It seems like everywhere I turn someone is sick; work, childcare, family, & friends. Its that not so lovely time of year we fearfully refer to as cold and flu season. I unfortunately succumbed to the germs myself last week and could have really used one of these “DIY Get Well Gift for Cold & Flu Season.” Now on the mend, I am hoping to spread get well cheer.
These little gems are the perfect gift to make ahead and have on had this time of year.
Start with a cute mug or teapot. I found these adorable mugs at West Elm today and I picked up this little teapot on clearance at Target a while back.
lemon (fresh lemon, bottled lemon juice, or True Lemon)
Emergen-C packets or organic effervesce drink mix
Just arrange everything in the container of your choice and give it to your favorite “sickies!”
You could even make several at the same time and keep on hand. Thats where the True Lemon would be perfect.
On a side note, how cute are these tiny honey bears?!
Comment below with any additional things I need to add to my list and when a cold or flu does hit, I hope you and your loved ones a speedy recovery.
Halloween candy s’more bites are a super quick treat to make and the perfect way to use up that Halloween candy. These are also a great treat to bring to a Halloween party.
What sets these s’more bites apart is the gourmet graham crackers I get from the Tulie bakery here in Salt Lake City, Utah. A world of difference in the taste and texture department!
Each cracker is about 3 inches square so I quartered them. Making each bite perfect for one marshmallow.
I then cut up an assortment of candy into smaller pieces. My favorite topping is Almond Joys.
You don’t need a fancy torch, I just lined a baking sheet with parchment, added the crackers and marshmallows, and toasted them in my over on broil. It took about 3-5 minutes to get a nice golden top.
Press the candy down into the toasted marshmallow, being sure to get it down in the gooey melted part!
You can serve these warm or cool like I did last night. I let them cool down for a few minutes, added a lid and took them to a party.
I want to hear about your s’more bites so leave a comment with your favorite S’more topping or where to find gourmet graham crackers in your area.
Wow, there is a reason why everyone’s hero in the kitchen, Julia Child, called this brownie recipe BEST EVER BROWNIES! Gooey, creamy, chocolate for days. These are the brownies of my dreams.
I knew they would be good because every Julia Child recipe I have ever made turns out to be a winner but this was beyond expectation. I’m totally in love with the fact that something so complex in both texture and taste came from just 6 simple ingredients.
The hardest part about this recipe is having patience while melting the chocolate and butter. But other than that, it comes together very quickly. Just remember to not over work the batter in the last few steps and they will turn out to be the most fudge like, creamy brownies you have ever had.
Melting the Chocolate and butter.
Add in 1 cup of sugar and the vanilla.
Whisk remaining sugar and eggs.
Add half of egg mixture to chocolate mixture.
Whisk remaining egg mixture till doubled in volume.
Place rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease a 9 inch square pan and line with parchment paper, which makes it much easier to cut into perfect squares at the end.
You have two options for melting the chocolate:
If you have really hot tap water you can use this method or skip down to option B. Place a medium glass bowl inside of a slightly larger bowl. Add hot water from the tap to the outside bowl. Add the chocolate and butter to the inside bowl and allow to sit for about five minutes while you prep the dry ingredients. It will have melted slightly, keep stirring often. Switch out the water if needed. Keep stirring until the chocolate and butter are fully melted and incorporated. I switched out the water twice and this took about 10-15 minutes. This method requires patience but ensure that this mixture doesn't get too hot for the next few steps.
In a medium glass bowl, add chocolate and butter. Place the bowl over a saucepan half full of water and bring to a very gentle simmer, reduce heat to low. Stir the chocolate and butter continuously to fully incorporate and avoid overheating.
Remove the bowl from the water and wipe dry. Mix in 1c of the sugar and the vanilla.
In a bowl, whisk the other 1c of sugar and the eggs until just combined. Gradually stir half the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture until just combined. Stir a few times during the next step to keep from thickening up too much.
Either with a stand mixer or by hand whisk the remaining egg mixture until pailed, and doubled in volume. I did this step by hand and it took about 5 minutes. I will definitely use my stand mixer next time. Gently fold into the chocolate mixture.
Once the eggs are almost completely folded in, gently fold in the dry ingredients.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake 23-28 minutes, the batter will rise a little and the top will look dry. If you give the pan a gentle shake, it should have just a little movement but not look like batter.
Let the brownies cool completely, then using the parchment paper, lift out of pan. With a large knife cut straight down into 16 equal pieces.
Here in Salt Lake, the first official weekend of Fall was a cold and dreary one. The perfect kind of weather to stay in, put up Halloween decorations, and bake. This recipe really got me back into the baking mood after a really hot summer.
So get your fall baking on with this amazing recipe.
I’m excited to share with you this awesome dog treat recipe with peanut butter, bacon, and bananas.
But first, let me introduce you to our furry family members. Gidget pictured below is a Black Shepard mix and a “daddy’s girl.”
Blanca pictures below is our mystery prize since Juice saved her about a decade ago after being abandoned. She is most definitely a “Momma’s girl!”
A little over a week ago our two escape artists Shawshanked their way out of our backyard while we were away from home. Which lead me to briefly question why they would ever want to leave our little piece of paradise? Seriously, they live with two full-time “crumb monsters” a.k.a. my hubby and toddler, who leave a trail of delicious crumbs wherever they go. They have a big yard to try to destroy on the daily, dog beds at every turn. But I digress. Luckily our neighbor saw them running the streets, lured them back into our backyard and secured our gate.
So I added “do something nice for your neighbor” to my to-do list.
(On a side note, If a scowl could kill!…Oliver inherited this exact scowl from me. In his defense it was a really bright day.)
Then our friend Janell helped us out with our dogs on our last day of vacation and I again pondered what to do to say thank you.
I thought about baking human treats for both, but since I’m not familiar with my neighbors food preferences, the last thing I wanted to do was show up at her door with a dozen cookies only to find out she is diabetic or has a gluten allergy. That is when it became obvious that I need to make doggie treats! It was a perfect solution since they both have dogs, and while my own dogs haven’t exactly written up terms for surrender like better food, I figured a few yummy pupcakes might just keep them from trying to escape. In the words of Michael Scott, it’s a WIN, WIN, WIN scenario.
I found this great recipe on The Happy Foodie by Martha Stewart for Peanut Butter and Banana dog cupcakes but I decided to improve it immensely with one simple addition; bacon. Your pups will thank you. If you would prefer to weigh out your flour and oats into grams you can use the recipe above but I doubled the batch and converted the recipe to the U.S. Cups.
I have been in love with Shirley Temples since the first time my dad ordered me one when I was a little girl. I mean whats not to love, an adorable and sweet little 7-up , a splash of grenadine, topped off with a perfect little cherry.
Maybe my 35th birthday had me subconsciously reaching for something that made me feel young again. But as much as I wanted to make Shirley Temples, I found myself wanting to “adult” it up a bit with vodka. Maybe I am ok with getting older, emphasis on maybe.
As I planned my birthday party I found several great recipes for a dirty shirley but most of them required way too much effort for this working momma. I wanted to try out my own recipe but all I had at home was a can of lemon Sanpellegrino and didn’t want to run to the store for 7-up. Man I am glad I stayed home. Sanpellegrino is pretty much the only soda I ever buy and that 17% lemon juice always makes it a great “mixer!” The incredible bite of tart lemon really compliments the sweet grenadine and fruity vodka. Topped with a gorgeous cherry and you have a drink worthy of the title dirtyShirley.This drink is crazy refreshing.
In honor of my birthday week I though I’d share my 35th birthday party inspiration; a Tropical Flamingo party.
I have been obsessed with flamingos for almost a decade, it all started on a shooting party in an Arizona dessert. My stepmom Sheri had packed up a box of potential targets including a glorious pink lawn flamingo. But as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to save it. I smuggled him out of harms way and stashed “Felipe” in my suitcase. Felipe the flamingo become my beloved mascot, I even named my apartment “the Flamingo.”
In 2008, Felipe was kidnapped and held for ransom. I unfortunately never saw him again. But his memory lives on in my heart.
Here is what you need to throw a fabulous tropical Flamingo party.
Start with a whole flock of flamingos. But not just any flamingos, go with the original Don Featherstone flamingos, they have the best details.
I have loved Shirley Temples since I was a little girl but since this is my 35th birthday, not my 5th, I decided to “adult” it up for my party by serving a Dirty Shirley. Here is a great recipe from The Solstice Table.
This is the story of how I created the easiest tres leches cake recipe of all time. With only 5 ingredients, this recipe is perfect for pot lucks, BBQ’s, and last minute desserts.
While preparing to make Tres Leches for my work “Cinco De Mayo” pot luck I had dreams of grandeur. I did the research and was mentally prepared to separate egg whites from their yolks. I was ready to beat egg whites into stiff peaks. It was going to be the damn Tres Leches anyone had ever tasted.
But then I got stuck in really bad rush hour traffic, got home late, realized I need to go to the grocery store before I could make dinner. I had a toddler saying “mom, mom, MOM” in increasing volume while begging for snacks that I knew would inevitably ruin his appetite for dinner.
And so in about the length of time it took Oliver Jack to get through his 3rd chorus of “mom, mom MOOOOOOOM” I let go of my dreams of grandeur and got real.
But I couldn’t show up to work empty handed. While throwing a handful of Pirate Booty in my little crooners direction, I googled “tres leches + pound cake” just to make sure it was a viable substitution. All while contemplating whether Pirate Booty counted as a vegetable?! But Oliver’s Vegetable consumption was a problem for another day.
With very little encouragement I was running out the door to the store.
Place bottom of each loaf in transportable container or lipped serving dish.
Using fork, poke holes throughout layer of cake.
Combine sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in an easy to pour container. Then pour half of milk mixture over prepared pound cake. Place top layer of pound cake loafs on top and poke holes throughout layer with a fork. Pour the remaining milk mixture over top being sure to get the corners and edges. If there seems to be a lot of the milk mixture pooling in the bottom you don't have to use all of the milk mixture.
All things considered, I was totally surprised with how well this turned out and I have since made this recipe 5 times. The correlation between how easy it is and it’s deliciousness is totally bonkers. Nothing this easy should taste this good. I hope you enjoy!
There are two type of peoples on vacation; the “do-ers” and the “chill-ers.” I almost always fall into the first category. I am a planner! Therefore I do extensive research and pack in as much as humanly possible in the time I have. This method is great in that I get to see a ton in a short period of time, but this method also ensures exhaustion and I ultimately need a vacation from my vacation.
When planning our Honeymoon my new husband we wanted a “chill” vacation to recover from the stresses of wedding planning. I swear we looked into all 196 countries in the world, or at least it felt that way. We finally settled on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao. Just off the coast of Venezuela. With gorgeous white sandy beaches and turquoise water, we found our own little piece of paradise.
The view from our room.
Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino
Our beach at Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino
Private path to the beach
Our first night in Curacao.
After about 3 days of relaxing by the pool, reading, drinking pina coladas, trying to make a baby, swimming, snorkeling, and napping, I started to feel restless. Like I said, I am a do-er. So we took a very expensive cab ride to the capital city of Willemstad and spent the day just wondering around , checking out their markets, amazed at the largess of coming and going cruise ships, & taking in a little graffiti art.
Market in Willemstad
We then spent another day lounging on the beach, snorkeling, reading, drinking pina-colada, and trying to make a baby.
Pina Colada with a little Blue Curacao
At some point each day I’d find my way to the resorts little cafe and get a chocolate croissant. For weeks afterward I had the thought, today would be so much better with a chocolate croissant and a pina colada!
daily chocolate croissant
Wanting to see more of the Island, we got brave and rented a car. I was especially freaked out when I realized It was my first time driving in a foreign country. Its a good thing cars work just about the same everywhere. With map in hand my hubby took his position in the co-pilot seat and we headed out.
I t wasn’t long before I got caught up trying to take it all in, didn’t follow Juice’s directions exactly, took the wrong turn, and consequently ended up on a very lonely dirt road in the middle of nowhere. The experience was both frightening and exciting at the same time. After a few hushed, muffled curses from Juice, some intense scrutiny of the map, and what seemed like an eternity we made it back on to a PAVED road to Westpunt. I like to look back on this adventure as a relationship building exercise.
Cliffs of Westpunt
High on the cliffs of Wespunt we had lunch with a goat we shared our first meal with a goat.
Being the doer that I am, we were lucky to have our own local tour guide for a day. My friend Matt’s mom actually lived in Curacao for many years and knew all the cool local places to take us. Mary was a total riot, she took us to a local grocery store for goodies and beer, we went snorkeling at a couple beaches and we got to check out this crazy cool fort.
Curacao was the first place I have ever snorkeled.
I will never forget the Dutch Carribean island of Curacao. It was the perfect compromise for both the “do-er” and “chiller” our every relationship. My hubby had days of white sandy beaches and reading, I had that and heavenly chocolate croissants, pina- coladas, and enough adventures to keep from going stir crazy. 40 weeks later we were both blessed with the cutest little honeymoon baby. Given all of this, Curacao will always hold a special place in my heart, it was our own little tropical dream come true.
Some call it a drip cake, others a drizzle cake. I like to call it a drip drizzle cake, I must be conjuring up my inner Snoop Dog. Whatever its name, I am completely obsessed with this hot new cake trend.
I mean, whats not to love, you take an already amazing cake and then drip drizzle your way to beyond amazing. The best part of these gorgeous drip drizzle cakes is all the crazy toppings; donuts, Japanese pocky, bon bons, macarons, flowers, lollipops, fruit, marshmallow, meringue, cookies, truffles, candy, or mini bottles of Jack, the possibilities are endless.
My internal battle between wanting to play it safe and wanting to live a creative life is a long one.
My first recollection came in Junior High. I wanted to be a writer and so I joined the journalist staff. But very quickly I realized that I did not want my writing critiqued and so I changed my mind.
In college, I wanted to be an interior designer. A History of Furniture is still one of my favorite college courses of all time. As enthralling as lecture time was, when it came to my personal designs being critiqued, I hated it and ultimately fled. My defense was always “how can something with no right answer, be wrong?”
In most areas of life I handled criticism pretty well. Professionally I used the only time I ever got fired, the worst criticism imaginable, to grow and become a better version of myself. On a personal level if a friend or lover criticized me, I often mulled it over in my head, dissecting how much truth there was in it. Discarding the useless bits but holding on to the true parts, using them to try to do better.
But creatively I just couldn’t take it. So I settled for the least creative degree imaginable in Information System Security. A degree that 8 years later, I have never used.
Over the years, as my passion for baking, crafting, scrap-booking, party planning, decorating, writing, & photography developed, I noticed that they all have a common thread of making things beautiful. I also noticed just how happy I am when creating. So after years of the same internal question “what do I want to be when I grow up?” I found a home in Living Darling, an outlet for all of my creative passions.
Working on Living Darling has been exciting and joyful . But it has also been overwhelming. The learning curve is immense and I have so little free time between work and family life.
Unsurprisingly, my imagination went wild, taking on the form of various hero lifestyle bloggers and designers that I admire, each of them questioning things like my authenticity, uniqueness, and style.
With each blog post I swept these fears aside and kept moving forward but unfortunately they persisted. Slowly chipping away at my motivation and excitement. Until last week when I stumbled upon a forum devoted to bashing one of my favorite bloggers.
It was shocking and confusing. But like most figurative train wrecks, it was hard to look away. I spent a couple of hours reading through 6 years of post, searching for a truth that I had maybe missed after all these years of admiration. I kept trying to reconcile my version of her blog with this one. Was I wrong to love her work? Was she really such a monster? I went back to her blog and her Instagram and then back to these horrible comments. I finally realized that it came down to jealousy. Jealousy of her success, of the picturesque life she has curated, of her hustle.
I spent days thinking about this forum, shocked that one of my favorite blogs could inspire so many vitrolic comments. Then I remembered this quote by Theodore Roosevelt
All at once I felt a huge flood of relief at the inevitability of criticism. We live in a world full of critics and a vastness of diverse opinions. There is no escaping someone who thinks they could do it better.
The horrible things I found on that forum were being said about a highly creative, successful, talented blogger and will most likely be said about anyone who puts themselves out there in the arena.
In hind sight, I wish I had developed a thick skin early on and accepted that criticism has its place. That while being vulnerable to criticism sucks, there are much worse places to be like those “cold and timid” sidelines.
From now on I plan on throwing myself out into the arena and I can only hope that one day I will have done that enough that people will take the time to critique my work. Whether I know victory or defeat, here is to daring greatly.