Thanks for stopping by! Here on BECOMING LOLA I share stories on becoming minimalist, as well as living a pure clean life as a style-obsessed digital nomad with a no BS approach to ethical fashion + travel. Grab a glass of wine and start here: Building A Minimalist Wardrobe.


Jul 31, 2010

minimalist lifestyle books: table style

book review of table styleBoy what a lovely day I had today. Why do I always feel so lonely back in New York City? It only takes one day with family in their huge house atop a giant hill over a good bbq to realize you are never really lonely. Everyone has someone. So cheer up lad and ladettes (is that a word?). Always remember someone, somewhere, is thinking about you and you alone. On that note, I have to share:

 minimalist lifestyle book review 

My latest read, Table Style by Liz Belton photographed by Debi Treloar.

I am in love with all of Ryland Peters & Small's books and hope to one day own a little book company just like them. But more on that later. Table Style reminds me of all the joys entertaining brings people as well as the rewards of adopting a minimalist lifestyle. The good company of friends or family, the satisfaction of creating concepts, the indulgence of a well planned (or even accidental) menu and the heavenly beauty sleep you fall into after its all done. I mean really, isn't that what life is all about? So the next time you see a pretty little decor book perched on a shelf, don't just leave it be, take it home and let it inspire you beyond just the kitchen and craft shop. Food, decor and entertaining books bring about memories you otherwise wouldn't think of, persuade you to call up on people you might have forgotten, or even give you a good enough excuse to throw a get together that otherwise would seem daunting. And Table Style did just that. One of my absolute favorite pages was the 'picnic in the park' feature complete with a makeshift tent made of branches and gauze under the cascading leaves of a weeping tree and romantic lunch for two. I immediately sprung up from my chair and ran to the basement, certain I would find a vintage picnic basket in Granny's hoarding collection (yeah I said it) and sure enough I did! So look out for a super sweet picnic photo shoot for this blog exclusively next week.

A few other enchanted ideas included a flower fountain (tea roses on an eggholder anyone?) perfect for a bridal shower or sister's birthday brunch, as well as weekend breakfast settings using collected patterned tiles as coasters (nothing a simple trip to the thrift shop wouldn't serve up) and yogurt in mason jars next to fresh cut garden blooms. How refreshing would that be the next time you had a book club meeting, right, right! So go on. Head to your local shop and pick up a copy. Snuggle up tomorrow on your favorite worn in cushion and see what little party you can plan next. And remember, you never really need a reason to celebrate...

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Jul 30, 2010

a baking orgy to remember...

So I was talking to myself the other day as usual (ok well not really, I did a post here but no one really responded, and its quite okay, I'm boring...I get it) and am now ready to reveal all the excitement that has been swirling in my little brain. But let me kindly interrupt this post to get to what's really important. I know what you all are still thinking about...and its my darn post title. I know, I know. Some of you have kids. Some of you might be nuns. Some like me, may even have old grannies who raise eyebrows at Paris Hilton every time she gets out of a car in a short dress. I know, but really, I couldn't think of a better word. And I mean really, why the hell did the porn industry have to steal a perfectly good word form the rest of us PG rated do gooder citizens? So let's just solve this right here, right now. My trusted Webster's never lets me down! Orgy, simply put, means celebration devoted to sensual enjoyment. And believe you me, after just watching Nigella Feasts on FN, that was pure sensual enjoyment at its finest. So the word definitely hits the nail on the head of what I want this post to embody. Lets see if other synonymous words would have done the trick in under 5 seconds: blowout? fling? circus? (most likely if its my kitchen) party? rampage? carousal? (is that the thing at the amusement park, hmm) feast? indulgence? merrymaking? Well there you have it folks, very nice words indeed, but they just don't do the trick for me, I'm afraid. So if my proposed baking orgy is too much for you to handle on my blog from time to time, I guess we can do our bid adieu. Just know, you'll so want to come back after hours. Ha!

So now on to the main menu. Again, after begging for help here, I have it all figured out and I'm ready to rumble! Its the official last day of July 2010 tomorrow which only means one thing. Tomorrow starts the countdown of my 30-day baking challenge here at Granny's house! Yes, Granny's kitchen, Granny's garden, and her KitchenAid that she is yet to know will find its way into my luggage 30 days from now. More on that later. Below is my line-up of all the activities I plan to indulge in come hell or high water (or sunken cupcake domes, confusing corn starch for flour, and forgetting my eggs in a basket altogether). As usual, let me know what you think. I hope I'm not in this alone! And do spread the word. I may be confident and ambitious, but self-absorbed be it not I. I would love the virtual company of you, your readers or even your fellow blogger friends. Let's have some baking fun!

30-Day Baking Challenge
for the pure purpose of overindulging & blaming the love handles on learning
  1. Let Them Eat Cake: bake my way through Cupcakes by Pamela Clark (see books on sidebar) using a weekly poll voted for by readers (starting with coconut ones that I still owe you guys, sorry!)
  2. American In Paris....wait, I have done this column twice already and it never occurred to me...I'm nowhere near Paris! Hmmm. Ah, ok! *Aspiring American In Paris*: classic and popular traditional French baked goods once a week until I feel one with Julia Child
  3. Bed&Breakfast Princess: practice various ideas and concepts for my future B&B menus, teaching myself to not only cook things outside of dessert land, but to eventually persuade myself breakfast is not the devil and can indeed be consumed after the hour of 11am
And last but certainly not least my darlings, something I have been secretly twiddling my imaginary mischievous mustache about, a community blogger baking challenge we can all do together! It hit me like a ray of sunshine while watching Iron Chef followed by Chopped on FN. Why duh, why don't I create my own mystery ingredient based other baking obsessed foodies like myself. Right, right! Well after racking my brain (and the thesaurus) I came up with this...

A virtual mystery-ingredient-based baking challenge for food bloggers. Using's random recipe generator (because sadly after thorough research, there is no such thing yet as a random ingredient there is no need to be I guess) we will concoct happily in our kitchens the most sweet and savory baked goods each week, letting readers be the judge of concept and presentation (no such thing as virtual tasting yet either I'm afraid) and the winner, decided upon by tallying up comments I presume, can get a fun little banner to put on their blog! And trust me, the recipe generator will definitely be a fun and helpful tool since we don't have Ted Allen or Alton Brown to direct us. On first click I got strawberries, lard and butter as ingredients. Now tell me you can't make something mighty delicious from any of those bad boys. Requirements...hmm, not many. Just need to join in (comment below!), have a food blog, pick an ingredient that I will blog each week after using the generator, bake, snap pics, post, then wait!

Okay off to rest a bit. Okay not really. Off to eat whatever is left of last night's banana pudding then make the dough for my Pain Au Chocolat Cinnamon Rolls for this week's *Aspiring American in Paris*. Ah, don't you just love baking challenges!

Well, whose in!?

Jul 24, 2010

becoming a minimalist baker part 2

What a lovely day it was. Well, minus the suicide inducing public transportation system that is Miami's metro, it was a relaxing day of shopping and learning. First stop was Barnes and Noble, yes, againnnnn. This time with money my friends (no bargain bin today dolls), and boy did I practically run home to cuddle up in bed with my FIRST EVER COOKBOOK! Can you guess which charming girl I whisked away to my abode? Nigella Lawson of course! Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook was staring at me with puppy eyes, but it was $5 more, and I'm on borrowed wealth. Plus, when free money comes along, you don't exactly buy in singles. Nigella needed a companion for the long ride home, so Molly and Sophie hopped in the bag too. Surely that was a tea party for the ages.

Then it was off to Whole Foods where, as promised, I dished a few good bucks on my first bottle of Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, Organic Agave Nectar, Premium Sea Salt along with a delightful jumbling of other baking goods. Sure does beat McCormick's and CVS brands! Oh, and did I mention...I finally found this infamous European style butter! I wish I would have tasted the ingredients before my bake test below, which was silly of me, but I promise to taste them next batch to better describe the differences in product, not just results. For one, European style butter seams allot lighter, which I don't know yet is better or worse.

So today's baking test as mentioned here (where I am still looking forward to your comments about which bakery/baker you think has the best recipe!) made use of Amy’s Bread “Pink Cake,” a moist vanilla-flavored butter cake which was actually inspired by a recipe from Carole Walter, in her book Great Cakes (see, every famous baker uses another famous baker's secrets). The delicate flavor and texture of this cake is a perfect match for a heavy, intensely sweet frosting such as a classic confectioner’s sugar buttercream. And let me tell you, having eaten at Amy's (I used to work there!!) and making her recipe, this is indeed insanely sweet. But I love it that way. In the book, Amy mentioned you could save your teeth the cavity pain by trying the cupcakes plain with sliced fresh strawberries or peaches for a sublime summer dessert.

Yellow Cupcakes with Pink Buttercream Frosting
via The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread
  • Unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted 3 cups or 420g
  • Baking powder 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon or 20g
  • Kosher salt 3/4 teaspoon
  • Milk 1 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons or 340g
  • Vanilla extract 2 teaspoons
  • Unsalted butter, slightly softened 1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons or 320g
  • Sugar 2 3/4 cups + 2 teaspoons or 560g
  • Eggs 5 large or 260g
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease the cake pans. Line the bottoms with rounds of baking parchment then dust them lightly with fl our. Shake out the excess. Or use Baker’s Joy baking spray that contains both oil and flour, so you don’t have to flour the pan. With Baker’s Joy, put the parchment liner in after you spray the pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk them gently for even distribution. In a separate bowl combine the milk and vanilla.
  3. Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until it is light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs gradually, mixing well after each addition, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl often.
  4. Lower the mixing speed to medium-low and add the flour mixture to the butter in 3 parts, alternating with 2 parts of the milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix just until it is evenly incorporated. This is a thick, fluffy batter, resembling whipped cream. There should not be any lumps or dry pockets of flour remaining. If the batter has a curdled appearance it has not been mixed enough. Increase the speed to medium and mix for another minute or until it is thick and fluffy.
  5. Divide the batter equally among baking cups. Place the pans on the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake them for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cake is almost ready to pull away from the side of the baking cups and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs. Be sure to rotate for even baking.
  6. Cool the pans on a rack for 10 minutes. I recommend an hour. Frost!
  • Confectioner's sugar 7 1/2 cups or 845g
  • Butter 1 1/3 cups or 300g
  • Poured fondant 1/3 generous cup or 138g
  • Milk 1/4 cup or 62g
  • Vanilla extract 1 tablespoon+1/4 teaspoon or 13g
  • Salt 1/8 teaspoon
  • Baker's Rose Food Coloring 1-2 drops

In a bowl, beat 600g or 5 1/2 cups of sugar, as well as the butter, fondant, milk, vanilla and salt until creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Start on low speed then increase to medium speed when powdery texture becomes moistened. Gradually add remaining sugar 1 cup at a time. Add color and beat on med-low speed until mixed and still fluffy.

As with my many previous trials, I know that cupcakes taste drastically different the next day for some reason. But let me just say, this is a great cupcake! The crumb is tender and delicate, perfectly moist (not too much so, but not at all dry) and the buttercream, although my consistency still sucks (any tips for this...besides prepping the butter??) was a tad too sweet and tasted nothing like at Amy's, then again I couldn't find poured fondant. I tried melting rolled fondant but that only melted my butter, so don't try that. Its not exactly like Amy's cupcakes and I followed everything correctly, even had gourmet ingredients, though I lacked a kitchen scale and stand alas, a baking test semi-complete.

Jul 21, 2010

trying to become a minimalist baker at the bookstore

minimalist baking book reviewI did it again. Like a bad Britney Spears deja vu, I freakin did it again. In I walked praying not to spend a dime, and out I walked with yet another "bargain bin" book. But oh my, was it ever the most joyous occasion of my life. Do you want to hear the story? Of course you do. Even if you don't, I'm here to share. I won't become the next Emily Dickinson keeping stories to myself. Right, right?

It was a beautiful evening set aside for a few errands. Apple store exchange here (why do things just stop working when you need them most?) a few groceries there, and next thing you know I finally arrive in front of Barnes and Noble. But not just any BN, my absolute beloved location in the Upper West side where the five floors of indulgence are like Alice's rabbit hole and I always jump in voluntarily. If you know me by now, you'll know that the Union Square building is my absolute fave, if not for the New York City touristy book section right at the entrance, or the fact that I can always find Lula at the magazine stand, then simply for the admirable architecture of the century old building that makes you feel part of something bigger than yourself. But the UWS locale is so much more serene and quiet... no crowds, no breathing down your back. Just empty aisles for aimless browsing and even little old ladies (well, ladies who lunch in designer get-ups no less) all gathered together in the paperback release rotunda enjoying their book club meetings (seriously, this was happening, didn't even know you could just hold meetings in BN...wonder if I can start Bakeaholics Anonymous?).

So what's a girl to do? Grab the largest browsing basket, set a timer for two hours, and head out in the Food Network Star row that's what! Not sooner did I read the sign "Food & Cooking" did I see Giada, Paula, Ina, Nigella, and even Martha for good measure, sitting pretty on cherry wood shelves, that I was jumping up and down with glee (no not internally, actually jumping up and down noticeably, and dropping things in the process). This was my first time in BN with leisurely hours to kill ever since I inherited this culinary addiction. So this was a true delight. I started off in the food biography new release aisle which is one of my true Achilles heel; refraining from placing less than five books in my basket was a dire inner battle. Kathleen Finn was really teasing me with her newbie, The Sharper Your Knife The Less You Cry: Love Laughter & Tears At The World's Most Famous Cooking School. A simple gal who leaves the corporate world (nothing new there) to seek out a professional culinary life at Le Cordon in Paris with little to no French skills, in both speaking or cooking? Sign me up! What could top that. Well, nothing other than a simple gal who started a little blog called Oragenette finding herself now as a NY Times bestselling author after releasing A Homemade Life. Ahhh, and so the wish list grew.

With a small hop and skip to the right, I was in very dangerous territory. The cooking rotunda. Oh lord help. I quickly rolled up my sleeves, set down my heavy basket (already I know) and started at the very beginning. As a girl without any cookbooks to yet call her own, all I could think was the many BN gift cards I would soon be requesting for the holidays. Everything from Martha's Cupcakes to Nigella Express was setting a strong hold on me, and even some lesser known names with alluring titles like Dorie Greenspan and Trish Deseine who come highly recommended by some of my French blog readers, so I eagerly took note. After dropping Martha in my basket, I headed anxiously towards the, bargain bins.

Yes, the bargain bins. The enabler to my crime, the instigator to my fights, the...well you get the picture. Once you step in empty handed, there's no turning back. There will be a book there for you, and it will be calling your wallet. Lucky for me, by the time I left, I sadly realized my infatuation with food overshadowed my love for decor, and I never even ventured into the design section. So Jane Brocket's Gentle Art of Domesticity came home with me, and it was only eight bux. Cheapest date I ever had come home, that's for sure.

Well the night had to come to a close eventually, after all, The Bachelorette wasn't going to watch itself. As I headed toward the escalator with my bargain bin find, leaving the others with their $25 price tag in the dust (sorry Martha) I came across...what was this..a secret alleyway with even more food books!? Oh my, someone knew about my addiction and they were playing Inception puppetry with me. Well, I didn't want to be rude of course, whoever was mastering this little rat maze, I obliged and settled down in a little nest cove with more books than could fit in my basket. Magnolias Cookbook, Baked, Amy's Bread Cookbook and a few others were the best kind of torture. I knew I couldn't buy them all, neither did I want to (Magnolias...ughh) but at that moment I knew...this was my chance for incomparable research and a bake test experience for the ages. So yes I did read over a hundred pages of recipes in one sitting, and yes I did copy them all down along with tips and tricks straight from the horse's mouth, and yes I have them all for you and can't wait to get in the kitchen to finally find...just who has the best damn cupcake!

So I want to know, who do you guys think has the best cupcake recipe? And don't worry, the baking test and recipes will all be posted here in the next few days!

Jul 16, 2010

minimalist bakers unite

I have HUGE exciting idea in the works, but first, I want to share this fun and nosy survey I found on a foodie forum. I would love to learn more about you. See, I am courting you, hoping one day we can all be friends and cook away in one lavish virtual kitchen, and eat away our sorrows. Wouldn't that be lovely. Okay, okay yes, since this is a fantasy, George Clooney can come too. Or perhaps Sean Connery is more to your liking. I rather have a crush on our president as well, he is quite dapper indeed for Hawaiian chocolate. I digress. So yes, answer one, answer all, just have fun and let it all out. We promise not to tell. Because honestly, when was the last time anyone genuinely wanted to hear what you had to say? Badgering your boyfriend or hubby into listening about your obsession over cookies made with Callebaut chocolate vs. Ghirardelli, after bribing him with an exchange of one hour of football does not count!

Can't wait to see what you all answer! Especially you ParisPastry, Debbie and GrandeMarine!

The 'Obnoxiously Curious Peek At Kitchen Adventures' Survey
1) how often do you bake?:
2) where/from who did you learn to bake? (school counts):
3) what was the first thing you ever baked?:
4) what was the last thing you baked and when?:
5) what's your favorite thing to bake or cook?:
6) what was the worst thing you've ever baked and why did it fail?:
7) what's your favorite thing to add to baking? (sprinkles, dried fruit, nuts, etc):
8) why do you like to bake?:
9) where do you store baked goods after you've baked them? (container, freezer, etc):
10) where do you find your recipes? (cc, cookbook, family, own creation):
11) what's something you've never baked before, but would like to?:
12) what is your absolute ideal baking/cooking fantasy? (eloping to become a Parisian pastry chef counts)

PS- Everyone, and I mean everyone, should be dressed like Audrey whilst baking. If you do not prepare a proper sundress, matching apron and that oh-so-effortless (but really took two hours) messy pin-up bun, then please...just don't come back to my blog okay. Just kidding. Not really.

Jul 10, 2010

review: sweet melissa patisserie new york

Now that the secret is finally out, let the fun begin! The best part about planning a business? The indulgent research. Ha! Bet you thought I would let that part slip by this blog eh. Well think again. All the more reason to eat to my heart's delight. To craft the perfect tea party menu, I'll need to eat as much as possible. I mean, we wouldn't want to get crushed by competition right? And since my first bakery review post went over so well....along with the fact that my mother and Mandy think I would make a great freelance food critic...time to sharpen our pencils and teeth, because its drool fest time.

Autumn in New York leaves little else to be desired. Last weekend, the sun was shining with all its glory, the air was still, the people were out and about enjoying the falling amber leaves, and I was just a girl about town strolling along the cobbled streets of Park Slope Brooklyn aimlessly, without a care in the world. The dozens upon dozens of storefronts were as alluring as a French woman in rouge lipstick, enticing me, pulling me with magnetic force. Choosing a spot to eat in New York is as easy as choosing which of your children to give your kidney...its ridiculous. As luck would have it, I was meeting a friend and she did the torturous duty of selecting the eatery for us. As I glided towards second street, I could already see the cute Tiffany blue chalkboard menu make its shape in my view, and as I turned the corner, my eye caught glimpse of the miraculous window display, filled with holiday decor and pastry delights. "Sweet Jesus!", I exclaimed. But I was soon corrected. This was Sweet Melissa, and little did I know that this small and unassuming patisserie would be the reason I would go bankrupt that day.

The bakeshop was quaint and unfussy, with a pastry display on the left and gelato display to the right (now called their crémerie). And just like Le Pain, a small but perfectly curated selection of cookies, kitchenware, and small goodies lined the shelves that separated the ordering stands from the seating area in the back. I was told there was a beautiful courtyard as well, but alas, I was busy drooling all over the window displays to the dismay of the cashier girl who already had Windex ready to go.
We established some time ago how horrible a native I am, so it should come as no surprise that I was clueless about how famous this establishment actually was, and Melissa Murphy herself, a heralded master chef with her own book and countless appearances on top tv shows. The hype makes sense, everything looked scrumptious beyond belief. I walked straight up to the cashier and let her know clear and frank that I would be ordering one of everything...and so I did! My goodie bag got filled with her powder sugar dusted madeleine cookies, vanilla custard filled sticky buns, thumbprint jam cookies, lavender and baby blue petit fours, freshly baked flaky croissants, not one...but two cupcakes- double chocolate and raspberry chocolate - as well as a pumpkin muffin for good measure. It is fall after all. I haven't tried everything just yet (thank goodness for ziplock seals and refrigeration) but what I have tried is delicious and well worth the visit. The petit fours, my very first ones by the way, are sooo cute. I did fret over the fact that they were quite stiff, as if they freeze them to hold the icing in place all day, so that was a bit disappointing. The icing cracks and falls away into your mouth like crunching on ice cubes, but the cake is moist and the raspberry filling is a nice surprise. Of course I ripped into the double chocolate cupcake like it was Christmas! Besides the fact that it too was cold for the sake of freshness, the little bugger was pretty good. My favorite part of the whole self-induced buffet was the croissant. You can never go wrong with a perfectly sweet yet flaky and buttery croissant. Nom nom. All I was missing was hot chocolate to dip it in...but at this point, I was lucky if I had a dollar left to get home!


gift of pretty...

Oh boy, last day of French is tomorrow. J'ai un examen. Wish me luck. And to think I haven't even started on the French translation for the extra credit restaurant review assignment. Oh la la. Here is a dose of pretty to ease my mind...and yours. One day we all will be sipping tea and munching on baguettes. Till then.


click images for source

Jul 9, 2010

the house that love built...

So you may have guessed it, though you could never tell, but I have a new thing in my life...and its called love. Hmmm, granted not love just yet, but pretty darn close. The funniest part, is that it got dropped on me as if by a baby stork. Like a Thanksgiving dinner delivery, literally. We'll call him L for now (L&L so cute, I know!). And yet I've lied again...the funniest part is actually mother fixed us up. On what planet that actually works, I have no idea, but its true! She had a little twiddle of her thumbs at the art of matchmaking last year when she was in town and I invited her for her first ever margarita (another story entirely). She said she wanted to bring along a friend, and over dinner, whilst watching their marriage-like banter back and forth, I had imagined later on she would tell me that she had gone cougar on me and that he was her new lover. But in fact, she had brought him for me. Brought him to be shown off like a clean cut doxin at a dog show. Oh nice ears. Very slender calves. Nice trot. Unfortunately, at that moment, he was not my cup of tea in physical attraction or mentally, as I was still depressed and clinging on to the fleeting memories of my ex fiance.

Fast forward a full year, and she invites him to meet me for Thanksgiving. Knowing I would be all alone, it was actually a nice surprise to see him again. A year sure did do his body good, because he looked good enough to eat! I almost did. I had been intentionally starving all day to pace myself for all the calories awaiting me on Thanksgiving night. He invited me to the movies. We went. I had a drink. Or two. I was tipsy, and so my lips perhaps might have tipped themselves right over onto his face. He didn't seem to mind. We talked on the phone the next day. We went to a party and danced the night after. We spent this whole past weekend together too. I don't know what the heck is going on, but it makes me believe in reincarnation. How we can just click like we have known each other for light years, its unfathomable. Soul mates is too cheesy, kindred spirits doesn't fit either, but there is something there brewing, and I'm just so thankful. For someone who thought she would never find such happiness again, its the best Thanksgiving gift ever. Love is the best cure to loneliness.

But my only problem is this! The inevitable comparisons to my ex. I keep doing it! Does anyone else do that? My ex was amazing in that he literally found all my life dreams and ambitious quirks to be appealing. If I told him one night I wanted to buy a vintage RV, paint it all pink, set sights across the country, and just cruise for months selling cupcakes at boardwalks or buy a run down cabin in the middle of the forest, paint it all white like a fairytale palace, use it as a bed and breakfast while we sleep off in a streamer somewhere, he would have been waiting with our bags packed when I got home. So what do I do now...starting from scratch..with the same dreams and quirks. I want to live in a gingerbread house just like this, in the forest with the owls and the wood nymphs and light fairies, where the wind sings and the moon glows and the river runs through it like a harmony. Will I have to do it alone, give up the dream, or have my cake and eat it too? I wonder...
images here from this amazing NY Times article here via Concrete & Honey

Jul 8, 2010

recipe: how to make cotton candy cupcakes

how to make cotton candy cupcakes

Follow my new recipe adventures over at Pick Me Meal Club!

At long last! Its time. Time for those gosh darn cotton candy cupcakes from scratch. I want you to know something though, before we start. This was not just another cupcake baking experiment, this experience. No joke. Yet again I found myself knee deep in hours of research, because believe it or not, this is my very first vanilla recipe! Bye bye Duncan Hines. So long Betty Crocker. My very first vanilla experience was a hit, and I'm ready to tell you all about it so you too know how to make cotton candy cupcakes.

So after last night's taste test, I became quite obsessed (re: jealous) on how Sugar Sweet Sunshine landed such an incredible vanilla cake base. Seriously, New Yorkers are very, very serious about where you can find a decent cupcake. A native will tell you to steer clear of Magnolias, while a tourist will tell you its amazing. So this morning I of course went crazyyy looking to see if there was any possible chance that SSS shared their recipe in an interview or online in the last decade. All I found were broken links and a lame lemon something or another. I was lucky enough to find a buttercream frosting recipe by them, which was used below. But I wanted a perfectly approved batter! So next was a search for overhyped (but for all the right reasons) Georgetown Cupcakes recipes, and after a good half an hour, I found a cupcake wars article in the Washington Post where GC obviously won, and was nice enough to share their chocolate ganache recipe. Yay! Oh, just one thing, I needed vanilla. Oh well.

minimalist lifestyle books: easy elegance

easy elegance minimalist decoratinglove, love doing a little shelf to display an art collection in a sweet and casual way

So as you've learned (voluntarily or not) I am quite intimidated by florals. No not spring's latest dresses, actual flowers. Decorating with flowers scare me, but now a new problem has hit me. Actual decorating in general intimidates me as well. Why? Well, we haven't reached that far in my therapy sessions, but from what I can tell, its because I am a perfectionist whose been jaded by the lavish homes of Elle Decor and Metropolitan Home, and feel in order to have the room of my dreams, I must have everything ready to be laid out in one swift swoop (oh and never give birth or buy a dog, since plastic couch covers are so last season). So yes, decorating scares me. But why!? Life isn't a freakin Elle Decor one really lives like that. Those rooms are rich people who have access to the world's top interior designers. So no more I say. Back to normality. I think I will find a way to decorate that fits my anal personality. Decor 101 should be all about collecting. Slowly collect things you love. Trust me. It all hit me as I was reading yet another great minimalist lifestyle book called Easy Elegance by who other than Atlanta Bartlett. I turned a page and there was a gorgeous (re: opulent) French inspired living room with a plush white rug. I have been obsessed with plush rugs since I was 17 with my very first apartment and the budget of a student where I discovered Urban Outfitters stocked quite beautiful wool rugs. So it dawned on me: just slowly build your decor piece by piece. Duh! Why didn't I think of this before. So no more dreaming of a winning lottery ticket, bank loan, or bank robbery to afford my decor makeovers. I'll pick up a lace cushion here, vintage Louis chair there, and one day, before you know it, I'll be ready to put the puzzle pieces together.

How do you go about your decorating? All at once or slow and steady? I personally hate adding such beautiful things to a barely moved in room. The joy of breaking open that storage closet full of collected goodies is like Xmas in July!

Jul 7, 2010

milk the cream, gold flour, and sugar sweet sunshine

cupcakes recipes

Did you ever think so much could happen to rock your world in a ten minute walk home? Neither did I, until just now. Literally after stepping out of Whole Foods on my way home, with cake flour in tow (for take 3 on red velvet cupcakes of course) I realized how precious my cake flour purchase was. For some reason it just hit me, and I began channeling Carrie Bradshaw from that episode in SATC where she was getting mugged and she was pretty much okay with the entire robbery until he went for the Manolo Blahniks. I mean seriously, what kind of soulless person would steal a girl's strappy sandals..that she got on sale no less! Well yes, a robber, that's who. But that's how I instantly felt about my King Arthur all natural unbleached cake flour (brand new product by the way) whilst strolling home. At that very moment, if someone so much as breathed on me wrong, or their body language ever so slightly suggested they would mug me, I was ready to give up my Blackberry, designer headband and even my new pre-loaded Chase card...just don't touch my new gourmet flour, got it! Seriously, a woman's minimalist baking pantry items are no joke. When I am craving a fresh batch of cupcakes, I almost feel I love baking more than shopping I know, I know.

But anyway, this is hardly a story compared to what happened next. I'm crossing the street, approaching a gentleman with all the tick boxes worthy of staring (tall, dark and handsome) who was well groomed and looked a little Ivy League-ish in a crisp button down. He was walking with a girl who I presume is the lucky better half, and I as I approach them I hear him ask her, "but what comes first, cream or milk?". Seriously!!!?? Seriously!? Now, don't get me wrong, we will never really know about the infamous chicken or the egg debate. For heaven's sake, religion gets involved with that one. But cream before milk? That's like asking if chocolate milk comes from chocolate cows. What did the poor lad think...that cows just graze and piss out cream somewhere? Goodness me...I almost got hit by a Vespa from pure frozen shock in the middle of the intersection.

At least all ended well. I still had my trusty flour in hand (drum roll please, ANDDD the store had cotton candy finally, so cotton candy cupcakes are up next!) and I decided to stop by Sugar Sweet Sunshine for some taste testing before baking. I hadn't been there for months, but here are three reasons you need to go if you're in town or plan to come to NYC. Firstly, they are freakin $1.50! Seriously. No joke. I don't know if they didn't get the recession memo, but somehow they are surviving on selling the cheapest in-store regular sized cupcakes known to man. Second, the vanilla cupcakes are pretty much the best I have tasted in NY thus far. The buttercream is so sweet my cavity nearly popped out of my mouth and slapped me in the face, but other than that, its deelish. And lastly, they have a cupcake with girly in the name and it comes in pink and Tiffany Blue. Nuff said.

minimalist fashion and craft fabric from linnet in japan

minimalist fabricsminimalist sewing and craft
I am a research/book freak like I mentioned in my first post here on this blog. So while reading along in some of my business literature I was assigned to discover my design aesthetic. I discovered I am for sure a lover of all things romantic yet tailored, so maybe the Victorian era is for me? Or a new term I'm coining called modern vintage French glamour! Anyway, I landed on this wonderful blog called Glass of Fashion where I found hidden gem Linnet- an online specialty fabric store based in Japan that sells the most gorgeous minimalist fashion and craft sewing items. I am just so smitten with Linnet. The website is absolutely delightful, almost similar in essence to that of Wiksten Made's personality. Take a glance at what GoF had to say about her recent purchase from their lovely store (it was so convincing I placed an order for myself, so reviews coming up!):

linnet japan
The latest addition to my fabric stash. Posted on 29th August in Japan, arrived at my door in the UK on 1st September. How is it even possible for it to have arrived that quickly?It’s a lovely 100% cotton doubleknit in a heathered grey marl with tiny little branches (or are they trees? or fern fronds?) woven in all over the fabric in a natural colour. The fabric comes from Linnet, a small Japanese shop based in Kyoto which offers online shopping. They specialise in linens, I’m eyeing up a lot of fabrics for next summer. (Well, you’ve got to think ahead, haven’t you?) Wow, looks like the grey colourway of the doubleknit has sold out in less than a week. But they do still have it in beige.The unwrapping experience was a joy. Look, sample swatches! And a cute postcard! I wish I could read what’s written in the pamphlet:

Sounds wonderful right? Can't wait to get my package in the mail as well. Don't you just love when online shopping deliveries are a little experience, something special just for you? And Linnet is surely going places. On their COMING SOON page, I found we can expect a beautiful selection of books, candles and fragrances, all in the Linnet style. Linnet's fabric selection, their bread and butter, is drop dead gorgeous. Just pure homey, warm and country goodness, perfect for my future home decor goodies like pillows or vintage-inspired aprons. I almost was hesitant posting this little gem, but I've read tons of blogs in my time, and I definitely don't want to be that girl (ya know, the ones who never share any of their beloved vendors). The product photography is pure bliss, and what's even better is that they now offer finished products using their fabric lines from clothing to table linens, and they feature images of what to make next to the fabrics. Head to their online shop after taking a peek at a sampling below, but be careful, because if you like dabbling in sewing or knitting, you might get hooked on their shop for hours.

minimalist fashion dresses from linnetminimalist pattern craft and fashion fabrics

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Jul 5, 2010

live a minimalist life with a doily wreath diy

I know its not just me who has a silly love affair with doilies. If the doily were a man, it would be that one gorgeous guy you stalked back in high school, hoping you could just take him home, sit him down, and stare at his incomparable beauty. No? You didn't do that too? Well, at least doilies are beautiful white breaths of fresh air that are literally everywhere these days, not just Grandma's attic. I mean really, you can buy a pack for a buck at a flea market and feel like you won the lottery. So next time you score a jumbo sack of these bad boys and come home feeling like you have to hide your winnings from your husband (him= "oh hon, not againnnn!") you just shoot him a little evil smirk because you have a plan. Yup, this time they won't collect dust. This time, they will light up!

Paper Doily Wreath
via Martha Stewart

What You Need:
  • 24-inch wreath form
  • 30-inch wreath form
  • 24-gauge wire
  • White spray paint
  • 20-foot strand of white holiday lights
  • Scissors
  • Paper bouquet holders (try ten 8.8-inch ones, twenty 6.4-inch ones, twenty 4.8-inch ones, and fifty 3.2-inch ones from

Step 1
Working on a covered surface, lay a 24-inch wreath form inside a 30-inch one. Attach them with 24-gauge wire at 6 to 8 evenly spaced points.
Step 2
In a ventilated area, coat combined wreath form with white spray paint. Let dry.
Step 3
Wrap wreath form with a 20-foot strand of white holiday lights (test lights beforehand), leaving the plug end unwrapped (as much as is needed to plug in).
Step 4
With scissors, widen the center-hole slits slightly in paper bouquet holders (we used 10 8.8-inch ones, 20 6.4-inch ones, 20 4.8-inch ones, and 50 3.2-inch ones). Poke a finger through center hole of each bouquet holder (from front to back) to create openings large enough to accommodate a light bulb.
Step 5
Beginning with largest ones, place bouquet holders evenly around wreath, slipping a light through each hole so that bulb bases, not bulbs, rest against paper. (From time to time, hang wreath, and step back to ensure that the arrangement is balanced and attractive.)
Step 6
Add remaining bouquet holders in descending size order. Use smallest bouquet holders to cover centers of larger ones and to fill in any gaps. Hang near an outlet. Unplug when unattended.
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© Beconing Lola • design Maira G.