Friday Favorites

Running a little behind this Friday.  Todd and I hosted a party for some friends last night, and Davis basically had to drag me out of bed at 7 this morning.  Mom of the year.   Anyway, it’s been a big, busy week around here, and I am very much looking forward to a relaxing weekend at home!
Today I am linking up with April, Natasha, and Christina; Karli; Erika, Narci, and Andrea for Five on Friday, Oh Hey Friday!, and Friday Favorites.  I am also linking up with the group from High Five for Friday, Bright on a Budget!

ONE: I have a hair secret weapon!  I like to do my hair in a simple, low updo for special occasions, if my curls aren’t acting right, or if my hair is in need of a wash, but I still need to look presentable.  I have had these corkscrew bobby pin things for at least 6 years and I love them! I did my hair like this for the wedding we attended on Sunday, and we didn’t have a mirror for me to see the back, so I asked Todd to take some pictures so that I could see what I was doing.  I decided since I had the photos, to share one of my go-to hair tools.

the best hair tools for simple updos; simple undo for medium to long hair

I pinned a few of those loose pieces in after this picture. 

style spin bobby pins

To fix my hair this way, I:

  • curl it into waves with a 1 inch curling iron – the curls don’t need to be perfect – then spray it with flexible hold hair spray
  • pin the top half back with 3 or so bobby pins (a parted half up, half down look). Make sure to bump it up a little for some volume.  Don’t worry if this entire style is messy – that is what you want. I left the very front piece of my hair (bangs I guess) out of the half-up pins, and pinned that back last
  • spin your hair into a loose bun or twist
  • spin one of the pins through your hair, then from the opposite side, spin the other pin.  They will twist together and should hold the majority of your hair
  • pin the loose pieces in with bobby pins as needed.

I don’t aim for a perfect bun!  These pins are magic, and sure beat using a million bobby pins!

the best bobby pins for updos

P.S. My robe is Pink Blush Maternity!  Full post about it coming soon.

TWO: Our gender reveal!  I will post a how-to next week, because paint in squirt guns is basically the most fun ever for a 3 year old boy.  (I posted a video of Davis finding out he’s having a brother on instagram earlier this week). But obviously getting to see our second baby BOY again was a favorite this week.  Todd and I were both a little shocked to find out we are having another boy, but we’re really excited!  It confirmed our decision to move further out into the country to this house last year. :)

older sibling gender reveal

His “Big Brother” t-shirt is Honey Bee Tees and was a gift from Todd’s parents!

Honey Bee Tees big brother t-shirt

THREE: I made these cupcakes for a few different celebrations this week, and I fell in love with their charm.  If only I could eat gluten!  These are pretty tough to resist.  I made a mini version of the absolute best sea salt chocolate chip cookies.  The cupcakes are my classic chocolate cake with my go-to vanilla cream cheese buttercream.  I rolled the sides of the buttercream in sprinkles, then topped with a cookie!

I can’t believe I’ve never shared this cupcake recipe on my blog.  I will fix that soon!

birthday cupcake; chocolate cupcake; cream cheese buttercream with sprinkles, topped with a chocolate chip cookie

rustic baby shower setup; sprinkle cupcakes

FOUR: One of the reasons I made the cookies was for a couples baby shower that we hosted for some of our dearest friends last night.  They are also our Honor Roll Designs partners.  Look for a post with more details of the shower later, but here is a glimpse of the party.

baby boy shower; rustic and gold centerpiece

FIVE: Davis spent last weekend with my parents while Todd and I were in Charleston.  While there, my mom had this fun activity planned!  She bought 4 craft paper mache animals (from Target!) – 2 dinosaurs, a lion, and a rhinoceros – for them to paint.  We left the dinosaurs at their house, and brought home the lion and rhino.  I love them!  I even included them in our living room as decor!

Target craft paper mache animals to paint for kids; kids craft idea

Don’t forget!  If you’d like a chance to win $75 to Pink Blush, you have until NOON today to enter!  All the details are in this post from Wednesday!  You can also enter on instagram.  THANK YOU to everyone who has entered so far!  I will announce the winner early next week!

Pink Blush Maternity; dressing the bump; 17 weeks pregnant bump

Also from this week: my second Charlotte Restaurant Review featuring healthy, casual spots, and a caterer.  And I wrote about our Charleston trip, with some restaurant ideas included.

Enjoy your, everyone!  Thank you so much for reading!

 

 

Gluten Free Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Salted Caramel

I’ve got a yummy, not at all healthy, from-scratch, classic cake recipe here today.  Carrot cake! WITH my go-to salted caramel!  AND it’s GLUTEN FREE!  Can you tell I’m excited?!

gluten free carrot cake with cream cheese buttercream and salted caramel

Though I stay away from desserts most of the time, I LOVE carrot cake (and, let’s be real, coconut cake and chocolate cake as well)!  When Easter was coming this year, I knew I just needed to participate in eating carrot cake.  I was making some carrot cake cupcakes for church, and decided to experiment with some gluten free flour for an additional batch.

This is a version of the carrot cake recipe that my mom has always used, and it’s amazing!  She makes her icing differently for cakes, but my recipe stands up well on cupcakes.  And I added a salted caramel drizzle…because, why not?!

If you have a large (12-14 cup) food processor, the cake batter can be mixed up completely in that.  You will need to chop up or grate the carrots in a food processor or blender, and the nuts need to be finely chopped. Once those are chopped, you can use a mixer to finish the batter.

gluten free carrot cake recipe

Gluten Free Carrot Cake Cupcakes

  • 2 c sugar
  • 1.5 c oil (I used vegetable)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 c King Arthur gluten free all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 c grated carrots (about 12-13 whole)
  • 1 c nuts (I used toasted pecans)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, chop the nuts until finely chopped.  Remove and wipe out the food processor, then add the carrots and chop until finely grated (very small pieces). Measure the carrots to make sure it equals 3 cups, tightly packed.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a mixer, beat sugar and oil together.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.  Add carrots, then nuts.

Pour the batter into a muffin tin lined with cupcake liners.  Fill 2/3 of the way full.  Bake for 16-18 minutes.

Once cool, top with Spiced Cream Cheese Buttercream & a drizzle of the Salted Caramel.

Spiced Cream Cheese Buttercream

  • 1.5 blocks cream cheese, softened
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (add more if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp ground clove
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • most of a bag of powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp cold heavy cream

Beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add the butter and repeat.

Add the salt, spices, and vanilla and mix until incorporated.  Gradually add the powdered sugar, mixing fully and increasing the speed to medium.  Mixing it thoroughly gives fluffier icing.  Continue adding sugar and mixing until the icing is still soft, but will stand if piped onto a cupcake.

Add the heavy cream and mix at medium speed for another minute or two.

Salted Caramel (You’ll just need about 1/3 or 1/2 of this recipe for the cupcakes. Save the rest for another cake, pour it over ice cream, or use it as an apple dip!)

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 Tbsp corn syrup
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1/2 c heavy cream, heated until warm
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, stir together the sugar, syrup, and water until the sugar is completely moistened.  Heat, stirring constantly with a heat-proof spatula, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is bubbling.  Stop stirring completely and allow it to simmer undisturbed until it turns a deep amber color.

Immediately remove it from the heat, and slowly and carefully pour the warm heavy cream into the caramel.  It will bubble and steam profusely.  Stir the mixture until smooth, scraping up the part that tends to stick to the bottom of the pot.

Stir in the butter and salt. Allow the sauce to cool for a couple of minutes, then stir in the vanilla.

Let cool substantially before tasting.  The caramel sauce will be VERY hot.

Once cooled completely, store in the refrigerator for up to one week.

 

To assemble the cupcakes, pipe some of the buttercream onto cooled cupcakes.  Make sure the caramel is at room temperature, and drizzle some of the sauce over the buttercream.

Enjoy! (Even if it is well past Easter)!

GO PANTHERS! + Birthday Celebration + Snow Days

 

Snow days, NFL success, and a birthday celebration…this is a look at our January (with far too many pictures)!

THE CAROLINA PANTHERS ARE GOING TO SUPER BOWL 50!!!!!! We are pumped!!  Here are some pictures from the last 2 Sundays, cheering on our underdog team! IMG_4976IMG_4969

Carolina Panthers

We have a new Carolina Panthers t-shirt design in the etsy shop!  It features a few of the stars of the team.  Panthers gear is sold out almost everywhere, but we should have these shirts ready to ship soon!

Super Bowl 50 shirt; Carolina Panthers players t-shirt; Panthers shirt

Winter weather hit Charlotte last week, so we had a few snow days at home.  If I had my wish, it would be 75-85 degrees year round. But, being stuck at home and having quality time with my boys and snowy adventures was pretty great.

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We also celebrated my mom’s birthday two weekends ago!  We had a small family birthday party at our house.  For dinner, my brother and I made roasted salmon with a white wine-lemon sauce; risotto; mushrooms with thyme and garlic; roasted grape tomatoes; caesar salad; chocolate-coconut-pecan cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream; and champagne of course!

gluten free chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream and coconut and pecansIMG_4942IMG_4948

roasted salmon; mushrooms; risotto; caesar salad

Baby Girl Sprinkle

One of my roommates from Chapel Hill, and dear friend, Margaret, is having her second baby within the week (hopefully!).  She has a son, and is now having a baby girl, and I cannot wait to meet her.  I know Margaret feels the same way – the very end of a pregnancy is tough!

I wanted to do something to celebrate this special baby girl, so one of Margaret’s friends from work and I co-hosted this baby sprinkle.  Her nursery is turquoise/teal, gold, and white.  It is perfectly feminine and classic!  We started with the inspiration for this sprinkle of turquoise and gold, and I knew I wanted to have plenty of fresh flowers. If you follow me on instagram, you’ve seen how happy those blooms made me!

On to the baby sprinkle details:

evite for a baby girl shower; turquoise, gold, floral

We just used an online invitation from evite…simply done!

white pom pom trim pillow with gold monogram for baby girl's nursery

My gift to Margaret was not practical at all, but I had to give her this pillow for baby girl’s nursery. This white pillow with pom pom trim (from Marshall’s!!) was begging for a gold monogram.

welcome table for a baby shower

floral arrangement: hydrangea, tulips, roses, eucalyptus

We always move our kitchen island into the open French doors of Todd’s office for parties at our house.  This time at served as a welcome table and a place for the guests to address thank-you note envelopes so that Margaret won’t have to worry about it.

All of the flowers were from Trader Joe’s and Costco.

turquoise, teal, gold, white baby girl shower; tassel garland; brunch

Brunch table with plentiful flowers and the tassel garland

gold, turquoise and pink cupcakes for a baby shower

I made mini strawberry cupcakes with turquoise colored buttercream and gold sprinkles.

juice bar for baby shower

We decided to have simple juice, pink lemonade, and water for drinks.  We also had a coffee bar.

turquoise, gold, white, pink tassel garland for a baby shower

My mantle is always a work in progress.  My mom helped me with the latest styling, and I added flowers and the tassel garland for the baby sprinkle.

flower arrangement with hydrangea, tulips, roses, eucalyptus

rustic wooden box with flowers

floral arrangement in rustic wooden box

pink florals in rustic wooden box

All the flowers.  These all made me so happy, and brought a lot of life to the look of the baby sprinkle!  (And hopefully Margaret enjoyed them, too).

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Me, Margaret, Jennifer

I regret not taking more pictures of Margaret and her friends and family during the sprinkle.  This is the only one I got!

Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake

I am making some gluten free cupcakes for a baby shower this week, and figured this past weekend was the perfect time to experiment with this recipe.  For the baby shower I’m doing vanilla cream cheese buttercream, but since these cupcakes were for us and friends, I made peanut butter buttercream.  I try not to eat a ton of sweets, but chocolate and peanut butter is a classic combination that I love!  These are a good balance of salty and sweet, and the Reese’s cup garnish is simple but definitely adds to the look (plus it’s an extra treat!).

I kept this completely gluten free.  I would check your peanut butter just to be safe.  I found out that Reese’s, besides the holiday shaped Reese’s, are gluten free.

The buttercream can be made several days ahead and kept in the refrigerator.  The cupcakes are actually better the second day, and they are so so quick and easy to mix together!

Gluten Free Chocolate Cupcakes

Yield: 20 Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 c. gluten free flour (I used Red Mill)
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp xantham gum
  • 5 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. water

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tins with 20 cupcake liners.

Whisk all dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the liquid ingredients together with a whisk.  Add the liquid ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well.

Fill the cupcake liners with the batter a little over halfway full.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack.

Top with Peanut Butter Buttercream (recipe below) and Reese’s peanut butter cups (cut into quarters).

Peanut Butter Buttercream

  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 c. regular creamy peanut butter
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 c. powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/3 c. heavy cream

Cream butter in a medium bowl with an electric/stand mixer.  Add the peanut butter and mix until mixed well with the butter.  Add in the vanilla and salt and mix until incorporated.  Gradually add the powdered sugar and beat until fluffy.  Mix in the heavy cream and beat until the mixture is light and smooth (about 30 seconds).

Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake Gluten Free Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake

Nautical Baby Shower

Three of my best friends are expecting new babies in the next couple of weeks!  This is certainly the time of our lives that baby showers are frequent.  I have helped host two this summer, and have another one at my house this weekend.  I love being able to help prepare friends for new babies in that way!

The first shower is for one of my college roommates, Margaret.  She and her husband, Kyle, are having  little boy, and their nursery is navy and white with nautical details.  So, when we (her sister, one of our other roommates, and I) were planning her shower, a nautical theme was an easy pick!

Here are some pictures of the shower!

boys baby shower; nautical theme baby boy shower, nautical theme

nautical baby shower baby boy shower, nautical theme baby boy shower, nautical theme

Table Decor: I wrapped baby formula cans in rope (with much help from a glue gun), then filled them with white and blue hydrangea.  The shells are some I borrowed from my grandparents’ beach house. The anchors are just little decoration items from Michael’s.

The chevron runners were borrowed from my mom.  The lanterns were a mix of plain white, striped navy, and plain navy.  I painted the stripes and the navy ones.

gift basket for a baby shower

Gift basket of a few baby essentials.

nautical baby boy shower; wreath

We made the mantle fit the nautical theme as well.  I made the wreath to look like a life saver, put some rope in glass vases, and added a conch shell.  After this, we added a few prints of sailboats.

nautical baby shower cupcakes; anchor baby boy shower cupcakes; nautical and anchor theme

Ahoy! It’s a Boy! Cupcakes

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Fruit & Dessert Table

fruit and dessert for a baby boy shower; whale shaped pineapple

Fruit Skewers: We used star and whale shaped cookie cutters to add nautical elements to the fruit skewers.

cake pops for a nautical baby boy shower

Fishing bobber cake pops.

whale shaped sandwiches for a nautical baby boy shower

Whale-shaped pimento cheese sandwiches.

baby boy shower drinks

Blueberry Lemonade

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Me, Margaret, Meridith, Allison

Recent Baking

I wanted to showcase a few of my recent baking projects.  Get ready for a post of mostly pictures, and brace yourself for a visual sugar overload:

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Pink Almond Macarons

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Pink Berry Macaron Shells ready to be filled

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Berry, Salted Caramel, and Espresso Macarons

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“Under Construction” themed Cake Pops for a graduation event

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Strawberry Birthday Cake

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Lemon Raspberry Birthday Cake

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Chocolate Toffee Birthday Cake

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Honeybee Cupcakes for a Winnie the Pooh birthday party

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Red Velvet, Chocolate Toffee, Carrot, and Strawberry cakes for a wedding

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Blackberry Macarons for a womens event

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Red Velvet Butterfinger Cake Pops for a birthday

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more Blackberry Macarons

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Mini Lemon Blueberry Cupcakes

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Grapefruit Macarons for a womens event

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German Chocolate Macarons for my mom’s birthday

(this is a major throwback all the way to January)

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Mickey Mouse themed birthday cake

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Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies for a birthday party

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Mickey Mouse smash cake

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Pink Cake Pops for a birthday party

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Mini Oreo and Mini Salted Caramel Cupcakes for a birthday party