{everyone needs a side of sparkle}


birthday postcard project

This past March Hero Hubby celebrated a milestone birthday. I couldn't arrange a big bash as I had hoped to, so I thought an elaborate birthday card would be a great way to gather birthday wishes from friends and family near and far. I created a bunch of postcards and sent them to friends and family with instructions to write birthday notes and mail back to the birthday boy. Here's the note I included:
Dear Friends and Family, I’ve put together a little birthday project for Paul to usher him into his 40th year! It’s a fun project that everyone can participate in. Basically, I’ve printed up a series of postcards that spell out “Happy 40th Birthday to Paul!” Each postcard represents one letter of the birthday wish and each family and friend is receiving one postcard. Please write a note to Paul and pop it in the mail so he can complete his birthday card. Thanks! Love, Marissa
Then, I strung up a bunch of clothes pins and numbered them. As cards came in the mail, Hero Hubby clipped up the corresponding cards and the full message took shape. It was great fun seeing him reading all the heart-felt notes and pictures everyone sent. Well, it's taken me this long to get my act together and finally post the results. Thanks to everyone who made his day extra bright and special! I'm going to post this project as a free printable in a separate post, but in the meantime post a comment if you would like me to send you the file for download right away!

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individual apple pies (sort of)

What is it with individual sized portions that turn us on? I mean collectively - why are we in love with cupcakes, pies in jars, mini quiches, etc. Is it a reflection of our increasingly customizable life style? Are we so used to being able to tailor our lives to our specific needs and wants that we lose the desire to enjoy a slice of the collective cake? I did a Google search for "the psychology of individual desserts" and nothing came up to shed some light on this popular foodie trend.

I really enjoy individual food items as much as for taste as for concept. There's something quaint and delightful about having your very own mini of a grander dish. A mini chicken pie or a single serving peach upside-down cake has a certain charm - like it was made just for me... no sharing necessary. If you're experiencing cupcake fatigue, but love the gastro-separatist concept (I'm coining that phrase), consider these single serving apple pies. They're simple to make, elegant on the plate, and they satisfy the need to have you're very own, entirely complete, individual dessert (you selfish hog) 

4 tart apples, such as granny smith
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 box Immaculate Baking Co. pie crust
2 tablespoons milk (for brushing down pie dough)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine cinnamon, ginger, and sugar in a small bowl.
Core the apples down to the bottom making sure not to puncture through (you want the juices to stay in the apple). Peel back the skin by about an inch around the top opening. Stuff each apple with the sugar mixture and top with a quarter tablespoon of butter.

Cut pie crusts in half and cut again into a triangular shape – you will have 4 large triangles when you are done. Wrap each apple in one triangle and pinch the top to hold together. (You may need to roll the dough out a little if you have large apples).

Brush dough with the milk. Place apples in a baking dish and then in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. This helps re-chill the dough, ensuring a flakey crust. Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. They are done when the crust is golden and the apples are very soft.

image and adapted recipe via cindab

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color therapy: orange

Orange you glad this color is everywhere this fall? Ok, sorry for the silly word-play, but seriously, I love orange in all its various hues and I'm so happy to see it popping up every where this fall. A classic autumn color, orange looks fabulous with french roast (one of the Pantone color picks for fall 2012). There's a burnt orange silk blouse hanging in my closet just begging to be worn with a pair of skinny grey jeans and these boots. How do you plan of wearing orange this season?

image via 
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best ever carrot cake. ever.

These cooler evenings and crisp mornings leave me feeling a little love lorn for those warm August days. Days that felt like my favorite sweater wrapped around my shoulders - just the right weight of wool to keep the mere thought of a shiver away. Now that September is in full effect, I'm folding away the shorts and fluttery tank tops in favor of the long denim and corduroy blazers. The sandals are almost packed up and the boots have started to appear in the hall shoe tray. My morning coffee routine has shifted from making it iced in favor of hot.

As the last bottles of rosé are savored while the street lights start popping on before 7pm, I am comforted, as summer draws to a close, by all the delicious tastes fall brings. Ripe apples, late and juicy peaches, preserved berries and garden tomatoes, apple pies, mulled wine and carrot cake. Though not  favorited by everyone, carrot cake is high on my list of must-have fall delights. I've made many, but the recipe that follows is the tried and true method I look forward to concocting every time the air turns chilly when the September sun disappears behind a cloud... every time that favorite sweater of mine gets unpacked from winter storage... and every time I want my coffee hot in the mornings.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup grapeseed oil
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrot
1 8 oz can crushed pineapple, drained
1 3 1/2 oz can flaked coconut
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
Glaze (recipe follows)
Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

Line the bottoms of 3 9" round cakepans with wax paper; lightly grease and flour wax paper and sides of pans. Set pans aside.

Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Beat eggs, sugar, grapeseed oil, buttermilk and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Fold in carrot, pineapple, coconut and nuts. Pour batter into prepared cakepans.

Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Drizzle Buttermilk Glaze evenly over layers. Cool in pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake.

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring often, 4 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1 3 oz package cream cheese, softened
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth.

recipe adapted from Southern Living Magazine. image source unknown.
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who has tomorrow?

My stepmother has a phrase: "who has tomorrow?" As we remember the people who perished eleven years ago today, let us not forget that tomorrow is never a guarantee. Let's honor the lives and sprit of all of those who died by appreciating the good things we, the living, have in our lives. Hug your children, call your friends and your family and tell them you love them. Hold onto the people you love and live each day in gratitude of them. Hope springs eternal and love conquers all... hold onto hope and love. Find them in your life and in this world. Appreciate the basics of life. Smile, be happy, find peace and share it. No one has tomorrow, but we all have right now.

image source unknown
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on diamonds

Diamonds get a lot of attention. Are they the prettiest of all gems? Both answers to that question are valid. I used to resent just how much swoon-worthy attention diamonds got, but after working with the icy-sparkly stones for the past month I understand their allure. Here's a fun analysis of why it's drilled into our heads we recognize that diamonds are a girl's best friend. Thank you, Marilyn, but a woman's best friend is a positive can-do attitude, imho.

Nevertheless, a few of these babies on your ears wouldn't be so terrible. I've been wearing a white quartz pair nonstop - it makes me feel fancy... and fancy's just fine with me! For the month of September use code LOVEDIAMONDS to enjoy 10% off the new Marissa B. pave diamond collection (nope, it's not too early to think about holiday shopping)!
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