A hub for all things to do with design, furniture painting, photography, style, event planning [and some foodie bits for good measure].  

Constant Christmas Baking! The Best Tiny Vanilla Cupcakes

These cupcakes though. [don't worry, they're gone now. we. ate. them. all.]  I had an impromptu Christmas party last week and rushed to prepare things for the party solely based on what I already had around the house.  I knew tiny cupcakes were in my near future, since we'd just picked up a load of tiny cupcake liners in various holiday colors. After a bit of research, I stumbled upon this FANTASTIC recipe!

Rather than rewrite the entire recipe on here, I'll send you to Sally's Baking Addiction for it.  The only thing I changed was the substitution of vanilla greek yogurt.  I didn't have any on hand, so I opted to use some low fat sour cream and extra vanilla extract in the mix.  Worked just fine!

The cupcakes themselves are quite light and don't feel too terribly sinful, but that buttercream frosting....OH YES. I added a pinch of extra salt, since I like how it mellows the overly saccharine sweetness of the frosting.

I also opted to top half of them with chocolate frosting [simply added some spoonfuls of unsweetened cocoa powder to half the frosting].  Decorating them was simple enough; mixtures of green, red and silver sprinkles is all they needed!

I didn't have time to take 'fancy' photos of them, since I was running around like a chicken with her head cut off that day getting ready for the party, but these seem to show their delectability quite nicely.

Just for good measure, I had to include a photo of the aftermath. [this photo makes an appearance twice in the blog, since I'm just so proud of this mess!] I LOVE to cook, and I don't mind baking, but boy do I loathe how messy the entire process can be! You'd almost think I actively tried to create chaos for this photo, but no no...this is just what things look like when I bake.  As I write this, I just finished tidying up the kitchen from the second round of Christmas baking, this time for the BIG day! Tomorrow, I'll hopefully post my gorgeous sugar cookies [and a batch of cinnamon walnut squares!] all decked out and glossy. But for now, I shall drink my glass of wine and revel in the fact that I can watch at least one more episode of Broadchurch before going to bed.  [I have an unhealthy relationship with Netflix...]  

Last Minute Christmas Party!

The writing for this post will be brief, as I'm currently in the throes of attempting to throw together a VERY last minute Christmas Party! My kitchen currently looks something like this:

But not to worry, tasty things are coming from this chaos. I have a toothache just thinking about it! These cupcakes with buttercream frosting are the central culprit to the tornado in my kitchen:

While I was at it, I went for two other desserts, because I can't be stopped once I've made a massive catastrophe of my kitchen! [photos of those to come later!]  In the meantime, here's what the studio looks like for the party now.  I didn't have much time to really get into festive decorating here since we went all out at the house, but it's still quite nice if I do say so myself!

Now that I've completed my share of the cooking and baking [my sweet mother is helping cook up several Filipino dishes for the party while I get ready!], it's time to tidy up [massive understatement...] and sort myself out for this evening.  I'll return to the regularly scheduled posts hopefully by tomorrow!  Gotta love Christmas!

Holiday Entertaining Recipes: Egg Free Egg Nog

Tis the season of holiday parties! The standard party fare are easily the best part of the season [well after spending quality time with friends and family, and the occasional dancing and singing to cheesy Christmas songs!]. I love to see trays and trays of sweets and cookies of every shape and flavor. Even better are the warm drinks flavored with all sorts of wintery spices: warm cider, mulled wine and my personal favorite, hot chocolate! Egg nog is the most tried and true holiday decadence, though it’s surprisingly not my most favorite drink. Why in the world then would I spend an entire post on a recipe for egg nog you ask? Well let me explain…

My reasons for veering away from the nog is mostly due to my past aversion to raw eggs. True eggnog is actually made with raw eggs, and is extremely thick and rich. When at a party, you never really know if you’re getting a nog that’s been heated and all the potential food born illnesses have hopefully been cooked off. As someone who's had food poisioning, this is a valid concern!

To be fair, I’m much less picky about raw eggs these days, since I’ve cooked enough recipes using them and have been perfectly healthy after the fact. Regardless, my long standing pickiness regarding eggnog has made me opt to create an egg free holiday treat. I’d planned on calling this a different name [though any ideas for fun recipe names are completely escaping me!], but it impressively tastes A LOT like your standard eggnog, just a little less thick. If you add in a good dose of heavy cream to the mix, you could make this far more decadent, but I’m quite happy with it the way it is!

Egg Free Egg Nog

  • 12 cups whole milk
  • 8-12 ounces bourbon [I used Jack Daniel’s Cider Whiskey since it tastes very seasonal!] Add as much or as little liquor as you’d like- this tastes great alcohol free too!
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cinnamon stick [plus more for stirrers]
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger [I didn’t have this so I used a ginger simple syrup I had on hand and it adds just the right amount of warmth!]
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened cocoa powder [I used Ovaltine since I had that on hand]
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar

Combine all the ingredients aside from the liquor in a pot and warm on medium heat until the sugar dissolves. The longer it simmers, the stronger the spices taste.  I typically let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, but this time I only went for 10 and it tasted great! Place in a blender and blend until the spices are well incorporated.  [some will settle at the bottom of your pitcher, so just give it a stir before serving.  Add enough bourbon to your liking and stir to combine.  Eggnog is traditionally served cold, but as I’m drinking this, it’s still warm and I’m loving it! It’s chilly out today, so while I’m out in the yard with the dogs, it’s nice to have a warm [if slightly boozy] drink to sip on.  Mmm…

Bands to Listen to [and SEE LIVE!]: Jared & the Mill

I don't talk about music too often on here, but I just had to share my love for Jared & the Mill! I saw them for the first time back in March.  They played The Masquerade, conveniently located across the street from my studio, and just happened to stumble upon them. I brought a few friends along for that show. The venue was teeny weeny and we were so close we were nearly on stage! [pictured below]. The two shows I've been to so far felt small and intimate, as if you're at a backyard bbq with all your friends. These are absolutely my favorite type of show, since I feel like I get to know the band best this way. Jared & the Mill manages to put on a foot stomping, make-you-want-to-dance performance every time! If you want to get to know the band a bit more, do watch their new tour documentary. You'll get to hear a bit of their music and fall in love with the lot of them immediately [okay, maybe not love [!] but you'll get to appreciate the band and their message and their natural talent for sure!]. 

They currently have a full-length album out as well as an EP they put out earlier this year, and both are on constant rotation on my playlist! They're easily my favorite band of the year [and if you know me at all, I really do care about music, so this is saying something!]. If you're reading this and live in the Atlanta area, I HIGHLY recommend coming out to check out this band.  It's not the kind of show where you need to have listened to them before to go.  Just trust my judgement and come support these guys tomorrow night at Vinyl! You can buy tickets at the door, or grab them online. Here's a link to the ticket page for this show

If you want to see a snippet of one of their more mellow tunes, check out this little video I made!

jHere's the show info [and their gorgeous tour poster!]. If you don't live in Atlanta, check out their website for the tour dates closest to you! And with that...HAPPY FRIDAY! -Jo

A Peek into Chalk Painting Class

Playing with paint. Munching on cookies. Sipping cocktail or two.  Chatting about furniture and design. Learning something new. Sounds like my kind of party! I love spending a day working on furniture, reinventing and being creative. The thing is, working solo gets a little lonely. I have infinitely more fun when I get to paint and play alongside friends, family and my students!  I'm awful at remembering to take photos during class, but here are a few quick iphone shots I snapped during a couple different classes.  Right now, I've just started with my Chalk Painting Basics, where we do all of the above and students can bring something small to work on [check out the frame a student painted below, it's GORGEOUS!]. I'm getting ready to post my September class schedule, and I'm also posting a few slots for one [or two!] on one furniture painting classes! Now, you'll get to bring a piece to work on in my studio so I can show you my painting techniques on your own furniture! Nothing is posted just yet, but stay tuned!