Making What I Want To Wear

This week was sewing week! I have sewn some before, but this is the first garment I’ve made that I will actually be wearing, haha.

So what did I make? I denim dress of course. With denim having a huge fashion moment right now, I decided I needed a versatile denim jumper.

Here are a few pictures of the finished product, styled with a J. Crew belt, necklace, and Painter Tee.

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Sewing is definitely much harder than it looks on Project Runway, this simple dress took quite a few hours, but now I can wear it all winter, layered with sweaters and tights in the frigid cold winter. Hopefully it’s not as cold as last year!

Stay tuned as I continue my sewing adventures, more pictures of the whole process coming next time!

xoxo,

~Sam

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Baking Projects: Cake Making Attempts

Like all great baking projects, I thought I could master this beautiful cake and make mine look just like the pictures. Instead, I got one of those Buzzfeed article results: picture versus not so picturesque reality.IMG_5453

After a pinning session, I found this gorgeous cake and decided to attempt to replicate it for a party last week. Here is the original recipe from Sweetapolita (an amazing baking blog). I’m pretty sure she’s a professional cake decorator: http://sweetapolita.com/2015/02/meringue-dream-cake/

So to make this cake, you start with the meringues. In hindsight, I think I should have beaten my egg whites a bit longer so the meringue was stiffer. After cooling from the oven, they were sticky instead of crunchy.

Sweetapolita's Cake
Sweetapolita’s Cake

Then you make the chocolate cake. This is the easy part! And mine actually turned out perfectly! (Yay!) The only issue here is that I didn’t have four 8-inch round pans, so I used a stacking set, so that’s the first reason why my cake looks different from hers.

IMG_5465So after that was in the oven, I started on the meringue frosting. I ruined a pot in this process, oops! Tip: when you melt the sugar in the egg whites, do it over very low heat or else it will caramelize and stick to the bottom of the pot FOREVER!!

After starting my meringue frosting over, it finally turned out decently. So I started assembling the cake. The perfect chocolate cakes stacked atop each other nicely once trimmed flat, but with this different layout, frosting with the meringue icing proved treacherous. It looked homemade unlike her fancy cake.IMG_5450

And finally I “drizzled” the chocolate on top, and again, it looked nothing like hers! What gives!

I finished off the cake with the less than perfect meringues I made at the beginning. While the cake did not look like it could be on the cover of a magazine, it did taste delicious. Everyone wanted a second piece!

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My final cake

My adventures in baking will continue as I strive to become the fabulous cake decorator I’ve always secretly wanted to be. I welcome any decorating tips you have!

xoxo,

~Sam

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Gnocchi: Your New Easy Side Dish

After more Masterchef inspiration, I set to work making gnocchi. In case you’re not familiar, gnocchi are soft, pillowy potato dumplings. And they’re actually extremely easy to make.

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The only ingredients you need are potatoes, flour, Parmesan cheese, an egg, and some salt. So if you haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while, you’ll probably still be able to make these!

Here is the general recipe I used, though I usually consult multiple and make my own variation:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/gnocchi-recipe2.html

After you rice the potatoes, you arrange them with a well in the middle. Just crack the egg into the well and slowly add the flour while kneading the dough.

After the dough is dry to the touch instead of sticky, you’re ready to start rolling out the gnocchi. Roll the dough into small ropes and then cut 1-inch pieces and transfer to a pot of boiling water.

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This is actually the easiest part! As soon as the gnocchi are cooked, the little pillows rise to the top of the pot. From there, fry them in a small pan with a little browned butter to crisp the outsides, and you have the perfect side dish.

Warning: they are addictive. So make them when you have enough people to eat them all!

xoxo,

~Sam

Grapes Galore

Two years ago, my sister insisted we plant Concord grapes. This year we got a million on the vine, but of course, she’s not here to help!IMG_6320

So what to do with a million grapes? Well make grape juice of course! And that’s just what we did.

With 6 huge bowls of grapes (I know, I exaggerated with a million), my mom and I set out to make grape juice from scratch.IMG_6328

First we picked all the grapes off the stem and filled a large pot on the stove. Turning it to high, we smashed the grapes and let them come to a boil and cook for ten minutes.

Then came the hard part: straining the juice out.

It is really hard to pour a huge vat of boiling grapes into a strainer without losing tons of juice. But we tried our best! Then we spent hours trying to get every last drop out of the mixture. Next time, we will definitely buy cheesecloth to make this process easierIMG_6413

But, once we finished, we had fresh and delicious grape juice! It’s great to know that there are no preservatives or sugar in our juice and that it’s 100% homemade and healthyIMG_6414.

So for the next couple of weeks, I will get to savor the product of our labor with each sip I take from my vibrantly red grape juice.

xoxo,

~Sam

Tennis, Tennis, and more Tennis

This past week, my family has been entirely consumed by tennis. With the final rounds of the U.S. Open, we intently watched our favorites battle it out for the American championship title.

2014 U.S. Open - PreviewsNow, some of my friends can attest, my family gets excited about sports. If you visit during the Olympics (especially the summer games) we are crazy!! I’m usually screaming out my frustrations at the TV when my favorite doesn’t come in first or I’m cheering on my favorite football team.

But this week was a huge mix of emotions.

The most important game this week was Serena versus Venus. Since before I can remember, they both dominated at tennis. I was always so impressed that two sisters could hold so much talent in one family.

And this match-up was no different. Even though Venus is 35 and suffers from an autoimmune disease, you couldn’t tell. Serena also looked unstoppable.

I was torn during this match. I wanted to root for Serena because she was on track to win the calendar grand slam, but I also admired Venus and her fearless serve. But we all know how it ended: with a touching embrace of the sisters at the end of the match. I will always wonder what Venus whispered in Serena’s ear.720x405-AP_493774036116

But even though Serena beat her seemingly hardest competitor, she unfortunately did not go on to win it all. No need to be upset though, she’s still the greatest tennis champion of this generation and shows no signs of stopping.

Last night, in the men’s championship match, audiences saw the giants battle. Seated number one and number two in the world, Novak and Roger went head-to-head. (As a side note, they should alternate each year whether the women’s or men’s championship is last because women’s tennis is equally important!)14handshake-nole

The tennis was amazing. After the countless hours of rain delay, these pros stepped on the court and neither went down without a fight. Though Novak was able to hold on and win, both competitors gave it their all.

So after this epic week of our favorite tennis heroes, my family needs to find a new show to occupy our television!

xoxo,

~Sam

Falling into Fall

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With fall coming in soon and the summer festivities of Labor Day Weekend over, let’s take a look at a great outfit to get you excited about the cool, crisp weather.Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 2.58.28 PM

As always, I love to start an outfit with a shoe. If you don’t pick the shoe first, your options at the end are always limited.

The shoe I selected is a great heel from Anthropologie. With navy blue, cherry, and suede, this comfortable heel can transition from work to date night. It is whimsical and classic at the same time.

So what to pair it with? A great pant that lets it shine. This forest green lace trouser is perfect because it lets the shoe be the main focus, as it hits above the ankle. Its dark color also slims the legs. But best of all, the forest green jewel tone perfectly complements the dark navy and red of the shoe.

Moving on up, tuck in a simple white shirt, any will do! A classic white shirt will never go out of style and always brings polish. Layer it with a navy blazer and your work-look is stunning.

Now for a few finishing touches. This long gold necklace adds a douse of shimmer to the outfit. The charm gives you a statement piece to connect everything. The gold also brings out the forest green hue of the trousers.

My last touch is a tote that is the epitome of the fall season. With a new bag comes new beginnings, so treat yourself to this one. This bag from Madewell is big enough to fit your laptop and heels for your daily commute to work, yet looks chic enough to tote around for weekend outings. Wherever your adventures bring you this fall, I hope this outfit gives you inspiration as you pull down the sweaters from the top of your closet and get ready for the changing leaves!

xoxo,

~Sam

Credits:

Shoes: http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/product/shoes/36189017.jsp#/

Tote Bag: https://www.madewell.com/madewell_category/BAGS/totes/PRDOVR~E0326/E0326.jsp?color_name=english-saddle

Trouser: https://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/pants/Slim/PRDOVR~E0668/E0668.jsp

White Shirt: https://www.madewell.com/madewell_category/SHIRTSTOPS/otherboyshirts/PRDOVR~C4393/C4393.jsp

Navy Blazer:

https://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/blazers/rhodes/PRDOVR~C9131/C9131.jsp?color_name=bright-cerise

Necklace: https://www.jcrew.com/womens_category/jewelry/necklaces/PRDOVR~E3003/E3003.jsp

#FreedBrady

You could feel it in the air.IMG_5380

As the music boomed behind us, players raced onto the field. I knew it would be a great time to experience my first Patriots game. After all, Brady is now free. (Though I didn’t see him at the game, which was sad.)

When you arrive at Gillette Stadium, the number-one aim is to find a parking spot that will lead to the quickest exit at the end of the game. We arrived early before the general game parking opened and were able to park right outside of the movie theater by the stadium entrance.

Walking through Patriots Place, I think I was the only person without a jersey on. The ONLY person. (Well other than my parents.) Fans were already getting ready for the game and proclaiming Berman as their favorite presidential nominee.

After grabbing lunch, we headed to the movie theater and saw Hitman Agent 47 with Orlando Bloom. Decent movie, but even better viewing because the theater was empty and I could talk the whole time! My favorite!

When Orlando finally finished killing the bad guys, we headed to the main event.

The New England Patriots vs. The New York Giants.

IMG_5361We sat in the top section, but luckily could still make out the ball and the numbers on the players’ jerseys. I enjoyed a Guinness while the women behind me tried to ruin my eardrums with their screams. By the way, don’t be those people!

At the end of the 4th quarter with the score tied up, large drops of rain the size of quarters came pouring from the sky. And with it being a pre-season game, people fled the stands. Not wanting to miss a minute, I moved down to a closer row and huddled under my coat. Unfortunately, at the two-minute warning, the Pats couldn’t pull out a touchdown in the rain.

Though I was a little sad with the loss, it’s a pre-season game and I got the experience. I saw Belichick and Gronk down on the field and I got to people-watch all those lucky enough to make it on the mega-screen.IMG_5380

After the clock ran down, we made our way to the car where our parking situation proved to be ideal, as it only took us 40 minutes to make it to the highway. (When I attended TSwift’s Speak Now concert it took one hour to even make it out of the parking lot and another to make it to the highway.)

So now, I can officially call myself a Patriots fan.

xoxo,

SamIMG_5366

In My Kitchen: Steak & Sticky Buns

Last night was a cooking kind of night!

It all started with an episode of Master Chef Australia I watched with my sister during our trip this summer. My eyes stayed open watching Marco Pierre White stir the cherry tomatoes, despite my extreme jet lag.

On this episode, Marco Pierre White, a world-renowned chef and judge on Master Chef Australia, showed contestants how to make a simple tomato sauce.

Here is his recipe:

http://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/masterchef/recipes/penne-with-fresh-tomato-sauceIMG_5316

So I thought I would try making tomato sauce from scratch since it’s the perfect time of year for tomatoes and I have a million outside in my garden.

Things to note before you try his recipe:

  1. He makes it look like it takes no time at all. This is false.
  2. Apparently he feels no need to give you exact amounts in his recipe, so my tomato sauce is just an approximation.
  3. When you watch the show, he does none of the measuring or the time-consuming tasks, so you don’t realize how much work it is until you do it.

So probably don’t try this at home. Unless you have HOURS of time.IMG_5315

I started the tomato sauce around 5pm and did not finish until 10pm because it had to reduce for multiple hours. My only tip in making this sauce is make a quadruple recipe so you can freeze most of it for later because it is too much work to make for one meal. While it did taste delicious, I am still not sure if it was worth it.

The second thing I cooked last night was New York Strip Steak and I am proud to say it turned out perfectly.

Cooking the perfect steak is a skill that everyone needs to master and after seeing a video of Gordon Ramsay cooking a New York Strip Steak, I can do it too. And so can you!

Here is the video I watched before turning my stovetop to high:

http://tenplay.com.au/channel-ten/masterchef/recipes/penne-with-fresh-tomato-sauce

The secret to this steak is to make sure the pan is sizzling hot so you get the perfect sear on your steak. The main reason to sear a steak, other than for flavoring, is to render the fat down. This gives the meat flavoring while removing the layer of natural fat that surrounds the steak. And make sure you sear the edges of the steak as well, since that’s where much of the fat is located.

Ramsay’s recipe is simple and stunning. With just a clove of garlic, salt, pepper, butter, and thyme, you too can make a steak fit for a restaurant.

And then began the second half of the night: the baking half.

So most people know I am obsessed with the show Master Chef. (This time I’m referencing the American version.) I only started watching last summer, but I am so impressed with the talent of the home cooks on the show.IMG_5313

After traveling this summer, I am in the process of watching the latest season now. And in the episode I just watched, they made perfect sticky buns. So of course, I had to make perfect sticky buns as well.

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/the-ultimate-sticky-buns

Sticky buns are very involved because you have to be careful with the yeast and give the dough time to rise. You must warm the yeast and scald the milk and then let the milk mixture cool to room temperature before adding in the yeast and eggs and the dry ingredients. And this is just the dough.IMG_5314

After you have made the dough and it is rising, you start making the inner mixture and the topping. My mom and I love nuts, so ours had lots of pecans.

After hours of rising and extra time spent in the oven, we enjoyed delicious homemade sticky buns with extra to spare.

Word of advice: these are not for the faint-of-heart bakers. They took hours to make!

Finally, the last adventure in our baking night was banana bread with walnuts and chocolate chips.

I bought bananas a few days ago and they were already spotted with brown dots, so I decided to not let them go to waste. This is the perfect recipe for anyone challenged in the kitchen or who is looking for a fast and easy recipe.

Here is the recipe I used:

http://www.food.com/recipe/chocolate-chip-banana-nut-bread-112614IMG_5320

With prep time under 10 minutes, you just let the bread cook for 65 minutes and you’re good to go! After it cooled, I flipped it onto a cutting board and cut slices for breakfast.

It was a busy night overall, but so much fun! I am at home in the kitchen and I hope some of these recipes and tips can help you hone your cooking and baking skills as well!

xoxo,

~Sam