Monday, June 29, 2015

Collaboreads: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I'm so excited to be joining in on the first #Collaboreads link-up  Created by Amber and Rachel as "the best and simplest book link-up in the land."  It brings together reviews of so many different books by providing a broad guideline and allowing people to pick their own book.  You can find more about Collaboreads here This month's criteria was: on the NYT Best Sellers List when you started reading it.  Over the past month, I've been reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  The beautifully written book has been on the Paperback Trade Fiction List for 11 weeks now. 
On the NYT Best-sellers List when you start reading it. - See more at:

  1. We will pick a random criteria for your book. It'll look something like: published the year you were born or mentions a city in your state or historical fiction about an era you really don't know. 
  2. You find your book. (It's probably a good -or even great- idea to get a library card!) 
  3. Read. -You'll have a month. 
  4. At the end of the month we'll review(ish) our books. Rachel and I will both have places for you to share your links in our posts. 
  5. Repeat steps 1 - 4. 
- See more at:

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Balboa Park, San Diego

You could probably spend a weeks exploring San Diego's Balboa Park and still not see everything.  The park is home to many museums, gardens, and the San Diego Zoo.  And it is absolutely gorgeous.  We spent one afternoon walking around a few of the beautiful gardens, museums and theaters.

 The Casa del Prado Theater is a historic reconstruction used by the San Diego Junior Theater.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Old Town San Diego, California

Old Town San Diego-the birthplace of California.  Super accessible to public transportation and filled with history and beautiful architecture.  I loved walking around the park and through a few of the museums as well as the shops on the surrounding streets.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Southern Makers, Montgomery, Alabama

One thing Alabama is not short on, is creative souls.  Southern Makers was the first weekend of May and brought in a slew of chefs, artists, brewers, musicians and designers from across the southeast, majority being from Alabama.  Proceeds from the event went to E.A.T. South, a really cool local charity which uses urban farms to promote principles of food justice through education and sustainable farming.

A few favorite artists included:

The Union Station Train Shed 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Weekend Reading

Last weekend, the Southern Makers event was held in the Union Station Train Shed in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.  The event was full of southern artists, musicians, chefs and brewers, majority being from Alabama.  I absolutely loved it!  This was the third year for the event, but my first time attending.  It was great to see such a large turn out for this creative event.  Since then, I have been on a creative kick, working on calligraphy and new recipes.

Friday, May 8, 2015

San Diego Beaches

On a recent trip to San Diego, California, I took the opportunity to explore a few of the local beaches.  Pacific Beach had a great boardwalk filled with shops, bars, restaurants and bike rentals.  There were so many people forming a quite diverse crowd.  We walked south down the beach from there and it seemed to get more family friendly as we got closer to Mission Beach.  Mission Beach, as I understand it, is known for being pretty touristy.  But with Belmont Park, a small amusement park overlooking the beach, of course its going to attract people. After exploring a few shops, we rode the roller coaster, which was a lot of fun!

Each of the beaches we visited were lovely, and came with some of the largest seagulls I have ever seen.  However, my absolute favorite beach, was north of San Diego in the village of La Jolla.  La Jolla is home to adorable shops and restaurants, and best of all a bunch of seals.  We spotted so many birds (gulls, cormorants, and pelicans), beautiful views and seals.  I really could have spent a full day on trail and beaches around La Jolla.  It is definitely a must see for your San Diego travels.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Weekend Reading

I spent the last week in San Diego for a conference.  The week was full of good food and beautiful sites on top of the emerging work in emissions inventories.  I loved exploring the city and seeing the beaches.  The seals above were lounging on a beach in La Jolla and they were awesome.  I'm pretty sure seals are the grumpy old men of the animal kingdom.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Easy Easter Cake Decorating

What dessert screams Easter more than a carrot cake.  I can't think of any, but my love of this cake could make me a little biased. This year mom asked me to bring one to Easter Sunday lunch, and I got a little excited.  I decided to make a few cupcakes as well for the kids.  I followed the carrot cake recipe from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, one of my favorite cookbooks, and multiplied it by 1.25, to give myself a little extra for the cupcakes.

The frosting is a cream cheese frosting (except for the green carrot tops, which are royal icing).  Both frosting recipes are listed below.  I separated about 1 cup of the cream cheese frosting out and used  about 1/8 teaspoon Wilton gel icing coloring in orange.

For the cupcakes, I allowed them to fully cool, then cut a small cone out of the center of the cupcakes using a paring knife, about 1 inch in diameter.  I filled the cone shaped hole with the orange icing using a large round tip and moving straight up, until the carrot stood about 1/2-3/4 inch over the cupcake. I used the cream cheese icing to cover the rest of the cupcake.  I then used the green royal icing to make the tops. Perfecting the texture of royal icing can be a little difficult.  It shouldn't be anywhere as thick as the cream cheese icing, but you do want it to be able to hold a little bit of a shape for drawing the carrot tops.  I drew the tops on a spare piece of parchment paper and really just scribbled a few lines.  Obviously, I'm no artist, when it comes to icing, and I'm really impatient, so I made extra.  The tops needed to dry about 3-4 hours depending on thickness.  It would do well to leave them overnight if you can. Once they were dry, I very carefully pulled off the parchment and stuck the royal icing tops into the top of the carrot.

Since I was coloring the icing, I thought why not decorate the cake as well.  The carrots were made with a large round tip like this one. The tops were made with the same royal icing.

Royal Icing Recipe


1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, sifted


  1. Beat egg whites, vanilla, and confectioners sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. 
  2. Add additional confectioners sugar or water to reach desired consistency. 

Cream Cheese Frosting


1 stick of butter
2 packages of cream cheese
1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
6-7 cups powdered sugar


  1. Beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla together in a stand mixer (a much less time consuming task if the cream cheese and butter are closer to room temperature)
  2. Slowly add the confectioners sugar until a desired consistency is reached.

Hope you have a wonderful Easter!