chocolate praline layer cake…

Ok, so it’s been a while…

I’ve been extremely busy with work (a good thing for the most part), working on the house, and traveling. And it’s not even that I have much interesting to say today, but I want to get back into the swing of things.

What better way than to share a delicious baking recipe?!

I found and fell in love with this recipe during college and have made it a handful of times over the years since. I’m all about semi-homemade greatness and this recipe takes the cake…literally! (My apologies for the shameless pun).

The most recent time I’ve made it was this past weekend for a Mother’s Day celebration. Though the cake was falling apart (it was still too warm when I had to get it ready) and not super pretty, the cake stand was practically licked clean by the time I took it home. 🙂

Try it for yourself and see what you think!

Chocolate Praline Layer Cake (by Julie Bengtson, winner of a Pillsbury Bake-Off® Contest during 1988)

INGREDIENTS
Cake
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 (18.25-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury® Moist Supreme® Devil’s Food Cake Mix
1 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs

Topping
1 3/4 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
16 pecan halves, if desired
16 chocolate curls, if desired

DIRECTIONS
1. Heat oven to 325°F. In small heavy saucepan, combine butter, 1/4 cup whipping cream and brown sugar. Cook over low heat just until butter is melted, stirring occasionally. Pour into two 9 or 8-inch round cake pans; sprinkle evenly with chopped pecans.
2. In large bowl, combine cake mix, water, oil and eggs; beat at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Carefully spoon batter over pecan mixture.
3. Bake at 325°F. for 35 to 45 minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled.
4. In small bowl, beat 1 3/4 cups whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form.
5. To assemble cake, place 1 layer on serving plate, praline side up. Spread with half of whipped cream. Top with second layer, praline side up; spread top with remaining whipped cream. Garnish with whole pecans and chocolate curls. Store in refrigerator.

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once upon a rainy thursday…

We’ve been having such gorgeous weather (“hot,” according to my husband, but I LOVE it!) that I almost don’t mind the rain today. Plus, on the bright side, it’s washing away the yellow film of pollen that has absolutely covered EVERYTHING outdoors.

So, browsing the web it is!

Here are some of the things I can’t get enough of:

{From top to bottom, left to right, images found: Eden Roc (I just LOVE the lobby, it’s such a beautiful mix of vintage and contemporary); J. Crew ; Harbor Beach Resort (I’m going to be here in a week!); Peter Som (Spring-Summer ’09 Collection); BBB Craft Sisters (crafty blogging site)}

ready made…

So, I am completely obsessed with this new magazine/website: Ready Made.

I stumbled upon it on accident at San Vito’s one night, while waiting for our pizza to come out of the oven. I couldn’t put it down!

First, let me say, I love how Ready Made runs down inspirational ideas and concepts in its pages. It takes potentially complex activities and breaks them down into manageable projects. And, surprise, surprise, nearly everything you read about can be duplicated in your own life, be it going green, crafting, building, traveling, ect. (hence the name Ready Made…). They even tell you exactly what materials you’ll need and how much it will all most likely cost you so you know before you attempt any DIY projects.

Here are some of my most recent favorites:

-Men’s wear button-front mini. Maybe I’m ultra-loving this because I just finished my own version of a seersucker mini and wore it last week (thank you very much!) But, this Wren clothing line inspired mini seems so much simpler and just as cute, here are the step-by-step directions on how to make it.

{Image by Kathryn Gambel for Ready Made}

-Trail-mix bars. Yum. Pretty much sums it up! Recipe found here.

{Image by Kim Cornelison for Ready Made}

-Solar firefly lanterns. Wow. That’s putting it lightly. How adorable are these little lanterns?! Remember when you were a kid and you used to catch fireflies and put them in a jar? This is the grown up version. I’m thinking of making a few for my front porch now. Here’s how.

{Image from Ready Made}

do-it-yourself patio furniture…

It’s been over a week since I last posted, but you’ll forgive me for spending most of my free time outdoors enjoying this AMAZING spring weather!
I’ve been trying to transform our outdoor space into a place we’ll want to (**and be able to**) spend more time this summer. In addition to planting flowers and mulching, raking and blowing, I’ve also been bit by the DIY bug…big time!!
A few weekends ago, my mom helped me build a deck storage bench. We went to Home Depot with nothing more than a picture and walked out with a cart full of lumber, screws and a some mental notes on measurements.
Needless to say, it was a day full of power tools and manual labor.
This is what we ended up with: (I’ll post instructions on how we did it soon!)

Then, still on my patio furniture kick, yesterday I went ahead and built two Adirondack chairs to go with my new bench. Once again, I headed out to the the hardware store and came home a load of lumber sticking out the window of my tiny Elantra. 🙂 It was quite a feat managing that fit, let me assure you!
Here’s the final product: (I’ll post instructions on how I built them soon!)

she & him…

How cute is Zooey Deschanel? I just love her style and quirk. Adorable.

{image by Peggy Sirota, via Vanity Fair}

Did you know she’s in a band? Not everyone realizes it, but she is the “she” of She & Him (folk-rocker, M. Ward, serves as “him”). And what’s more…she writes a lot of their music. They have a really unique sound that seems to be channeled from sometime years ago. I love that most of all.

They come out with a new record today (Volume Two), which is why Vanity Fair recently did this short piece on them.

Here’s one of the first singles from the new record:

She & Him – In The Sun from Merge Records on Vimeo.

pop a cork on spring!

To be honest, I can’t quite figure out why I’m inside right now when the loveliness of spring is tapping on my window. Outdoors blue skies and less-icy weather are begging me to come out and play! Alas, I’m an unfortunate adult with work to do…blah…oh to be a kid again!

Taking a short break I wanted to post some recent spring related decor updates I’ve undertaken.

If you’ve seen my house and where I live you know that it’s almost cabin-like in its remoteness and architectural style. Therefore many of the wonderful decorating inspirations I come across are hard to mesh what we’ve got to work with – speaking in terms of design and budgetary constraints.

So, when I was shown this idea, I jumped on it!

It was cheap, doable, and, most of all, so lovely! At least to me…

All I did was wash out various sized and shaped wine bottles (thanks Brittney!) and peeled off the labels. Then I chose several complimentary faux flower stems at my local craft store. I picked out an arrangement of peonies and hydrangeas in three different color shades to highlight the advent of spring while making sure it didn’t clash with the rest of my house. You can use whatever flower you like best!

I’m not done tweaking (in fact I’ve pushed the arrangement closer together since these pics were taken) and may yet add to it…we’ll see 😉

See what you think. I’d love to hear what you’ve done to spruce up your space for spring?!

lonny magazine

I’m sick today…ugh. But if you’re going to be sick, it might as well be on a cold, rainy and dreary gray day, right? I guess it’s not so bad to be snuggled up in bed on a day like today after all.

I’m trying to get some work done, but I’m so tempted to ditch it for a day of browsing online magazines and blogs! Here’s one of the latest online mags I’ve enjoyed: Lonny Magazine. Thanks for the tip Rachel!

Anyone familiar with the now defunct domino magazine will love Lonny! Partially produced by some of the same people, it’s got that same great easy-to-achieve-glam feeling. The products, staging and copy are all very inspiring. And, as far as I know, they are still only online right now…so it’s free! But, my favorite thing about the magazine being online is that when something catches your eye as you digitally flip through, you can click on it and instantly transport to the site where it’s sold! How cool is that?! It’s definitely a great thing for me since I’m constantly taking notes on which items or articles I want to do further online research later. This makes it soooo much simpler!

Check it out and let me know what you think!

{image from Lonny Magazine}