Years ago we went to the Museu de la Xocolata in Barcelona, a small piece of heaven where your tickets are chocolate bars and your taste buds fill with delight. The chocolate museum has all kinds of activities and opportunities for tastings, and it was there that I had my first ever experience with thick, rich, decadent Spanish hot chocolate. Tasting the drink was like falling in love.
Falling in love is what enjoying really good chocolate is supposed to feel like, according to Simran Sethi, host of my newest podcast obsession, The Slow Melt. In her podcast, she also says awesome things about being your own sexiest sweetheart, and buying the good chocolate for you. And while I love that sentiment and am most certainly not opposed to buying myself chocolate, I did have to buy some good stuff for Chad on Valentine’s Day (I just forced him to share with me 😉 ).
We’ve been doing a lot of chocolate tasting lately, especially since I received The Chocolate Tasting Kit for Christmas. I am already starting to see differences in chocolates as we try them, and have also learned a lot about how to taste chocolate and how it’s made. Pairing the kit with The Slow Melt, I’ve been gaining a lot of knowledge about chocolate, and I can’t wait to start working with specific coffee pairings as my palate develops! My favorite recent chocolate tasting? Black Salt Dulce de Leche Bonbons from Vosges Haut Chocolat. 62% dark chocolate sprinkled with black sea salt crystals = something I could melt into my chair over.
If you can’t get your hands on some good chocolate as soon as your taste buds would like, get some eye candy by checking out The Slow Melt’s Instagram, and enjoy some sweet listening by subscribing to the podcast!
Have you tried any wonderful chocolates lately? Please do share your favorites!
PS: can you imagine being gifted Vosges Haut Chocolat’s Travel the World through Chocolate Steam Trunk!? A most indulgent, luxurious gift if there ever was one!
We have a really great picture window in our living room that lets sunlight pour in across the entire room. Despite the window looking directly out onto the highway, I love it, but I felt like I needed to add something to it. As I’ve already been adding lots of greenery around the house, I decided it was time to get my very first air plants.
As you may know, air plants can be pretty pricey, and if you add a container of any sort like drift wood or a ladle, etc., the price goes up even higher. Of course you can find your own drift wood or cool trinket to hold an air plant in, but I wanted something I already had access to without having to do a lot of searching. And then it came to me: baby food jars. I basically used scissors, a hot glue gun and glue, baby food jars and twine to make a pretty, gradated air plant display. You could follow the same steps with other small jars, too.
Start by measuring out a long piece of twine to hang your jar. I made three jars, so I measured three pieces at arms length to adjust and cut again later. Hot glue the end of one piece of the twine onto your jar. (I didn’t remove the icky sticky stuff on the base beforehand, but you’re welcome to if you have any residue on your jars!)
Next, wrap another piece of twine around the rim of the jar, hot gluing as you go. I did two layers of twine.
Clean up any stray hot glue strands and hang your pretty planter! I used slipknots on mine so that I could adjust the length, but you could also measure and cut. Rather than cut right at the slipknot, I left enough twine to curl down along side the other half. Then, I just added my air plants and–viola!
I loved this project because, aside from the air plants, I had everything I needed to make it right around the house. Plus, I think the jars turned out super cute and I am loving the extra greenery–especially on gloomy winter days!
Can we please talk for just a minute about Kara Hanes Photography? (Oh, and would you also like to take a look at my beautiful daughter?) Just two days before Lillian’s first birthday (and the day before her party), we had a Cake Smash Photo Session with Kara. As always, we were welcomed into Kara’s studio feeling comfortable and ready to have fun. We took guesses: would Lillian destroy the lovely pink cake and become painted in frosting? Or would she ignore the cake completely and try to race off–tutu bobbing as she crawled to whatever else she could get her hands on? Before finding out for sure, Kara took some really darling shots of Lillian on a couple of Kara’s beautiful studio backdrops.
Are you not just squealing at the cuteness here!? After shots like these we almost felt like we didn’t need to even mess around with the cake, but we knew it was important to settle the debate once and for all: what would this cute baby do when presented with cake?
And the answer issssssss: she took a lot of coaxing to get messy! She just sort of touched the cake gently at first, and then–after it didn’t peak her interest further–was ready to go explore elsewhere! Did Kara care? Of course not! She just kept up her playful attitude, chatting with Lillian and guiding Chad and I with ways to move Lily around the set. We even tried to tell Lily “NO!” to see if she would suddenly feel more inspired to touch something she shouldn’t!
Eventually, as you can see above, Lily did get into the cake, and it was pretty darned cute. The photo shoot was full of so much laughter (and frosting!). Kara was able to capture Lillian’s happy spirit, but also the pure sweetness of her, too, as pictured below.
I can’t say I’ve ever looked that beautiful after stuffing my face with cake…
As with our family photos, these pictures of Lillian are true treasures. We feel so lucky to have a family photographer who is genuine, playful, and who makes everyone feel relaxed. Though Kara has a lot of experience, she still approaches each photo session in a way that makes you know she cares about capturing your story–a story that is uniquely yours. I truly cannot recommend her enough, and hope that even if you’re not currently in need of a photographer that you go look at her gorgeous website and blog! (Oh, and side note: if you are in need of a photographer, Kara is currently offering a deal on studio sessions through February 29th!)
Have you ever witnessed a baby’s cake smash? What kind of cake would you smash into, if given the choice?
I was super spoiled on my most recent birthday with a Cricut Explore Air 2, the most amazing machine ever. I’ve been having a lot of fun learning how to use it, but I’ll be honest–there is so much you can do that I’ve also felt very overwhelmed at times! Additionally, I’ve had several projects where I thought the execution of my plans would be quick, easy and beautiful, only to find I needed to invest a lot more time than planned and learn a lot more, too. On the bright side, I *have* learned a lot, and any setbacks in creating my projects have definitely not deterred me from still jotting down loads of ideas for future creations!
Today I thought I’d share about the piggy bank I made for Lillian. On the Cricut Design Space, my design for the sides of the piggy bank looked amazing. However, when I actually cut the vinyl, things went south. At first I couldn’t get the smaller letters free from the rest of the vinyl after it was cut, and when I finally did, all the letters were uneven and not very clean looking. Then, even after painstakingly arranging the letters again by hand, my transfer tape wasn’t picking them up properly so the design was totally uneven when applied. I also realized the pink vinyl I’d used didn’t show up on the white pig very well, so I had to get another shade of vinyl. I had already spent hours on the project only to have to basically start completely over. I wanted to throw that piggy bank. out. the. window.
But…! I didn’t. Instead I tried to calm my frustration and take a break from the project. After a little over a week, I finally tackled it again. I had similar issues with removing the smaller pieces I’d cut from the vinyl sheets, but with patience things were already looking better. I used packing tape to transfer the vinyl, so that went a little more smoothly, too. And while I still have a few criticisms (I wanted one cherry blossom by her name placed differently and I wanted the birth information to be slightly lower down on the other side), I love the colors and the design (especially the origami crane and the cutout of Japan!).
Part of me wanted to redo the whole thing again in attempts to make it perfect, but after hours and hours working on it, I finally decided to call it good. Sometimes it’s so hard with any kind of creative endeavor to let go and appreciate the good aspects of what you’ve made, isn’t it? At what point do you call it good?
Anyway, thanks for letting me share! I’d love to hear about any projects you’ve been working on (and any frustrations you’ve had!), too!
Last year on January 29th I had resigned to thinking I’d have to be induced because I was already four days overdue with Lillian. We went out for some okonomiyaki in Tokyo and I planned on visiting the cute little old Japanese lady’s bakery around the corner for a croissant the next morning for National Croissant Day. But then the contractions started, and you know the story from there.
This year on the 29th, on the other side of the globe I was busy with our Lillian’s first birthday party in Michigan (though her actual birthday was Monday, the 30th). After lots of prep and planning, I was super excited to celebrate our daughter’s first year with some friends and family.
These flower decorations were really easy to make once I got the hang of it. You can find the tutorial here!Chocolate and (pink) white chocolate dipped madeleines, white chocolate frosted animal cookie bark (you can just see the bark peeking at the top of this photo, but the recipe can be found at Sugar and Cloth, here) and white chocolate raspberry cupcakes rounded out the desserts after a taco bar lunch. My sister in law made the delicious cupcakes!
I loved how the photo booth props I made turned out, and they only took about an hour to make!
I also really loved these guestbook pages I made to go in Lillian’s scrapbook. Everyone could write a special birthday message for Lily on the cherry blossoms.
I made a poster all about Lillian inspired by this one, and although we found out we were a little off on her height and weight at her one year checkup on Tuesday (she’s actually 30 in long and about 23 lbs!), I thought it turned out pretty cute, even if it wasn’t perfect.We of course had to do a little cake smash, even though Lillian *did* have a super adorable cake smash photo shoot with Kara Hanes Photography the day before (more on that in a future post, soon!). Lily seemed to get right into her cupcake, which we think had something to do with the frosted circus animal cookie on top.
My other sister-in-law made Lily’s pink and gold tutu. Isn’t it super adorable!?
I still cannot believe our little girl is already one! She was such a champ at her birthday party despite the business of the day. We were sure to relax a lot with her the rest of the night and the next day on her actual birthday (though we sang Happy Birthday many times, of course!). We are so grateful to all who came to celebrate with us.
Thanks for letting me share!
Sometimes you learn that super cool places exist right in your own area after months of living there and not knowing about them. We discovered such a place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, yesterday after receiving a very special gift for Lillian. The place is called Uncle Goose, and the gift was a set of beautiful Japanese blocks.
These blocks are just awesome. They include bits of all three systems of writing in Japanese as well as English translations. There are animals on one side of each block, and on another side there is a chrysanthemum pattern from a fabric designed in the 1800’s. The blocks not only look beautiful, but they feel pleasing to hold as well. Moreover, they are responsibly and sustainably made, and are printed using child-safe inks so I don’t have to worry about them going in Lily’s mouth.
I was so shocked that it is possible to find blocks that have Japanese and English on them handmade in the states, let alone in West Michigan, but Uncle Goose actually makes sets of blocks in many languages, ranging from Korean to Polish (23 languages are available total, to date!). They also craft other wonderful sets, like one with bugs and another with nursery rhymes (I’d love to get those for Lillian one day, too!).
Lillian’s gift of Uncle Goose blocks will be a treasure for years to come. Chad seems to think they are a sign we should actively teach Japanese to Lillian and then move back to Japan, but I’m not so sure about all of that 😉 Anyway, Uncle Goose is based in Grand Rapids but sells their blocks in 6 out of 7 continents worldwide. Check out their website and drool over these blocks (like I mentioned, you can literally drool over them and you’ll be a-okay!).
Have you found any fun places in your area lately? Thanks for letting me share!
I was listening to an episode of The Sporkful the other day and the host, Dan Pashman, noted that the episode would be the last of 2016. I thought it was rather early to already be having the last show of the year when I realized suddenly that 2016 was already over. How did that happen? I feel like after giving birth to our sweet baby (who will already be one at the end of this month–eek!), time has been more of a whirlwind than ever before. Days, weeks and months have been sneaking their way into the past in what feels like the time-span of a few breaths.
Realizing that 2016 had already come and gone naturally led me to reflecting on the crazy, sometimes crummy (but often amazing!) year we had, and then, of course, to thinking about what’s to come in the year ahead. And that brought me back to the fun request Pashman asked listeners in the episode of The Sporkful I’d been listening to: call in and describe what you resolve to eat more of in 2017. I thought that was such a fun resolution because rather than making a difficult, potentially unattainable goal, you’re making a resolution that is more about enjoying yourself.
So what’s your answer? I for one would like to eat more onigiri in 2017. I loved grabbing tuna mayo onigiri from convenient stores in Japan whenever I needed a quick snack, and I always miss eating it when we’re in the states. Chad even got me a cute kitty onigiri set for Christmas in Tokyo last year so I can try to make ones like these cute ones from Bento and co. below!
I’m looking forward to hearing about your food resolution in the comments, and to posting more frequently in 2017!
Happy New Year!
PS Remember this little onigiri needle felt cutie I made a couple years ago? So easy and fun!