type of L bracket you purchase, you may want to bend them forward over your wood to make your wood surface level. You can check this by placing the shelf against a wall before installing.


10. Decide where on your wall you would like your shelves and how far apart you would like them.

11. Using a level and a pencil, draw a line across your wall at the level you would like your screws to line up to use as your guide (you can erase this after). Using a tape measure find the middle point on your wall, where you would like the middle of your shelf to land. Measure from there where each screw will need to be placed by measuring the space from the middle of your shelf out to each L bracket's screw hole. Mark those spots on your wall.


12. Using a drill and a small drill bit, drill pilot holes in your wall as a way to not only find out if you happen to be hitting a stud (like I did, I mean, I hit both of them totally on accident), but also to have a starting point for your larger drill bit.

13. If you hit a stud you can just place your shelf and screw it into the wall using your drill and using your pilot hole as a guide (an extra set of hands here is definitely useful).

14. If you did not hit a stud, use the size drill bit that is suggested on the back of your anchor package to drill a bigger hole in the wall for your anchors using your pilot hole as a guide.

15. Place your anchor in the hole and lightly hammer it into the wall.

16. Place your shelf by lining up your L bracket holes with holes in your wall (an extra set of hands here is definitely useful) and using your drill, screw each screw into it's hole. Erase the light line you drew on your wall.


17. Fill your shelves with lots of pretty stuff.

And there you have it... 24 hours later shelves were on my bathroom wall and they make way more of a difference for that room than I ever thought imaginable. I hope you enjoyed this DIY and I would love to hear how your shelves turned out.

I hope your day is as beautiful as you are!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Athleisure Obsessed


1. Earrings: Target (25% Off) | 2. Leggings: Zella (33% Off) | 3. Sweatshirt: Mossimo Supply Co. (30% Off) | 4. Shoes: Nike (33% Off) | 5. Tank: C9 Champion (30% Off)| 6. Tote:  Emperia (33% Off)

Oh, athleisure how I love you! I am also in love with blue Nike's lately (see additional post here). Roshe Run's (the type of Nike) are great shoes and you don't catch them on sale and fully stocked very often, but these ones are, so definitely pick them up while you can. These leggings are the same brand I swear by and are 33% off currently. It is still going to be sweatshirt weather for a while and I absolutely love navy and burgundy together. This sweatshirt has a super cozy crisscrossed collar and hand covers. I love pairing anything athleisure with a tote and I typically finish my look off with a super simple pair of stud earrings. It makes you look a little less "just rolled out of bed" and a little more "I'm going to conquer the world while still being comfy". 

I promised I would review our new closet system in this post, so I'm following through. I LOVE the Algot system. It is from Ikea and delivers way more than I expected. You can fully design what you want for your space online using your dimensions. It gives you different options for your space like shoe racks, hanging racks, shelves, mounted baskets and even mirrors. It really is all inclusive. Once you're done deciding exactly what you want, you add everything to your shopping list and print that out. The best part? It tells you what aisle and bin to go to in the Ikea warehouse so you can enter through the exit, straight into the warehouse and get all of your stuff without ever even entering the maze that is Ikea. The installation was super easy once we got our measurements and level going. I cannot believe how much space we have now that it is usable. It is like we doubled our closet space. Literally best experience ever (and no this is not sponsored by Ikea)!!

I hope your day is as beautiful as you are!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

My Valentine's Day Pick








Dress: Charles Henry | Heels: Calvin Klein | Bracelet: Charming Charlie | Earrings: Charming Charlie | Clutch (similar style): Nina | Lip Liner: MAC in Absolutely It | Lipstick: MAC in Smoked Almond

This dress is absolutely perfect for Valentine's day and twenty other occasions I can think of. It comes in four colors and it is the easiest off-the-shoulder dress I have ever worn. Have you worn those off-the-shoulder numbers that you are constantly having to adjust and pull down? Well, I have and this is not one of those pieces. I'm not sure if it is a different construction than most or just better quality than what I have worn in the past, but it's great. I love these heels. I mean, did you notice the gold heel? It's gorgeous and they are really quite comfortable which is impressive for the level of sass they deliver. I paired this outfit with a chunkier black and gold strand bracelet, some gold tear drop earrings and a black satin clutch. I am not a choker kind of gal but this would be the perfect dress for one so if you have been wanting to jump on the choker bandwagon I say do it.

Yesterday's post was a doozy. It all came pouring out of me and really helped heal my heart, even more, to get it out of my mind and onto "paper". I cannot believe the number of sweet comments I received and I am so very thankful for each and every one of them. My intention with sharing all of this is to bring hope to at least one person and to make sure you don't feel alone in this difficult process. If you or someone close to you is walking through this tremendous loss and you have any questions or want to just talk through your feelings please email me at followingtheblonde@yahoo.com. This is a community and I would love to hear from you.

I hope your day is as beautiful as you are!

 

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