Monday, March 31, 2008

Challenge: Log Off.

This past weekend, my husband (I'll call him Axel) ran downstairs and found me at the computer. 

"Babe!" he says. "Mugga is so cute right now. She's playing in the curtains and I got some great pictures."

"Mmmhmm..." I reply. 

I am working on a writing assignment/surfing the net. Much too busy to see what's going on in the rest of my house. Besides, its the weekend. Axel is home to help. Most of my time on the computer is spent with good intentions. I am a freelance writer, so I do a lot of work right here at this very desk. 

Unfortunately, my attention span is quite short when it comes to staying on track at the computer. Especially when there is a sale at Banana Republic to check out online. Or dinner recipes to look up. Oh, and don't forget about all those great blogs to skim.
Later that day, Axel shows me the pictures. They look a little something like this:

It was a small happy moment that I chose to ignore. I missed out because -- like usual -- I am plugged into the computer. My time online is good. I research products I like. I get new ideas, I keep in touch with friends. 

I realize my time online could be better. It might be best if I limit my internet use entirely.

This week I've decided to reform myself. I'm restricting my online use to 30 minutes a day. This will give me enough time to check my e-mail. Put a blog post in. Do a quick blog catch up. See what else I can do with my day.

I started these challenges to motivate myself to complete projects and become a better person. This week, I'm going to see what my off-line life has to offer. 

Cupcakes For You.

My husband showed me how to use Excel to pick someone at random for the contest (he's a stats genius). I typed in a formula and wha-la!

The winner is: adrienne

E-mail me your address at:

a package of lovely Sprinkles Cupcake Mix will be on the way.

Thank you everyone for commenting and visiting! I hope you tried some recipes and found them as delicious as mine. The Sprinkles Strawberry Frosting might be my favorite find.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache & Cream Cheese Frosting.

Today I make Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache & Cream Cheese Frosting from Kara's Cupcakes. They were okay, not my favorite of the week. Maybe it's because a banana cupcake is essentially a banana bread cupcake, but I wasn't won over. The cupcake was very soft. The cream cheese frosting is decent, but my chocolate ganache ran a little thin. Piping it in to the cupcake was a little messy, but not too difficult.

I probably won't make this again. My husband, who has been a huge help through out this enitire challenge (he willingly sampled and took my last two pictures) really like the banana cupcakes. The recipe looks more time consuming that it actually is, I found it too be pretty simple. So maybe it's a keeper.


I'm Almost Done!

My very last batch of cupcakes are cooling and I want to jump for joy. I can see the finish line and it's lined with cupcakes.

I wish I could have gotten to blog about them sooner in the day, but well. It didn't happen.

Thank you everyone for visiting my blog this week. I've already met so many nice people! Thanks for being my blogging friend.

I really like the idea of weekly challenges for myself, it helps keep me motivated (and knowing other people are checking up on me to see my progress keeps me going too). I think I'll do two challenges a month. Next week will be my next challenge, I'll have details on Monday.

Okay now, back to frosting.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Auntie Em's Red Velvet Cupcakes.

Truthfully, I'm a little burnt out on cupcakes. After tomorrow, it might be a little while before I bake again. While I am reaching my cupcake making limit, I am glad I did this challenge. I've baked lots of goodies for neighbors and friends and given myself a reason to finally try these recipes.

Today I made Auntie Em's Red Velvet Cupcakes. This cupcake was featured on the Food Network's Throwdown with Bobby Flay and after watching that show, this recipe has been in the back of my cupcake-trying mind. Sadly, Auntie Em's lost to Mr. Flay, but I still was curious enough to try them.

The cupcakes baked great. Nice round tops, beautiful red color. Very moist. The chocolate flavor wasn't very strong, but the cupcakes were still tasty.

I also decided to cut the cream cheese frosting recipe in half. In the show, you see Terri (the chef) frost the cupcakes with an ice cream scooper -- she is very generous with her frosting. I love frosting, but not that much. The amount I made was perfect.

Overall, quite good. Maybe after my cupcake hiatus, I might have to try this recipe again.

Save-The-Date Postcards.

While I am waiting for my cupcakes to bake (I just peeked and so far they look amazing) I thought I would take advantage of nap time and blog a little more.

I'm helping plan my sister's wedding and it's been so much fun. I love weddings. Here's a cute Save-The-Date Postcard idea we might try:

My sister will probably print a picture on card stock of her and the fiancee and use those as postcards.

Covered Glass Candy Stand.

This candy display that might be too cute to eat:

{dish and candy from Williams Sonoma}

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kyotofu Cupcakes.

Out of all the recipes this week, the cupcakes at Kyotofu are the only ones I've actually eaten from my famous cupcake list. Since I've never had a cupcake from Magnolia, Sprinkles, Auntie Em's or Kara's, I wanted to get an official recipe from their chefs. Whatever I baked needed to be the real thing.

So far, I've also followed the recipes meticulously. I've sifted. Used ingredients at room temperature. Measured things exactly. Things I sometimes cut out when I am being a lazy baker. I wanted to be absolutely sure I was following the recipe --this way if the cupcakes didn't turn out, I knew who to blame (not me).

Well, the recipe I found for Kyotofu's chocolate cupcakes might not be their exact recipe -- but after tedious searching online, it's the only one that came close. I also think it could be official, it's from the R&I (Restaurants & Institutions) web site which I don't know that much about.

Kyotofu's cupcakes were voted the best cupcakes of 2007 from New York Magazine and seriously. They are so good. These cupcakes are the best I've ever had.

They are made with soy milk and are so tasty they don't even need frosting--really! So tasty, I went there like five times when I was in New York. If you get a chance to go there, don't bother getting a table. Skip the sit down dessert menu altogether and just order the cupcakes up front. 

Okay, back to the challenge...

In this baking experiment I didn't follow the recipe exactly. The recipe I found is for Green-Tea Chocolate Cupcakes. I omitted the Macha tea powder. The recipe doesn't call for very much, but I'm sure my exclusion made some difference. Also, the baking time in the recipe was way off.

I've mentioned before how my oven is hotter than most, so like usual I decreased the time. The cupcakes weren't done, so I added more time. Then a few minutes more. Then another minute more. After 25 minutes, I think they finally turned out. Kyotofu cupcakes were both a success and a slight let down. A success because they still taste super good. These cupcakes are a cross between a molten chocolate cake and heavenly souffle. Super rich, decadent and delicious. The down side is that I didn't replicate exactly the same cupcake I remember (the middle didn't rise either), but I'm still happy. It's still a keeper.

If you're ever in New York City, you need to go try one for yourself:
705 Ninth Ave., New York, NY 10019

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

In Defense of Mom Blogs.

There are some out there who think mom blogs are cheesy. Décor sites are a waste of time. They see some blogs as fluffy and full of useless information. Who cares if little Johnny pooped today? Why does it matter if you like those candle holders? “Really,” they say, “Do you think I want to read about your birthing experience?”

These critics think that everyday stories are boring. Moms are taking too up much of the Internet with bad writing about their own children. I read remarks from these cynical commentators and wonder, “Do you like children?” “Do you consider where you live a home or just somewhere to sleep?” “Have you ever wondered about what it would be like to bring a baby into the world?”

I love blogging and I love mom stories. This may be in part because I am a blogger and a mom. I fit nicely into the mom blog category. I like reading stories of regular people in their regular lives. Sometimes the most exciting thing can happen within the walls of your own home, on any normal day. For example, last night I saw my daughter’s shoes in the hall way and I started crying:

Now, there is nothing out of the ordinary about these shoes. They were a birthday present and they are super cute. Just regular sandals that can finally fit. No hidden flying powers, no promises of amazing skills or height. But they are shoes that belong to a little girl who runs around my house singing, “Puppy, puppy, puppy, pup-PEE!”

These shoes are also supposed to stay off the carpet, but I always forget to take them off Mugga’s feet when we get in the door.

When I saw those shoes I thought, “Those shoes belong to my girl. And she belongs to me.”

This recognition caused me to tear up. To once again remember the wonder of my child, the smiles she flashes when she eats drumsticks, the kisses before bedtime, it got to me. She’s approaching toddlerhood and sometimes approaches my patience limit, but I still love her.

So the sight of shoes made me cry and appreciate a little person in my life. All right, fine. Maybe you’re right. I am cheesy and my life is fluff. Even so, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Magnolia's Vanilla Cupcake.

First of all, I am so flattered that so many people are visiting my new little blog! Thanks for all your nice comments. If I could, I would give you all cupcakes.

Unfortunately, they just won't be from the batch of Magnolia's Vanilla Cupcakes I made today ... I just don't think they are good enough to make again.

My first few baked dry. I have a temperamental oven that runs hotter than most, so I usually adjust baking time down by 5 minutes. Even after my initial subtraction, the cupcakes came out with a hard crusty top. I took more time off the suggested baking time and my next set cooked perfectly.

Maybe it's because vanilla has never been my favorite flavor, but I thought the cupcake was just so-so. Okay, it was boring. So you can imagine what I thought of the vanilla frosting. The sprinkles give it a bit of pizzaz, but for Magnolia's most famous flavor, I was disappointed. They sure look pretty though. The cake itself baked well, but flavor wise, it's a pass.

Sorting Shapes Cupcake .

Since this week is dedicated to all things cupcakes, I thought I would show you this little learning treasure:

This cupcake shape sorter is so cute. Thanks again Target, for a wonderful find.

{I have to wait till nap time to make my Magnolia cupcakes. I'm really curious how they'll turn out. See you later!}

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sprinkles' Strawberry Cupcake Recipe.

At first, I was a little hesitant to try Sprinkles' Strawberry Cupcake recipe. There were a lot of reviews saying the cupcake was too dense. It was dry. The frosting was runny. It didn't taste like strawberries. I am happy to say my cupcakes did not turn out that way -- they are pretty good actually.

True, there isn't an overwhelming strawberry flavor, but I don't think there needs to be. The cupcake was delicious, not at all dry and crumbly. My frosting is probably a little more chunky because didn't pureed the strawberries super fine. Either way, I absolutely love it.

To make the red and pink dots, I used salt water taffy. I don't have fondant on hand, so I improvised. Overall, I'm quite pleased with my results. I don't consider myself the most expert baker, but I can handle my own in the kitchen. This recipe was easy and I chalk it up as a winner.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Introducing: Weekly Challenges.

I have so many projects left unfinished. It's a bad habit of mine. I like to start something I think is awesome. I then get bored with it and move on to another something awesome. This happens before I finish the first awesome. Needless to say, I have many incomplete awesomes laying around the house.

Well, with the start of this new blog, I decided it would be fun to challenge myself to projects a couple times a month. I'll document my progress and if it sounds interesting to you, invite you to tag along.

This week, I'm making cupcakes:

Not just ordinary cupcakes, but recipes from some of the most well-known cupcake shops. I narrowed my cupcake selection recipe down to 5:

Monday: Sprinkles Cupcakes
recipe here.

Tuesday: Magnolia Bakery
recipe here.

Wednesday: Kyotofu
recipe here.

Thursday: Auntie Em's Kitchen
recipe here.

Friday: Kara's Cupcakes
recipe here.

I based my selection on cupcakes recipes by the accessibility of the famous recipes and how badly I've been wanting to try them (most are official recipes, one is a rendition I found online). If you're in, I would love for you to try out the recipes too. Come bake with me and let me know what you think!

Also to kick off this contest, I'm offering my very first blog giveaway. Leave a comment on this post before Midnight, Friday March 28th and I'll randomly pick someone to receive a Sprinkles cupcake mix:

{image via Williams-Sonoma}
Yay! Let the baking begin!

(as soon as I whip up my first batch, I'll blog about the cupcakes I make later today.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Cupcake Courier.

This is by far, the most awesome cupcake carrier I've seen:

{can hold 36 cupcakes, 3-layer birthday cake (with candles) or 9 x 13 inch sheet cake}

Outdoor Game.

I have spring fever right now. In my head, I'm planning the perfect outdoor picnic. Besides great food, it would also include a game of this:

gittabags Small Folding Tote.

Instead of a large diaper bag, this small tote is perfect for carrying the essentials. Marked down from $65 to $9.95!

gittabags Small Folding Tote

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Buy Fake.

I know some people buy chicks and ducklings to give to their kids for Easter. This was always odd to me. While fuzzy yellow chicks and tiny baby ducks are cute, they grow up to be not-so-cute ugly clucking chickens and loud quacking ducks. Also, I'm not so sure about the whole poultry for pets things. Oh and the whole Salmonella issue. And the kids-are-not-gentle-and-will-probably-kill-that-little-animal-in-the-first-few-weeks thing.

Here are a couple web sites with more information on the hazards of holiday pets:

Green Living Online


American Humane

Instead of the real thing, buy these adorable Chiyo Chiyo plush chicks (Only $3 at Target):

So much cuter -- and better yet -- no chicken poop in the living room!

Wee Wonderful Animals.

I really love browsing Hilary Lang's Wee Wonderfuls blog. She makes darling things. I have attempted to make this kitty:

But I haven't gotten very far. Free patten here.

This bunny will make a great Easter present:

Free patten here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Water and More Water.

Okay, really. My little girl has gone crazy. It's like she woke up this week with extra curiosity and doesn't know how to contain herself. Lately, she attracted to anything water.

This morning she realized she could now get water or on her own from the dispenser on the refrigerator door. Except there was no cup to catch the running water, it just went down her head on to the floor. She pushed the lever with her little hands and screamed when the water came shooting out. Mugga laughed and laughed like this was the best bath in the world.

"Momma!" she says. "Wa-wa! Wa-Wa!"

Then she crotched down to smack the growing puddle with her hands.

"Wa-Wa! Wa-Wa!"

Despite having to mop everything up, it was pretty funny. The whole discipline thing is hard for me when I think most everything she does is cute. I gave my girl a towel and we cleaned the mess up together. Unfortunately, I think she thought clean up was fun too.

Oh well. I now use the lock button on the fridge door.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Throw Pillows.

I'm in the mood for spring right now, and If I was going to learn how to sew (and embroidery) today, I would make something like these inspirational pillows:

Garden Embroidered Round Pillow.

Floral Cotton Pillow.

Amy Butler's Nigella Quilt.

That's it. I'm going to learn how to sew so I can make this:

free quilt pattern here.

Toilet Play.

Sometimes I have more confidence in my mom abilities than I should.

Example: This morning Mugga stuck her hands in the toilet and splashed toilet water all over the bathroom. Her shouts of "Whee!" and the sound of water hitting walls tipped me off.

Now, the good mom in me would have remembered to shut the bathroom door. The even better mom would have bought one of those toilet locks or something. The best mom? Well, I would have already trained my daughter to not use the toilet for play. You do serious dirty business on that thing. It's not something you want to put your hands in (if I was the best kind of mom, my daughter would already know this).

But I am a somewhat absentminded mom who also forgets to pack her husband a daily lunch. The guy never complains about it either, which of course makes me feel worse. Husband, I'm sorry you are lunch-less today.

Well, after I caught Mugga in the bathroom (my gasps of horror only caused her more glee) she got her fair share of Purell, hand soap and more hand soap. Which of course made my girl even more happy. She got another shot a playing with more water.

Which makes me think:

"Did I just reward her?"

"Did she just learn that it's okay to put her hands in the toilet?"

"Does she now think that anytime she does, she will then get to put her hands in the sink?"

Yikes, listen to me. I know I'm over thinking this.

Mugga is now covered in soapy suds. Now her clothes are soaked too. She looks ups, gives me a grin and says, "Bubbles."

Oh man, that kid. She's hard to stay mad at.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day Pinch.

In honor of St. Patrick's day, I am tempted to dress my girl in something without green today. She's already dirtied two onesies and she just might deserve the pinches.

Curly Hair.

My daughter, (I'll call her Mugga) has crazy curly hair. She's a hodgepodge mix of Asian and Caucasian and gets the curls from her dad. I am the Asian, my hair falls straight.

All my life I have coveted those with curly waves their head. To wear ponytails that don't slip out of the bands? Blissful! To have ringlets that bounce when you walk? Heavenly. To be the owner of wispy tendrils that gently frame the face? Sigh. What the life that would be.

Well, now that my offspring belongs to that special group, I see curly hair a little different. I'm beginning to realize curls aren't so glamorous. For instance, did you know curls tangle? Like, I-can't-run-this-comb-through-this-rat's-nest tangle.

Not only do curls tangle, but they get frizzy. On their very own! Mugga doesn't have to do anything to get the frizz on. She walks, she runs, she sleeps -- the frizz comes. Sometimes when I get her after an afternoon nap, Mugga greets me with hair that would baffle Einstein. He would take one look at her and say, "How did you get hair crazier than mine?"

Mugga's hair (on a good day):

My hair (every day):

Now, I take back my jealousy to all those with bounce in their hair. I'm sorry you have to live through things like frizz, tangles, and endless supply of products to tame your wild locks. One day when Mugga is in junior high and is suffering from a bad hair day, she might come to me in tears.

"Why me mom?" she might say. "Why do I have this cursed hair?"

This is when I will look at my beautiful curly hair daughter, give her an encouraging smile and answer, "I don't know sweetheart. Blame your dad."

Friday, March 14, 2008


Welcome to my new blog! I'll be working over it on the weekend, so come back Monday for some fun stuff.