10 Ways to Garnish Desserts at Home

June 30, 2015

There is something sort of magical about a beautifully presented dessert when it's placed in front of you at a restaurant; it's the perfect finish to what was (hopefully) a great meal, and even if it's the same slice of chocolate cake or dish of ice cream you would serve at home, it always looks special and pretty. Here are ten surprisingly simple ways to give your desserts the same wow factor as a restaurant. Combine two or three ideas to create something really spectacular. 

1. Add a sprig of fresh mint.
2. Use a sifter to lightly dust with powdered sugar or cocoa powder.
3. Sprinkle with maldon salt flakes or turbinado sugar.
4. Arrange fresh berries on the plate.
5. Sprinkle with edible flowers.

6. Drizzle, write a message or create a design on the plate with some sort of sweet sauce (melted chocolate is always a safe bet).
7. Add chocolate curls or shavings.
8. Top with edible gold leaf.
9. Create shapes or words on wax paper using melted chocolate, freeze, and use to decorate your dessert.
10. Garnish with candied citrus peels.

images via 1, 2, 3


June 29, 2015

image via Instagram (@glamboxes) 

Friday Favorites

June 26, 2015

We're back on the mainland and, while it's always nice to sleep in your own bed after you've been away, I'm missing the beachfront balcony and plush bedding back in Kauai. And what I wouldn't give for a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream right now! I fell in love with the island, to say the least, and can't wait to return. Since I always need a few days to recoup after a trip, we'll be relaxing at home this weekend. We may venture out to a movie (I've been looking forward to Inside Out for months) and ice cream, but then it'll be back to my post on the sofa. Have an amazing weekend, and God bless!

The tile flooring of this bathroom. And the shower head.

Ricotta ice cream-filled cannoli

This gorgeous gilded teapot

A piece on fashion lessons from classic literature. 


One of the catchiest hooks ever. Plus Sean Hayes and Scott Icenogle are adorably hilarious. 

10 Travel Beauty Hacks

June 25, 2015

It's always hard to know which beauty products to pack when traveling, exactly how much of a product we'll need, and whether the travel-approved sizes will be enough to last the trip (because, is it me or do those "convenient" travel sizes just seem entirely too small?). As with the clothes we pile into our suitcases, we want beauty options for every possible travel scenario that could arise, so inevitably we end up overpacking. But by having a few tricks up your sleeve, you can both pare down the beauty items in your luggage (making more room for clothes and shoes!), and look gorgeous and refreshed throughout your entire trip. Here are ten such tricks that I use whenever I head out of town.

1. Save room in your luggage and use the hotel's complimentary conditioner as shaving cream instead of packing your own. 

2. There's no sense packing an entire tube of primer if you only plan to get made up for a night or two, so stop by Sephora or your favorite makeup counter and ask for samples of products that you probably won't use daily on your trip. This is a good time to get perfume samples and lipstick shades you want to test drive.

3. Avoid having to pack a ton of hair products and pick up a couple of Goody Spin Pins to create low maintenance topknots and chignons that can work for both day and night.

4. If you're traveling with little ones, use as many of their products as you can. Here are 7 products you can share with your baby

5. Find a clear or pale, shimmery gloss with just a hint of gold that works with your skin tone to use as highlighter, lipgloss, and even eyeshadow, so you don't have to pack as any cosmetics.

6. Ask for hot tea on the plane and, once you've finished drinking, place tea bags over your eyelids and relax.

7. Snag some toilet seat covers from the airport ladies room and stash them in your purse to use as blotting papers throughout your trip. (This is also a great trick even if you're not traveling.)

8. Request spoons from room service and keep them on hand in your room to de-puff eyes after a long day of sightseeing, or long nights of partying. Fill your ice bucket and place spoons in them, then press the backs of the cold spoons on your eyelids for about 5 minutes. 

9. If you're very specific about your shampoo and don't want to use the hotel's complimentary bottles, use them to clean your hairbrushes instead. 

10. Brew the in-room coffee and use the coffee grounds as a body scrub.

image via


June 22, 2015

image via Instagram (@juneambrose)

Friday Favorites

June 19, 2015

Aloha from Kauai! Flying over the Pacific Ocean and looking out the window to see the islands yesterday was indescribable. That said, it was also bittersweet because my 5-year old's ears started bothering her and the last ten minutes of the flight were sort of miserable for her. Then baggage claim was miserable; the shuttle to the rental car place was miserable; waiting for the car was miserable, you get the idea. At one point, my sweet, sleepy little girl cried, "I just want things to go back to the way they were!" I'm grateful that today is a new day and she can see just how beautiful the island is, how beautiful this earth is that God for us. We'll be relaxing and resting today, then Saturday one of my dearest friends from high school is tying the knot with the man of her dreams and we'll be there to witness it. It's going to be a very exciting week here in paradise! I wish you a fabulous weekend, and God bless!

Fresh mint iced coffee that I think would also make awesome popsicles.  

This gorgeous bougainvillea and matching door

A DIY gold moon wall that's ridiculously cool and pretty.

black and white striped wall that reminds me of the inside of my favorite Kate Spade bag.

Michelle Obama in this Missoni dress, and all the other dresses she wore on her European tour.

Best Appetizers for a Summer Get Together

June 18, 2015

I love entertaining during the summer months and can just about always find some excuse to invite people over to eat; my husband does his thing on the grill while I typically handle everything else. Since I don't want to be stuck in a hot kitchen with a fiery oven, I look for recipes that are light and fresh and simple to make. At the moment, I'm loving the idea of serving a spread of easy yet impressive appetizers to replace the standard summer BBQ fare. Here are several app recipes I think would be perfect for a summer gathering.

Get Gorgeous with Grapeseed Oil

June 17, 2015

One of my favorite beauty brands, Caudalie, uses grapeseed oil as a key ingredient in many of its products, and after using a bottle of pure grapeseed oil for a couple of weeks, I'm convinced I know why. It's a natural beauty elixir that seems to have magical powers; it's an oil yet it works extremely well for oily skin, and has both healing and anti-aging properties (meaning it fights wrinkles and blemishes at the same time). Plus, it's surprisingly lightweight and absorbs quickly, so skin and hair don't feel oily or heavy after using it. Here, ten ways to incorporate grapeseed oil into your every day beauty regimen.

1. Give your facial moisturizer a boost by mixing in a few drops.
2. Mix with essential oils and use as a massage oil.
3. Pat under eyes to help alleviate dark under eye circles.
4. Dab on blemishes to help them heal faster; it's full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, making it an ideal acne fighter.
5. Combine with your body butter or lotion to enhance its moisturizing properties.
6. Use as a hot oil treatment for hair to strengthen your strands and help them grow longer.
7. Heal acne scars over time. 
8. Use as a nighttime serum and wake up to firm, youthful, glowing skin.
9. Dab on painful cracked cuticles to help them heal faster. 
10. Use a few drops as a nourishing shine serum for hair. 

image via

Chocolate Cake with Perfect Buttercream

June 16, 2015

"Let's face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me." -- Audrey Hepburn

Chocolate cake is truly one of those comforts that I can't live without. I've been using the same recipe (to rave reviews) for birthdays, holidays, and every other special occasion since my oldest daughter's first birthday, and I have no intentions of ever straying. This is everything that a chocolate cake should be--moist, tender, and very chocolatey--and so worth the effort of making instead of a boxed cake mix. I love a rich chocolate buttercream with this cake, but when I'm adding decorations or want a different color I'll frost it with a traditional American buttercream. After lots of trial and error, I've come up with a vanilla buttercream that's perfectly sweet--not too cloying, just light and fluffy and creamy. Together, the two make what is possibly the best chocolate cake I've ever eaten, and I think Audrey would probably feel the same way.

Chocolate Cake
2 cups white sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Perfect Buttercream

(This buttercream uses salted butter as well as a pinch of salt to balance the sweetness, and uses less sugar than most buttercream recipes. Shortening helps it hold its shape, so piping is a cinch.)
7 ½ cups confectioners' sugar
1 ½ cups shortening
½ cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
food coloring (I used white)

For cake:

Preheat oven to 350° and prepare cake pans with baking spray (I used 9-inch rounds). Mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla, and blend with an electric mixer for 3 minutes. Add boiling water and mix by hand until combined. Pour batter evenly into prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with just a few crumbs. Cool completely before frosting.

For buttercream:

Cream butter and shortening together with an electric mixer until fluffy, then add the confectioners' sugar and continue to beat until well combined. Add remaining ingredients and beat until light and fluffy.

To frost cake:

Starting in the middle of the bottom layer, pipe buttercream in a spiral until it almost reaches the edge and use an inverted spatula or butter knife to smooth. Place the next layer on top and repeat; repeat with remaining layers. Now use the inverted spatula to smooth buttercream on the sides of the cake. 


June 15, 2015

image via Instagram (@theglowdotcom)

Friday Favorite

June 12, 2015

It's been a whirlwind of a week, hence the lack of activity here, but I can proudly say that after much anticipation and plenty of tears (on my part, not hers) I have a kindergarten graduate. My little girl was beyond brilliant in her promotion ceremony, and I simply couldn't be happier. She's a bit unsure about summer vacation and not having to go to school for so long, but I'm certain that will all change as she gets older. This weekend we'll be preparing for our trip (yay!) and spending some time poolside with a few of her school friends to help us ease into summer. I bid you a wonderful weekend, and I promise to post more next week. God bless!

This little nugget of wisdom

Super pretty DIY painted rope votives

The best party cups ever. 

This Rachel Pally maxi dress.

Crispy croissant sundaes with red wine hot fudge. And also those adorable ice cream bowls. 

How to Fake a Fresh Pedi (Pt. 2)

June 10, 2015

It's not always easy to get out of the house and get myself to a nail salon for a mani/pedi, (admittedly, these days it seems to have become even less a part of my beauty routine) so I've got a trick that I use for faking a fresh pedicure in a pinch that works really well when I'm wearing peep toe shoes. But now that sandal season is officially upon us and my feet are far more exposed, I've had to come up with a way to keep my polish looking pretty when I can't make it to the salon on a biweekly basis. Here's what I do: I swipe a coat or two of glitter nail polish over my existing nail color. It adds sparkle and shine, of course, but it also does wonders to cover up chips and imperfections to extend the life of my pedicure until I can find time to squeeze one in. A quick slathering of body cream once the polish is dry, and my feet like almost as good as when I first had them done. 


June 8, 2015

image via Instagram (@baublebar)

Friday Favorites

June 5, 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like sum-mer! I've seen about a million cars with messages of congrats and love to their graduates splashed all over their windows, and I'm getting excited because that will be me next week! Eep! I can't believe I'm the mother to a soon-to-be first grader; I still feel like a kid myself half the time (do any other mommas experience this?). The graduation, or promotion program, is in the morning, so we'll be going out to brunch afterward, but even though I'm not cooking I still plan to make a big chocolate cake for my sweet baby. This weekend I'll be working on a cute sign--something with tons of gold glitter, of course--and maybe some stars to put on the cake...because she is my shining star! Have a safe and fun weekend. God bless!

Potato stamped mini donut boxes--such a cute idea! Also, today is national donut day, so remember to do your part and hit up your local Krispy Kreme.

 Gorgeous watermelon mojitos that I think will be perfect for a girls' night in. 

Blue cheese and bacon pizza (also perfect for girls' night in).

Coloring pages for grown-upsperhaps the most brilliant stress reliever ever.

Great tips for shopping at flea markets

How To Clean Spilled Candle Wax

June 4, 2015

On Pinterest, spilled candle wax is made into clever works of art, but in real life, a puddle of hot candle wax can elicit panic. Resist the urge to attack it with a Clorox wipe and instead follow these simple steps to get that mess cleaned up in no time.

On Carpets and Rugs
Place a paper bag over the wax and run a hot iron over it. The bag will absorb the mess.

On Hard Surfaces (like countertops, tables, etc.)
Leave it alone and let it harden, then use a credit card to scrape it up.

Hard-to-Reach Surfaces (such as moldings, creases in tables, ridges on mantle, etc.)
Blow the area with a hair dryer for a few minutes to get the wax good and melted, then wipe clean. Repeat if necessary.

image via

Brunch Recipes for Father's Day

June 3, 2015

It always seems a little unfair how we plan for weeks in advance for the perfect Mother's Day brunch or tea, but come June, dads have to share the spotlight with the grads. Dads like brunch too; they may not care about the peonies in the centerpieces, or whether the napkins match the table runner, but they like do like to eat. This Father's Day is the perfect time to treat dear old dad to something delicious, so here are several brunch recipes you can make to show him how much you appreciate all that he does.

Dad may not know exactly what a scone is (and if he's like my husband he'll probably call it a biscuit), but he'll love the sweet and savory notes of these Bacon and Date Scones. Especially the bacon.

Bacon, eggs, cheese, potatoes--a classic combination that's always appealing. This Hearty Breakfast Casserole has it all and can be assembled the day before. Just pop it into the oven and spend some quality time with dad while it bakes.

If dad likes it hot, then this Cheese Grits with Shrimp and Andouille recipe is right up his alley. The surprise star of this dish is the fresh jalapeƱo. It's rich, comforting, and totally indulgent, with an undeniable yet satisfying kick.

You can never go wrong with pancakes, in my opinion. This Perfect Pancakes recipe is my go-to because it yields perfect pancakes every time. Set up a pancake bar with crumbled bacon, powdered sugar, chocolate chips, fresh berries, and anything else you could think to top a pancake with.

I typically like to include some sort of meat in the spread, and this Chicken Apple Sausage is surprisingly simple to make and takes no time at all. I've found that these savory patties are the ideal accompaniment to pancakes; drizzle the whole plate with warm maple syrup and you're good to go.

A good sandwich is always appreciated, and any sandwich with bacon will be loved even more. Bacon, Avocado and Sundried Tomato Sandwiches are quick and simple, but taste like you worked much harder on them.

On My Radar: Cute Pajamas for $40 and Under

June 2, 2015

I have a confession: wearing cute, or even matching pajamas is no longer a priority of mine. With a husband and two kids to take care of, plus work obligations, my priority at bedtime is sleep. But there used to be a time when my drawers were filled with adorable, printed pajama sets and lovely, silky nightgowns. I used to love taking a hot shower, slathering my skin with some fantastic-smelling body oil or cream, and slipping into a cute pair of pajamas; it was the perfect way to end my day. Since we'll be off on vacation in a few weeks, I've decided that in addition to the obvious necessities (sundresses, swimsuit, sunblock, sandals, etc), I'm also going to pack pajamas that I wouldn't be completely embarrassed to be seen in. Bonus: these cute jammies won't break the bank.   

Shop more cute PJs from H&M, Target, and more of your favorite stores here: 

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