Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

looking back on 2013...

As 2013 comes to an end, I find myself looking back a little before stepping forward into 2014. Therefore, I thought I would share a few of my favorite posts and bits from this past year.
  1. Travel - I feel like I traveled to more places in the past year than I have in any other year of my life and I feel extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to visit these places.  It was a ton of fun seeing different parts of the world and experiencing new things.

    Netherlands / London / Paris / India / Vegas

  2. Baby Showers - 2013 was definitely the year we started going to more baby showers than weddings.  I even hosted a couple of baby showers which ended up being a lot of fun to plan and decorate.  Here are a few pictures from the showers...

    Circus Baby Girl Shower / Bird Baby Boy Shower

  3. Condo Project - It is the end of 2013, and I still have not finished helping my friend decorate his condo.  Although we made some good progress and are pretty close, we still have a few things to finish up.  Luckily, he's still my friend even though I am taking FOREVER to help him finish this.  Here are a few projects we finished this year….

  4. Director's Chairs / Corkboard Map / Picture Ledge / Bar Cart

  5. Blogging - Here are a few of my favorite DIY, craft, and furniture projects from this year...

Painted Chairs / Piano Bench / Valentine's Day Crafts

Seashell Centerpiece / Mirrors / Burlap Wreath / Wood Box

2013 was a great year and I can't wait to see what 2014 has in store!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas holiday and that you were able to wind down some to spend time with your loved ones.  We spent Christmas with my family this year which was great because we do not get to see them as often as we would like.  Here are a few pictures of what Christmas looked like at my mom's house...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

our home: living room christmas decorations

I can't believe that Christmas is a week away!  Although I am very behind on shopping for gifts, I am definitely looking forward to a few days off work to catch up with friends and spend some quality time with my family.  As I mentioned the other day, the one thing I finished ahead of time was decorating our house for the holidays.  Therefore, today I wanted to share some pictures of the decorations in the living room.

If you follow this blog or have visited our home, you would definitely notice that the color scheme is mostly light blues, grays, browns, and cream.  Therefore, it is no surprise that most of the holiday decorations around the house are these colors as well.

Because the Christmas decorations are pretty much the same color scheme as our normal decor, Christmas decorating for me ends up being switching out a few things here and there.  For instance, on  the Salvation Army console table, I switched out the table runner for a silver one and switched our blue vase with a silver vase and winter florals.  The lamp, mirror, and filigree urn stayed and I added the snow globe and silver stars for a festive touch.

My favorite decorations are the three silver mirror stars.  They were a great Salvation Army find for $3!

In the front window are the two burlap wreaths I made a couple weeks ago {see here}.

This past summer I posted {here} that I loved this "Hey Y'all" print from Stephanie Creekmur on Etsy.  My mom, being the awesome mom that she is, saw the post and ordered one for me!  The print is now hanging above our wine rack and is the first thing people see when they come in the front door! 

For the top of the wine rack, I added a candle and holder from Cost Plus and a mini tree I had left over from the dining room decorations {see here}.  The gold star serving dish is a thrift store find from the circus themed baby shower I hosted this past summer {see here}.

For the fireplace mantel, I decorated a 6 ft garland with some extra ornaments I had from the tree.  The best part of the fireplace this year is that I finally replaced my mismatched cheap-o Target stockings {see here} with some color coordinated ones I found at Home Goods.  They look so much better than last year!

And last but not least…the tree.  Here is the tree during the day,

And here is what it looks like at night...

And here are the decorations all together….

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

our home: dining room christmas decorations

This past weekend we hosted a Christmas potluck dinner with some of my husband's co-workers and their spouses.  My husband took on the cooking so I just had to focus on getting the house decorated.  The party was definitely the push I needed to get all of my Christmas decorating done ahead of the holidays!  The dinner was a lot of fun and definitely got us excited for next week.

Since my husband sees his co-workers everyday, we decided to just e-mail out the invitations.  Here is an example of what I put together...

If you wanted to make your own, you can grab the background and fonts at the following links:

And here are the Christmas decorations I put up in the dining room….

I added some burlap bows to the hanging candleholders in our dining room.  As you can tell, I love burlap.  Our house has an open floor plan so the burlap in the dining room tied in well with the burlap wreaths I made for the living room {see here}.  

For the table centerpiece, I made a wood box and filled it with a garland and various pinecone and berry bushes and trim that I picked up from Michael's.   The box is made of three pine boards (two 1 x 4 x 8 boards for the sides and one 1 x 6 x 8 for the bottom).  I cut the boards to be 3 1/2 feet long and then stained them using the Varathane stain I had left over from the photo ledge I made earlier this month {see here}.  After three coats of stain, I simply screwed the boards together.  

I was really happy with the end result and figure I can fill the box with other decorations throughout the year depending on the season.

In the window bay, I hung the two wreaths I made last year along with some mini trees that my niece helped me decorate last year with some small pearls on wire.

For the buffet, I simply switched out the potpourri in the candleholders with some Christmas potpourri from Home Goods.

The napkin rings are just ribbon and pearl trim that I had from previous projects.

Now that the house is all decorated, I just need to get my Christmas shopping done!

Monday, December 9, 2013

diy: burlap wreaths

This year I decided to make a couple of burlap wreaths to hang in our living room as Christmas decorations.  These wreaths are super easy and simple to make and do not take a lot of supplies.

I started out with two rolls of burlap garland (10 yards each) and two wire wreaths from Michael's.

After tying down the front end of the burlap with a pipe cleaner (floral wire would work too), I started pushing loops through the back of the frame.  

Once the 3 loops were pushed through (one loop per row), I gathered the loops together.  I continued doing this all the way around the wreath and then fastened the end of the burlap with another pipe cleaner. 

Once done, I hung the wreaths on clear wreath hooks and added large Christmas ornaments from Home Goods as decoration.  I decided not to add any more decoration to the wreaths themselves so that I could use them for other occasions (such as Easter).  

Here is one close-up...

And here are our dogs chilling in front of the wreaths as they miserably tolerate reindeer antlers on their heads...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

asian bakery style cake

Each birthday my husband and I try to get a each other a cake from one of the Asian bakeries here in Southern California.  So far, our favorite has been the mango cake from 85C Bakery Cafe in Irvine.  We love these cakes because they seem a lot lighter than traditional cakes.

Anyway, I kept saying I wanted to try to bake one myself but the task always seemed too much to take on during a regular weekend.  With a few days off last week, I finally decided to give it a try.

Here is how the cake turned out...

And here is how I got there...
Custard Filling
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Mix the flour, sugar, salt, and 3/4 cup of milk in a medium saucepan on medium heat.
  2. Bring to a boil while whisking.  Cook for 2 minutes and continue to whisk.
  3. Mix the egg and 1/4 cup of milk in a bowl and then add to the saucepan.  Whisk to combine and get rid of lumps.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil and then remove from heat and immediately add the vanilla extract.
  5. Transfer the filling to a bowl and then cover with saran wrap (make sure the saran wrap touches the surface of the custard so a skin does not form).
  6. Chill the custard in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Whipped Cream Frosting
  • 1 1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 2 1/2 tbsp confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp vanilla flavored instant pudding mix
  1. Beat the heavy cream in a large bowl (or stand mixer) on low speed for about 30 seconds.  Increase the speed to medium for another 30 seconds.  Increase the speed to high and continue to beat until the cream becomes soft and billowy.
  2. Slowly add the sugar, vanilla extract, and vanilla instant pudding mix while continuing to beat the cream until it is thick.
  3. Refrigerate for later use.
Meringue Cake
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups plus 1 tsp of granulated sugar (or 0.8 cups split into two portions)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1.4 tbsp milk
  • 1.4 tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs
  1. Line the bottom of two 9" round baking pans with parchment paper.  Lightly grease the parchment paper and sides of the baking pans.
  2. Separate the egg whites from the yolks into two separate large bowls (if using a standing mixer, put the egg whites in the standing mixer bowl).  Try your best not to get any of the yolk in the egg whites.  Also make sure there is not any residue (such as butter or oil) on the bowl that you are using.  Any traces of yolk, butter, or oil will make whipping the egg whites very difficult.  This also includes oil from your fingers so try to avoid touching the egg whites with your hands.  Warm the egg whites to room temperature (takes about 30 minutes).
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix 1/2 of the sugar (0.4 cups) with the egg yolks and beat until the yolk mixture is thick, yellow, and smooth.  Stir in the vanilla extract.  Set aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 340 degrees.
  5. In the other bowl (or standing mixer bowl), beat the egg whites (which are now at room temperature) until they are foamy (halfway to forming stiff peaks).  Add the remaining portion of the sugar gradually (a few spoonfuls at a time) while continuing to whip the egg whites.  Continue beating the egg whites on high speed until they form stiff peaks.  This process took me about 10 minutes.
  6. Fold 1/2 of the meringue mixture into the egg yolk mixture with a rubber spatula.  Sift the flour and baking powder into the meringue but keep strokes to a minimum to avoid volume loss.  
  7. Add the melted butter and milk to the batter and then fold in the remaining 1/2 of the meringue.
  8. Divide the batter into the two prepared pans.
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops of the cakes are light brown (test to see if a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean).
  10. Remove cakes from the oven and leave in the pans until they cool to room temperature.
Simple Syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  1. Mix the ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Once the cakes are cooled to room temperature, brush the simple sugar onto the cakes to retain their moisture.
Assembling the Cake
  1. Cut fruit for the center and top layers of the cake.  I used strawberries for this cake but you could use whatever fruit you want (kiwis or mangoes are good options).
  2. Lay the first cake layer down on a plate.  Spread 1/2 of the custard filling on the bottom layer leaving about 1/2" uncovered around the edge of the cake layer.  Place the fruit on top of the custard.  Spread the remaining 1/2 of the custard filling onto the fruit.
  3. Place the second cake layer down on top of the custard filling.  Press gently and wipe away any custard filling that oozes out.
  4. Frost the cake using the whipped cream frosting you prepared earlier.
  5. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining fruit slices.
  6. Refrigerate the cake to let the frosting set.
  7. Enjoy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

condo project: photo ledge

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday!  I had a few productive days off work and spent the time catching up with family and friends, finishing up a few projects, starting Christmas decorating, and spending some quality time relaxing at home.  With a few days off, I was able to finish another DIY project for my friend's condo.

As I mentioned {here}, my friend is an avid traveler.  He also has an interest in photography and takes some amazing pictures on his trips.  I decided to make a photo ledge to display a few of his pictures and also fill some space he had over his desk.  Here is what the photo ledge looked like after it was installed (sorry the picture is a little dark…as you can see, we finished this one at night).

The photo ledge was super easy to make and only cost about $10.  I started with three pine boards (two 1 x 4 x 8 and one 1 x 2 x 8) from Home Depot.

I decided to use Varathane's Stain + Poly in American Walnut and did three coats on each of the pine boards.

After the stain was dry, I screwed the boards together with the 1 x 2 x 8 board in the front and the 1 x 4 x 8 boards on the bottom and back.  I wanted the photo ledge to have an industrial feel to it, so I didn't bother covering up the wood screws or using wood filler.  To attach the ledge to the wall, I used three dry wall screws and drilled into the studs.

Luckily, I was able to keep the cost of the frames down through a combination of thrift store purchases, Home Goods clearance aisle finds, and a quick trip to Michael's on Black Friday.  The photo ledge is great because my friend can always switch out the pictures or add more as he travels.